Tutors and tutorials

man and woman sitting on chairs
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Well, I heard from my TM111 tutor shortly before the official start of the module. He introduced himself and the module in a friendly email letter, which included details of what the Open University likes to call the dummy TMA.

The purpose of the dummy TMA, or TMA 00, is to give students a chance to submit a practice TMA, short for Tutor Marked Assignment. It is optional and does not count towards your mark for the module. However, it helps you get used to the system for submitting coursework through the Open University website.

Some modules, such as MU123, the mathematics module I am studying alongside TM111, give you the option of submitting your TMAs electronically or by post. Not unfairly I suppose, given that it is a computing and IT module, you don’t have the option to submit by post with TM111. Nevertheless, both modules invite you to submit a dummy TMA.

It’s up to your tutor exactly what you submit for the dummy TMA. For TM111, I had to write a short letter about myself, why I chose the module and how I will find the time to study. I thought it was a good way for the tutor to get to know his tutor group and identify any issues at an early stage.

One important point is that each module can be slightly different in terms of how they like you to submit coursework electronically. TM111, for example, requires your TMAs in a word compatible format and, if you have multiple files, in a zip file. On the other hand, MU123 requires you to submit your coursework in a single PDF file.

While I submitted a dummy TMA for TM111 (and received a confirmation email shortly afterwards), I didn’t submit one for MU123. I didn’t hear from my tutor until a few days into the module, almost immediately after I sent him a worried email introducing myself. By that time, I had already tested out the system with my dummy TMA for TM111, so I didn’t feel the need. Besides, I wasn’t that clear exactly what my MU123 tutor wanted for the dummy TMA.

The first online tutorial I attended took place on the official start date of the module. It was an introductory tutorial for MU123 and by another tutor, rather than my own. In fact, this tutor had given an online tutorial as part of the Early Start programme over the summer and I was very impressed. She seems to be hosting one tutorial for each topic in MU123, whereas the other MU123 tutorials focus on two or three at a time generally around the upcoming TMA.

There must have been about 10 to 15 other students attending but I’m pretty sure a lot more will be watching the recording afterwards. Not all online tutorials are recorded. Probably more should be. Yet, it’s a great option if you can’t attend live, like to experience them at your own pace and for revision. Anyway, I found it very interactive and enjoyable. I think this tutor’s style will help to test my knowledge and understanding and identify any areas where I am a little shaky.

My first face-to-face tutorial, for TM111, took place the following Saturday. Unfortunately, both the introductory tutorials for MU123 and TM11 took place at the same time and in the same location.  I chose to attend the one for TM111. Lacking any previous experience of computing, I think this is the module for which I am going to most benefit from a face-to-face tutorial.

Well, there were only three of us plus the tutor! I’m assured that this is about the norm for computing and IT tutorials. Apparently, you get the big crowds with the social science modules, such as sociology or psychology. If you can make it, it’s almost like personal, one-to-one tuition! Anyway, I got to experience the tutor’s enthusiasm for the subject, which really shines through in a face-to-face tutorial. I felt I got a lot out of it and will be attending the rest. I’m lucky, it helps that the venue is only a short distance from where I live, whereas some of the tutor group live 50 miles or more away.

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