Tutors play a significant role in elevating the students’ learning experience at the university. They complement the core academic team by providing personalised guidance and support to students, frequently within an engaging and interactive setting.
Recognising the invaluable contributions of its educators, WOU commemorated their efforts with a special Tutor and Part-Time Lecturer Appreciation Day on 19 August 2023. The event, hosted at the Penang main campus, was also live-streamed to participants at other locations in Ipoh, Klang Valley (Sunway Velocity Hotel), Johor Bahru, and Kuching.
WOU Chief Executive and Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Lily Chan, in acknowledging their important role, stressed the need to regularly engage with them so as to understand their needs, address complaints, and receive ideas for improvement. She also welcomed their support and input to “conduct hybrid learning more effectively” since this aligns with her vision of positioning WOU as a leader in online learning.
Head of WOU’s Centre for Foundation Studies, Jasmine Emmanuel, in her presentation on “Revisiting the Tutor’s Role”, conducted a unique hands-on exercise. She asked each participant to fold and tear a coloured paper while keeping their eyes closed. When the participants unfolded their papers, they discovered a variety of distinct patterns.
She used this activity to illustrate a point about teaching: Even when the same instructions are given in a classroom setting, students can interpret and execute them differently according to their different perspectives.
She also urged tutors to engage with learners, stressing, “When giving feedback, always start with positive suggestions instead of focusing on the negatives, then the students will be more receptive.” She suggested tutors perceive themselves as “guides and facilitators of learning” rather than traditional instructors.
Dean of WOU’s School of Technology and Engineering Science, Assoc Prof Ts Dr Sean Tan Koon Tatt, stressed the need to adopt a technology-based tutoring approach to create innovative learning environments. He noted that artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality and other emerging technological advancements can be used to provide personalised, interactive, and engaging learning experiences to students.
He talked about the benefits of online tutoring platforms, interactive virtual classrooms, mobile learning apps and quiz applications. He also pointed out WOU’s recent initiative of conducting hybrid tutoring, which gives students the flexibility to join either in-person or virtually.
A total of 140 tutors and part-time lecturers participated in the event. They were acknowledged for their contributions to WOU with certificates and tokens of appreciation. The event culminated with an appreciation lunch at each venue, providing an opportunity for the part-time educators to connect with their peers and interact with the academic and administrative teams.
Valuable Lessons from Tutors’ Sharing
The audience also had the opportunity to gain insights into best tutoring practices and receive tips from experienced WOU tutors as they shared their teaching journey at WOU.
Kogila Ramakrishnan, based at the Penang Regional Centre, takes proactive steps to actively engage with her students on the FlexLearn platform. She achieves this by uploading study materials and sending them reminders to utilise the platform. With 10 years of tutoring experience at WOU, she maintains a consistent practice of encouraging students to provide their feedback on her teaching. This feedback motivates her to further enhance her performance in upcoming semesters.
With 13 years experience at the Kuching Regional Centre, Dr Amee Joan places a strong emphasis on truly understanding her students. She takes the initiative to get to know them from the very first day. In the eyes of her students, she is not merely a tutor but also a counsellor and a friend. To adapt to the changing times, she has embraced the use of new tools like Canva and ChatGPT, putting herself one step ahead in effectively engaging with the younger students.
Dr Juliana Rosmidar from the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre brought attention to a significant challenge encountered during online tutorials: the tendency of students to be less vocal compared to in-person sessions. With 13 years of experience, she shared her strategy of consistently encouraging students to actively participate in discussions. She underscored the pivotal role tutors play in providing support and cultivating an environment conducive to learning. She observed that “every learner has their own challenges throughout their learning journey”.
Jason Rozario from the Ipoh Regional Centre (IPRC) employs a distinctive approach in his tutorials by involving his students as ‘guest tutors’. When addressing specific topics, he identifies students who are working in the relevant field and invites them to share insights from their professional experience, allocating 4-5 minutes for their input. Attached with IPRC for 15 years, he emphasises the importance of understanding the demographics of the students and using real-life examples related to their working environments.
Jasmel Kaur, who has a decade of experience at the Johor Bahru Regional Centre, believes in leveraging technology to enrich the learning experience. She highlighted the value of fostering collaboration through platforms like Microsoft Teams, Whatsapp group chat and FlexLearn. By involving students in group projects using these tools, she nurtures a strong sense of community and camaraderie. She also recommends providing timely and personalised feedback, utilising the private chat features available on Teams, Whatsapp or FlexLearn. This approach empowers students to monitor their progress and make necessary improvements.