Newcomer Students’ Perspectives on Online Tutor-Student Sessions in Distance Higher Education
Natalia Spyropoulou, Hellenic Open University (Greece)
Rozalia Kalantzi, Hellenic Open University (Greece)
Dimitrios Sideris, Hellenic Open University (Greece)
George Androulakis, Hellenic Open University (Greece)
The Hellenic Open University (HOU) offers studies in both undergraduate and postgraduate level with the method of distance learning. Aiming to improve the courses quality and the digital educational environment, HOU has adopted a new strategic framework in 2016. In this context, new study programmes are developed introducing several innovations such as academic semesters instead of year-long modules, new educational environment based on the student-centered approach, and exclusively digital and interactive educational material (Kalantzi et al. 2016).
Towards this direction, HOU decided for the first time to design and conduct pilot online tutor-student sessions using technological means, giving to students the opportunity to watch and participate from distance and broadening courses’ openness. This innovation allowed students to choose, during their enrollment procedure, the way they wanted to participate, e.g. face-to-face or online sessions.
In this paper, we explore the role of online tutor-student sessions and their importance in the institutional change process, their relationship to the students’ perceptions of learning, and their correlation to various factors in order to improve their effectiveness during the educational process. The participants (N=79) for this study were students who enrolled in the six new postgraduate programs in the fall of 2016, participated in online tutor-student sessions and completed the course survey. This paper presents quantitative and qualitative data from 1st semester surveys, and highlights key findings regarding the educational added value of online tutor-student sessions. Improvement suggestions for academic and administrative support, as well for content and structure of online tutor-student sessions are also discussed.
Keywords: online tutor-student sessions, distance education, higher education