This is the fourth in the series of weekly Staff Newsletter articles in which I highlight some of the key decisions and developments that will shape how we will be delivering learning and teaching across the University in the new academic year.
This week’s article has been written with Kieran Robson Renner, Quality Enhancement Officer in our Academic Quality Team.
This week’s topic – Personal Tutoring.
Will the Personal Tutor system still operate next academic year?
Yes. The Personal Tutor system at Heriot-Watt is designed to ensure that every student across the University is linked to an academic staff member who acts as a first point of contact for that student. Personal Tutors play a critical role in ‘signposting’ students to sources of advice, guidance and support.
How important is it?
Personal Tutoring plays an important role in creating and building a vibrant and caring University community – especially in the forthcoming Academic Year. As the University implements its Responsive Blended Learning approach, it is more important than ever that students feel connected to their Personal Tutor as well as their lecturers and fellow classmates. Personal Tutoring is one of the ways in which we can overcome the challenges of remote working, and ensure students are supported throughout their studies.
How many meetings should there be during the year?
Personal Tutors should meet with their tutees (individually or collectively) a minimum of three times per semester: in Semester 1, during Welcome Week, Consolidation Week (week 6) and Week 10, and in Semester 2, during week 2, Consolidation Week (week 6) and Week 10.
Students may of course contact their Personal Tutor for advice and guidance between these meetings as issues arise.
How will meetings take place?
In light of Covid-19 restrictions we are adopting Microsoft Teams as the primary means by which Tutors and Tutees will contact one another. MS Teams will be used to create online ‘Academic Families’ where tutors and tutees can interact individually and as a group. An important benefit of this is the opportunity it gives for the students themselves to join a mutually supporting social network. Through time, it is hoped that this will open up opportunities for inter-year peer mentoring amongst the tutees themselves.
Can I use other ways of staying in touch with students (e.g. Facebook, WhatsApp, text, personal email)?
No. Staff must use only approved Heriot-Watt University internal channels. These include MS Teams, Vision, Collaborate Ultra as well as Heriot-Watt email. Staff must not use their personal social media profile (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.) or personal channels/tools for any communications with students (e.g. personal mobile use for calls, text/WhatsApp, personal emails etc.).
What support is available?
The old Personal Tutoring Handbook is being replaced by a new SharePoint-based set of resources which is currently being developed ready to launch in the next few weeks. These resources include a guide to setting up MS Teams for Personal Tutoring, guidance on advising and signposting, and links to further support services. The launch of the new resources will be supported by live and recorded sessions introducing the new Personal Tutoring system. Further details of the Personal Tutor briefing sessions will be published shortly.
We leave the last word to a final year student.
“The relationship between personal tutor and tutee is paramount to the student experience… They are a great port of call, no matter what the issue… If they don't know the solution, they'll do their absolute best to find it for you."