The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
Open University standard online tutorials are generally tutor-led with the tutor setting the agenda and content to be covered. Although they include both presentation and activities, some students are reluctant to actively participate. Butler et al. (2018) suggested that students would benefit from more variety of tutorial types within module tuition strategies. This project investigated the inclusion of online student-led drop-in tutorials to support assessment on U116 (Environment: journeys through a changing world). The aims were to gauge the value to students of this style of tutorial, to understand their behaviour during the sessions and to assess their overall experience. The project also investigated the tutor experience of facilitating the tutorials.
Eight online drop-in tutorials were incorporated into the module tuition strategy for the 20J presentation, with careful wording of tutorial descriptions to make it clear to students that they were expected to ask questions to aid their understanding of assessment requirements. Evidence of student experience was collected via two student surveys, confidence polls at the end of each tutorial and one student-led focus group. Other data used included attendance data and student achievement on the module. Tutor perspectives were gathered from reflective logs completed after each event.
The main findings were that 23% of the 20J cohort attended at least one drop-in tutorial. The students surveyed indicated that they were a valuable addition to the tuition strategy. The majority arrived at the start of each session and stayed until the end, rather than ‘dropping in and out’. Most reported that listening to questions from other students was useful, even if they had no question of their own to ask. Reasons for attending or not were sought in the surveys and the focus group. Student preference for their own tutor facilitating the drop-ins was also investigated. Tutor experience indicated some initial scepticism but by the end of the project the majority felt that the combination of standard and drop-in tutorials was valuable. Their reflections fed into the development of a tutor top tips document for running drop-in tutorials.
The overall findings of the project were that students value this style of tutorial. Those who attended reported increased confidence in subsequently completing assignments. There were also some indications that attendees gained higher TMA scores. Given the success of the project, drop-in tutorials have been incorporated into the module tuition strategy for future U116 presentations. The approach has also been adopted by three other module teams within the School of Engineering and Innovation.