If you are returning to education after a prolonged break or are new to Higher Education it can be daunting to send your work to a tutor you barely know for them to go through it with a fine-toothed comb. In a ‘bricks-and-mortar’ institution it’s usual to bump into staff casually and to build relationships over coffee and so on. That’s not really possible with your OCA tutor, though I recommend trying to attend any study visits they run, but the student / tutor relationship is still at the heart of the OCA experience. This post has been written to help students build a solid, positive relationship with their tutor.
I’ve been working with OCA students for over four years and have met tutors across several disciplines. The advice below is the result of talking with them and with OCA administrative staff, but it is a personal take on a complex subject. Obviously there may be things I haven’t mentioned that are important to your tutor. It would be great if the comments below this post could expand and finesse my points.
Keep in touch. OCA tutors are self-employed and all juggle OCA work with other commitments. I have over twenty students and plan a rough schedule based on what I expect to receive in any given month. If a submission is running late, then let your tutor know. An email from a student means I can rejig things a bit and when the work does turn up it’s much more likely to be turned around quickly. Obviously it’s important not to bombard the tutor with emails about your progress between submissions. I subscribe to any blogs my students use but never comment on the individual posts. If you have a genuine question for the tutor then dropping them an email is generally fine, but before doing so it might be worth asking other students on the OCA forums (or Facebook groups) to see if they can help.
Label the Learning Log/Blog and submitted work clearly. If a submission is easy to follow then the tutor can send more time writing feedback. If you’re using a blog then make sure all images are the right way up and well photographed. If they’re out of focus or badly lit it can be hard to make judgements about them or give meaningful feedback. If sending the work physically then make sure charcoal drawings are fixed and so on, but also label the work on the back with the title of the exercise in the course document. This allows the tutor to see clearly the chronology of the work and map your progress. Imagine receiving your portfolio through the post and having to make sense. If it’s tricky for you, then your tutor will find it doubly difficult.
Thank your tutor for the report. This counts for a lot. In a distance learning environment it’s self-evident that the students are isolated from one another, but it’s also true of the staff. It’s nice to know that something that took a couple of hours to write (plus any time taken to pack up the portfolio and take it to the Post Office) is acknowledged.
Go through the report and respond to it in your Learning Log. It’s important to remember that your tutor is not ‘marking’ your work, but providing feedback. Rebecca Fairley wrote a post about how to use your tutor reports which you should read. The bottom line is that your tutor is likely to make suggestions that are tailored to your situation or work. For example, I recommend artists to look at that I think will be stimulating or useful to students and it’s disappointing if these suggestions are not followed up. Students that engage fully with the reports are generally the ones that improve and progress. Tutors I have spoken to all find it frustrating if their advice or recommendations fall on deaf ears.
Be enthusiastic about the wider subject. Successful students generally do more than the bare minimum and demonstrating an interest in art (or photography or whatever) is likely to please stout tutor and will help them respond in ways that are particular to you.
In conclusion, to get the best out of tutor I recommend that you keep them informed if your schedule changes, take time to thank them for reports, and interact with those reports in a meaningful way. Following these snippets of advice means that you ought to build a relationship with your tutor that goes beyond the simple ‘submit and report’ mode and the advice you receive is likely to be clearer and more bespoke.
Watch the following video on ‘The role of your tutor and what to expect’ on the student site here.