2nd opinion badly needed

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2nd opinion badly needed

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Jan 24, 2011, 7:14am

Can anyone here with experience of the OU help me out here? Back in the 'good old days' when I did my BA all contact with tutors was made either by phone or at tutorials but now (and rightly so) it is largely by email. My problem is that I feel my tutor takes a heck of a long time to reply to emails and I just wondered whether anyone else has an opinion on how long is a reasonable time? I'm not talking months or even weeks but even one week seems like a very long time to me when you are waiting to start writing your next TMA and need an answer to a relevant question.

Yes, I do know he has other things to do but I've taught too in the past and I would never expect to leave a student's question unanswered by more than a couple of days at the most.

And - if others agree with me that this is a pretty slow response - any ideas on what I can do about it? I've emailed him twice now on different topics and both times have had to send a reminder before I got a reply. I don't want to start falling out with the person who marks my work but I really don't feel as if this class is much of a priority in his life. I haven't had an opportunity to ask other students whether they feel the same way - we only meet at tutorials when the tutor is obviously also present or speak on the OU forum to which he also has access, so I have no way of knowing if other people are having the same problem. Has anyone else been through something similar and found a satisfactory way through it?

Jan 24, 2011, 8:11am

I'm not aware of any official guidelines but I would expect an answer within 48 hours, to be honest. Given that if you phoned them they would have to answer then and there, I think this is pretty reasonable.

Jan 24, 2011, 8:32am

Thank you, cricketgirl. Nice to know it's not just me being impatient. I'd be happy to get a general consensus on this if anyone else has an opinion.

Mar 23, 2011, 4:55pm

Dependent on the tutor but usually within a day or so. On a couple of courses tutors told us in their opening letters/emails what days they checked their emails so you would know hopefully when you were due a response.

Mar 23, 2011, 6:09pm

Thank you for joining in Dan. I'm afraid the situation hasn't improved since January. The last time I emailed him I was foolish enough (because it was just after a TMA and I assumed he was probably getting a lot of emails from other students) to say it wasn't terribly urgent. That was around 3 weeks ago now and still no reply. It was mainly about ways in which he felt I could improve my mark so I thought it would be reasonably apparent that a reply before I started writing the next TMA would be helpful. I did contact the learning support team to ask if there were any guidelines as to response time etc but they wouldn't answer my question without taking my full details and making it feel like a semi-official complaint. I really don't want to go down that road if I can help it but I'm beginning to wonder what else I can do. I can't get to tutorials because of disability and don't have any contact with other students except through the OU forum (which doesn't allow discussions that could be seen as criticism of tutors - fair enough). Although I'm reasonably happy with my marks at the moment (though of course improving them would be nice) but I am getting seriously worried about how much help I can expect when it comes to planning my dissertation next year.

I do know the tutor has had some health problems so I also feel that any complaint I make is just going to look unsympathetic to that but I've paid as much as anyone else to do the course and I really feel I'm not getting any tutorial support at all, except for a TMA mark every few weeks. What would you do?

Mar 23, 2011, 9:18pm

Have you chased your tutor for a response? if you haven't it may be worth chasing just in case your original email has disappeared into the ether or is buried in a busy mailbox. If that doesn't raise a response within a couple of days then I'm afraid that I really think you should try and talk to someone in the faculty. Three weeks is too long to wait for some kind of response, unless someone is ill. The OU need to understand if a tutor is having problems.

I've just completed the course you're currently taking and after TMA03 the pressure slowly increases, so knowing that you've got tutor support is vital, especially as you need to get their approval before you write your ECA.

Mar 24, 2011, 4:48am

I have to admit I haven't chased him on this one yet (though I have had to do so with every other email I've sent him so far - okay, there have been two, I'm not emailing him every day or anything like that) because there's a part of me that just wants to see whether he will ever reply without being reminded (after all, any reply he sends is going to be pretty much useless now). The most sensible thing to do, I guess, would be to ring him instead of emailing but I find that much more time consuming when I'm deep in study and I actually assumed that emailing would be more convenient for him as well as for me.. I suppose I'm going to have to get this sorted but I do fear making an enemy of the person I'm going to be so dependent upon. Has anyone any experience of having made a complaint against their tutor? How did things go after that?

Mar 24, 2011, 11:53am

This is very slow as answers go. I think that, up to January/February (for a Sept start), you could have changed tutor if you wanted, but changing tutor now would be counterproductive, as you would have to adapt again to someone else. Send an email first, saying that you will call at a specific time in the evening. Then phone the tutor directly and address your issues. If no reply, leave a message on the answerphone (don't forget your course and OU ID number). If no reply on these action by the end of Sunday, then report to student services, and they will request a timely manner from your tutor - you've gone past the stage in which waiting was still an option, imo.

Mar 25, 2011, 2:30pm

As an undergraduate I complained about a tutor. my complaint was quite serious and although the OU dismissed it - although I later found out that I wasn't the only student in the group to make the complaint - I ended up changing tutors.

If I were you I would try and call my tutor and see if everything is OK and try and have a discussion about the best way to contact him. As you're unable to make the tutorials see if you can arrange to have some kind of regular contact with him before each of the next TMAs and the EMA so that he can assist you with any issues or concerns surrounding the assignment.

If he doesn't answer your call, or respond within a few days, then I would speak to student services, it doesn't have to be a complaint - I always tend to ring them and ask if I should be worried if I haven't heard from a tutor, mainly because a friend once rang to complain that her tutor hadn't returned her TMA and that it was overdue, to discover that her tutor had been killed in a road accident on holiday - and I've always found them very supportive.

The bottom line is that as part of the course, which is costing you a small fortune, you expect to get a certain level of tutor support which for one reason or another isn't forthcoming. It is not unreasonable to complain.

Mar 25, 2011, 6:04pm

Thank you everyone who has offered support and suggestions. Things have moved forward just a little and that's probably about the most I should say right now. Aside from that, though, the main problem has been my fear of upsetting or getting into trouble someone I know isn't well. It's really reassuring to know people don't think I'm just being awkward and impatient and am justified in being concerned. That is a real help and I appreciate it very much.