Youde, A and Marsden, F (2012) Developing a transactional presence amongst adult learners in blended learning contexts: an exploration of the skills, qualities and traits required of the tutor. In: EDULEARN12 Proceedings of International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies. IATED, Barcelona, Spain, pp. 6334-6342. ISBN 978-84-695-3491-5

This paper examines the practices of tutors in blended learning environments and investigates the factors affecting success, including recognised and desirable competences, and in particular, emotional competences. Blended courses typically involve significant online delivery and support but include some face-to-face contact. Through the analysis of eight experienced tutors in blended contexts, successful tutoring is judged from a wide perspective, including analysis of literature, student perceptions of the support and guidance they received, interviews with relevant tutors and analysis of online content and discussions.
The paper provides an assessment of the tutor’s approaches to delivering modules on vocationally relevant degrees, via blended learning, for part-time adult learners. The analysis is underpinned with reference to Transactional Distance Theory (Moore, 1997), the notion of a Transactional Presence being developed (Shin, 2002), empathic tutoring (Holmberg, 1989), and meeting the needs of adult, work-based learners. The tutor’s approach to teaching, learning, assessment and student support are explored and analysed including consideration of essential skills, qualities and traits required for a successful blended student experience.
In considering the qualities required of blended tutors, the research seeks to explore why some tutors can motivate and encourage students in online environments and why others demotivate and even alienate. To understand this phenomenon further, the research explores the influence of a tutor’s emotional competence on the success of the teaching and learning experience.
The research uncovered some unexpected results as the most emotionally competent tutors and those with strong technical skills were not perceived by students to have developed a transactional presence. Where a transactional presence was apparent, tutors had previously taught their students and this supports the notion that personal relationships between tutors and peers are important and develop over time. Further key tutor competences and qualities identified were to be organised, empathic, be experienced in blended learning delivery, and provide a structured learning environment with clear goals. However, the deep approaches to learning adopted by students and their motivation were a driving force in the success of the modules under investigation.

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