Landing : Athabascau University

A tutor's perspective

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A tutor's perspective

Started by Dr. Mark Dimirsky September 19, 2016 - 12:36pm Replies (4)


I responded to Margaret's email in behalf of Dr. Ives but (perhaps somewhat ironically) I don't think it will receive wider distribution since the allstaff is apparently a one-way communication tool.   I'm not able to do a simple cut and paste to this page of my email so not sure how or whether to communicate on this further.  My points were that I endorse the mission of the group, describe why tutor and academic expert input is essential and ask that structural changes be made so that tutors and academic experts are paid to more continuously contribute to course changes.  Thanks, Mark Dimirsky


  • Cindy Ives September 22, 2016 - 9:23am

    Hi Mark.

    Thank you for your comments about the Community of Learning Design. In rereading the all staff message we sent, I think I neglected to make it clear that the CLD is a virtual community of practice and not a new AU department.

    We appreciate your support of the mission of this group. Learning designers in this group and elsewhere would agree that the participation of all stakeholders in the learning-teaching process shoulld be involved in course design. In many course development projects, tutors and academic experts are included in design conversations. But it is true that at AU, the process is determined within faculties, and practices can be different from discipline to discipline. There is much more to discuss on these matters, and one of the purposes of the CLD is to find opportunities for those conversations.


  • Jon Dron October 4, 2016 - 12:29pm

    Great points, Mark. I would love to involve tutors/academic experts much more in all that we do, not just in course design but in overall planning of programs and in the learning community as a whole.

    I have been wanting (not yet done) to make voluntary participation easier and more fluid in my own school, by making it possible for tutors/AEs to attend school meetings and join the school's staff Landing group (where we discuss course developments and other things that matter to tutors) but am currently stalled waiting for approval. There's general agreement that it is a nice idea, but the wording for invitations etc has to be very carefully considered to make it really clear that I am not even asking for it, let alone requiring it, as I have zero budget for it. I want to make it possible for those that care, but am fearful of appearing to ask or expect AEs to work for no pay. This is potentially tricky territory, so I welcome any suggestions (or a budget to do it without fear!).

    It seems to me that the main obstacle institution-wide is cost or, more precisely, the ways we pay for tutoring/academic experting. As long as we treat tutoring/academic experting as piece work (whether paid by the minute or for blocks) it is hard to engage tutors fully in the academic community. Even if we were to explicitly pay for it, it would not provide the right kind of intrinsic motivation needed to make it worthwhile. It is hard to foster a culture of belonging and ownership when tutors are paid for tasks performed rather than as professional members of an academic community. Perhaps there should be a fixed-proportion element of tutor pay that caters for the kinds of community engagement, professional development and research that faculty and professional staff are expected to do? Not every tutor would equally appreciate this opportunity, so perhaps we could create this more adjunct/teaching professor-like role for those wanting to participate, with greater responsibilities but also greater freedoms. Though tricky, it seems to me that such investment would pay large dividends in the quality of what we do, greatly increase the chances of keeping great tutors for longer, and greatly improve our ability to adapt to an uncertain future.


  • Richard Huntrods October 4, 2016 - 12:40pm


    Sadly, the right hand does not know what the left is doing. Many of us have fought to include the tutors in a more active way, but it always comes down to the issues you have mentioned above regarding methods of payment.

    It is also hard to tell tutors you value their input when the current pay system has angered so many of our best tutors. The comments I've received suggest they view the current pay system as an insult to their years of expertise. Hard to argue otherwise at this time.

  • Dr. Mark Dimirsky October 4, 2016 - 5:42pm

    Thanks Jon and Richard.  I agree that the current pay system, the lack of budget and the need to watch what is said to avoid labor and personnel (also personal) problems are true barriers.  Not every tutor wants to be more involved and there are some (many??) tutors with issues of bitterness and resentment as well.  No question in my mind that there is a gulf between parties who should be working with each other so that the best outcomes for AU and for our students is more likely.  In a healthy environment where problems like these occur there would be attempts by administration to try to find realistic and healing ways the issues can be addressed.  That hasn't happened here and so we are left with outliers who try to do what administration should be doing.  I know the answer isn't exclusion, isn't isolation, isn't developing technologies that are separate from the realities of those using them.  I don't know what the answer is but I am pretty sure that talking to each other in respectful ways can be a start to developing some answers.   Will someone help to make that happen?  I hope so.