School Seminar: Teaching computing at a distance: the importance of the observation


Online teaching is important. Module presentation guides and group tuition policy documents state the number of hours of online tuition that tutors should give and provide guidelines about what online tutorials should contain. A fundamental question to ask is: how do we best develop tuition practice to ensure that online sessions are effective and engaging? One answer lies with an approach that is familiar with lecturers and teachers who present face-to-face tutorials: the tutorial observation.

This seminar introduces a recent eSTEeM project that aims to understand more about the importance and relevance of tutorial observations, and to understand what issues might be specific to online tutorials. A secondary objective is to learn more about how observation feedback, particularly when it comes to online sessions, may be able to play a part when it comes to developing associate lecturers who tutor on Computing and IT modules.
The main outcomes of the project are: (1) identify literature that relates to teaching observation, (2) understand what issues are specific to online observations, (3) uncover shared practice regarding observations, and (4) understand the extent to which observations can positive influence Computing and IT teaching practice. The seminar will present key lessons from the literature review, summarise results from three different focus groups and present a set of recommendations that have been given to the wider staff tutor community. Finally, implications for central academics and module teams are presented, particularly with respect to the challenge of increasing tuition quality and enhancing student retention and progression.


Chris Douce is a Staff Tutor/Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communication. He studied Computer Science at Salford University and went on to study the Psychology of Programming at the University of Manchester. He joined the OU in 2006 as a part time associate lecturer, tutoring on M364 Fundamentals of Interaction Design and then H810 Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students.  He is currently a tutor on TM470, the Computing and IT project module. He was a Senior Research Fellow in the OU Institute of Educational Technology, where he supported a number of EU funded projects, later becoming a Staff Tutor in the London region. He is also editor in chief of Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning. Chris regularly facilitates AL development events at AL development conferences across the UK. His research interests include: pedagogy of computer programming, the pedagogy of online and distance learning and the history of computing.

Christopher Douce
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