I DON’T NEED PEER-SUPPORT: EFFECTIVE TUTORING IN BLENDED LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS FOR LEARNERS STUDYING VOCATIONALLY ORIENTATED DEGREES

A. Youde

The University of Huddersfield (UNITED KINGDOM)
This paper proposes a module approach to teaching, learning, assessment and support for learners undertaking part-time, vocational degrees. Constructivist models of e-learning predominantly promote opportunities for peer interaction within formal university learning environments. Given the rise of social media engagement within society, there are challenges for tutors in blended and online contexts to provide opportunities for social constructivist learning experiences. This research proposes an alternative approach for a social media rich external environment. A mixed methods approach was adopted to conduct a detailed exploration of eight tutors’ practice with data gathered from two principal sources. Interviews with tutors explored their approaches to delivery and considered factors that impacted on quality; and an analysis of the content and communications in the virtual learning environment provided insight into tutors’ online practice. The research is based at a ‘post 1992’ university in the north of England with the School of Education. Analysis of modules suggested limited peer-to-peer interaction with tutors noting the difficulties promoting engagement within formal learning environments. The paper argues that Individual Constructivist Approaches (Mayes & de Freitas, 2007) were favoured by learners within the formal course confines, with a need for tutors to promote a simple module structure focussed around assessment that creates 'space' for learning. In today’s social media rich society these findings could aid course design for similar contexts and learners. Further, it could support tutors in online and blended environments to design and deliver modules.