WOU study on tutors' role in online facilitation

The growth of technology has led to higher student enrolment for online courses, thus making the role of tutors very important for successful online facilitation.

Prof Phalachandra Bhandigadi introduces the topic and speaker.

Prof Phalachandra Bhandigadi introduces the topic and speaker.

This was expressed by Lecturer Ooi Li Hsien from WOU’s School of Education, Languages and Communications (SELC) in his talk on “The Role of Tutors in Online Facilitation of ELT Courses” held as part of the WOU Seminar Forum at the main campus today.

The SELC team conducted a case study research to investigate the role of tutors as online facilitators in delivering teaching and learning in an online environment with regards to English Language Teaching (ELT). They collected data from eight tutors teaching SELC courses through semi-structured interviews.

The study aimed to explore the tutor’s role for effective online facilitation of ELT courses in WOU; the challenges the tutors face in carrying out this online facilitation; and the current best practices among tutors in online facilitation of ELT courses.

The findings showed that tutors’ effective characteristics can lead to successful online facilitation. All tutors in the study upload various teaching materials and useful links, and also post questions onto the learning management system (LMS) in order to provoke critical thinking and discussions.

Ooi elaborates on his findings.

Ooi elaborates on his findings.

The study also revealed that among the major challenges tutors face in online facilitation is student participation. “Tutors find it difficult to get students to access the LMS let alone answer questions posted during tutorials and participate in discussions online in the LMS forum,” Ooi stated.

The other challenge is student attendance in the online tutorial which makes it hard for tutors to gauge a student’s progress, and the unstable Internet connection which forces tutors to find other platforms like WhatsApp and WeChat to reach out to students.

Engrossed with the talk.

Engrossed with the talk.

He also highlighted some best practices of the WOU tutors in online facilitation, namely using platforms like the LMS or whatever technology they have to maximise online facilitation so that students do not feel isolated, and remembering students’ names to foster a closer relationship and motivate them to participate in tutorials.

“One best practice that stands out at WOU is the learning partner concept where the tutor is considered more like a friend or partner, and therefore seems more approachable to the students,” he elaborated.

Ooi also made the presentation at the International Conference on English Language Teaching organised by Universiti Putra Malaysia in Melaka from October 19-21.