ocTEL tutor support: what you can expect

Online learning in ocTEL is designed to encourage participants like you both to engage actively with the concepts in the course and to reflect on what you are learning through discussion. So learning conversations are central to the course. We will help you get the most from these conversations through a combination of

  • support from peer learners, for which we rely on you to self-organise using the communicated channels we provide, and
  • support from tutors who facilitate conversations with a range of feedback techniques.

ocTEL tutors, like the course authors, are volunteers. We’ve had an encouragingly large number of offers of help with tutor support, mostly from within the Association for Learning Technology community (and including many with CMALT accreditation), and we’re very grateful for this enthusiastic response.

In most cases, there will be different tutors in each module of ocTEL. There will be at least one ‘specialist’ tutor and three or four support tutors. They will monitor and take part in ocTEL discussions on the jiscmail list for participants, and on blogs, tweets and other forums (as long as you use the #ocTEL hashtag). The kinds of contributions they will make to discussions may include:

  • summarising key points in a conversation, drawing out alternative perspectives;
  • encouraging reflection on particular issues and how these may relate to your own experience;
  • questioning and sometimes challenging assumptions;
  • suggesting other resources and people that you may want to look up to explore an area further;
  • providing further explanations to complement the course text and materials.

Specialist tutors are more likely than support tutors to make the latter kinds of interventions, but there is no hard-and-fast distinction. All tutors in ocTEL are here to facilitate, not to assess. They will mostly be ‘non-directive’ and, though they may express opinions, they’re not here to give marks out of ten. In other words, tutors are very much the ‘guide on the side’.

We hope the arrangements we have put in place will provide you with timely feedback and support as you make your way through the course, whether this is from tutors or peers. Please bear in mind that tutors are volunteers, have limited time available, and deserve to maintain a work-life balance. We are organising the tutors with the aim of providing at least 10 hours tutor support for each week-long module. If you divide this among, say, 300 participants, it’s clear that you should not expect a great deal of individual attention from tutors. Tutors may be available to respond during evenings and weekends, but this is at their discretion.

We very much hope you will have no cause to complain about the support you receive during your participation in ocTEL. If you do, please email octel@alt.ac.uk with details of exactly what has gone wrong, and some indication of how you would like us to solve the problem. You should normally get an acknowledgement of your complaint within one working day.

Note on technical support

Tutors are there to help you with your learning on the course. They are not there to solve technical problems. When the course starts there will be a Help button on the menu bar above. That will route you to sources of technical help, both among fellow participants and from the core project team from the Association for Learning Technology. If having searched for a solution and you are still stuck you can contact the ALT team by emailing octel-tech@alt.ac.uk