This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

Success and Failure

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    What I’ve listed here is the successes and failures of my online tutoring, which is carried out through a small private business aimed at graphic design beginners internationally but that also attracts mature learners who want to do a “pastime” project.



    • • Aysnchronous projects allow for learners to engage in their own time
    • • Detailed guides scaffold both subject learning and technological usage
    • • Technological usage is dependent on what (none-institutional) learner has access to – flexible outcomes and free software etc promoted
    • • Technology is integral to engagement and assessment
    • • Learners and tutors are clearly part of a COP (ie as well as subject specific activities, project outcomes are deliberately compared to industry equivalents; and many activities overtly develop COP “membership”)


    • • Mature learners often have abandoned projects when faced with blogging
    • • Website hosting is dependent on two hosts – so double potential of failure (yes, I need to address this but need support myself to do so)
    • • Little or no technological support service

    Of the failures above only the mature learner drop-out issue has actually happened …so far (though colleagues have said that this is quite a common feature of private arts courses) and is at the moment my biggest concern. That evidence is provided to the tutor within a blog – and all the good reasons for doing so – is clearly advertised before they sign up, but once some learners receive the project they disappear despite all contact and offers of help. This has not happened with younger learners, who when surveyed, say they are used to blogs or at least are willing to attempt to use one. This drop off has only happened when the learners have accessed the project through a third party broker website, not when direct from the main site which has bulkier and clearer expectations laid out.


    Sancha (@GraphDesProject)


    At least I haven’t encountered the editing issues here….There WERE bullet points above and there were whenI edited it….Give up!

    David Jennings

    Sorry about that, Sancha, that editing bug is a known annoyance with WordPress – I’ve edited the formatting a little to reintroduce the bullet points.



    Thanks for starting this thread. Can I pick up on the failure section and ask with regard to “mature students and blogging” whether you have considered:

    Either providing some basic guidelines on how to blog or it is more likely that the concern is about putting their thoughts out there;

    That this is delivered in a secure (password protected) environment or they set up their blog under an assumed/project name and how to do this (a little video/screencast on how to set this up on WordPress or Blogger – might not go amiss?)

    You would then get what you needed their reflections but also have responded to the learners’ concern about vulnerability

    The hosting by two websites is an additional complication that it would be wise to reduce but you are aware of this.

    With regard to the technological support I am not sure that I can help but it might be interesting to see if some of our ocTEL participant might not be able to advise.


    Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for the comments. On my own tutoring website there is plenty of information about how the projects run and FAQ etc etc. There is less information on the brokering site where the iussues have happened though it does clearly say “blogging” as a medium. However, the learners do get a friendly interactive PDF of very full guidelines about how and why to use a blog and how to set it up, privacy options etc. I have to stress that it is only my hunch about blogging putting them off; it might be that they have signed up for projects as gifts to others who don’t use them. I survey my learners but these few people don’t respond when contacted so it remains partly a mystery. But I’m a big believer in the expectations you set up etc etc so I do provide plenty of guidance with additional email offers of help. Having done ocTEL I’m thinking of adding even more the initial guidance (videos) and introductions – it’s been a real help in that sense.



    Thank you!


    PS: On a note about the successes, I was really interested to read that two of the points for success were embedded assessment and the overtness (is there such a word?) of the Community of Practice. I’m about to conduct a training session (probably online) for my collegues and I was glad to know these points now so that I can stress the importance of these things. It’s true that you do see  lot of attempts at TEL dive bomb for silly reasons that aren’t always clear.



    What an interesting thread! I usually start small to minimise risk, but that does mean only incremental progress if I am lucky! However, I’m involved at the start of a much bigger project and I will be sharing the Cochrane paper to prompt a discussion about how to try and avoid some of the banana skins, so it’s timely.


    Maybe the issue with adult learners and blogging is not so much the technical side of things but it is quite scary to blog. I agree to start small and give the learners very low-risk blogging activities to start with. It can be really frightening to blog about something more academic if you are not confident about yourself. Plan the first few posts, maybe just to write a few lines on their motivations for taking the course, or a bit about their other interests. This will get them into the process of blogging without it being too scary. I always find it hard to write a blog when told I can write about anything, I prefer to be given a remit. The other thing is to try and build some social presence amongst the participants before you ask them to blog. For example try hosting a fun informal webinar when they get to know each other. They need to build a bit of trust amongst each other before they start to blog. This tends to happen more automatically with face-to-face classes but needs a bit of tutor-led help online.

    Julie Voce

    Thanks to Sancha for kicking off the discussion for the first activity, and thanks to Elizabeth and Sue for their useful comments and suggestions. It’s interesting that the drop-off in people blogging only occurs via the third party website. Perhaps if they’re just after a course as a pasttime activity, they don’t feel they want to actually do the project part. It’s a shame that they don’t respond to your survey so you might never know 🙁

    Looking forward to hearing other people’s thoughts on the key successes and failures of their projects/courses.

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