Online tutorials and collaboration

Tutorial: A tutorial is a face-to-face session of usually 50 minutes, to a small group of students (usually less than 30), facilitated or supervised by a tutor for the purpose of interactive learning and typically intended to supplement a lecture and to allow for discussion and clarification of material covered in lectures.

Tutorials allow for student-teacher interaction, groupwork collaboration, and encourages active learning as well as students expressing their own views (and being exposed to a range of views). Tutorials also allow for the development of graduate capabilities, as well as the development of intellectual abilities like critical thinking, logical argument, selection and use of appropriate evidence (Susan Toohey, Designing Courses for Higher Education, OUP, p.118). 

Five simple online alternatives to the traditional face-to-face tutorial

1. Run 'e-tivitys' / e-tutorials online through Moodle

An e-tivity is a term used by Salmon (2002) to describe learning activities that each have:

  • An illustrative title;
  • A small piece of information, stimulus or challenge to initiate it (the 'spark');
  • Online action which includes individual participants posting a response (the 'invitation');
  • An interactive or participative element – such as responding to the postings of others;
  • Elapsed time allowed and requirement for posting times are specified; and
  • Summary, feedback or critique from an e-moderator (the role of the teacher).

Information on e-tivities

2. Run 'Real Time' Tutorials in Collaborate (Elluminate) – which can be recorded and listened to later

Collaborate is a synchronous communication tool and can be effectively used for running tutorials online. It is a virtual classroom. Collaborate works like online audio/ video conferencing (if you and students have webcams your images can be sent through), and can be used to engage with an online tutorial group. Responses can be obtained through 'raising a hand' to discuss, through polling or responding to questions from the audience.

3. Students participate in a discussion forum in Moodle with an online facilitator

As an asynchronous activity, encourage students to participate in an online discussion by asking them to debate (argue each side), work on a 'real' problem and present a submission to a client/ report on the outcomes, moderate a discussion topic for their group, or engage in role playing activities (eg. Assign students to different roles in a specific situation and require them to complete certain activities) (Benson and Brack, Online Learning and Assessment in Higher Education: A Planning Guide, p.71) In Moodle this can be achieved in the 'forum' function, and also through a Blog and/or Wiki. 

See effective online discussions.

4. Students collaborate on a group activity in Moodle with an online facilitator

Students are given a group task online and need to work together as a team to present a solution to the problem, using a wiki as a work area in which to develop their assignments. Group work online requires clear articulation of roles and responsibilities (Benson and Brack, p.72), and modelling of interaction by the facilitator. Students can show evidence of preparation progressively as they construct their assignments. Set up either as (i) an individual wiki, or (ii) as a group.

5. Students keep a journal or show reflective writing in a Blog Forum

Students keep a reflective journal for a project task, placement, or other experiential engagement in their subject. A Moodle blog-style discussion forum can be set for individual student- teacher viewing only. This approach can be structured as preparation and development towards a group work assignment or project assignment.

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