Students TOLE it like it is
22 April 2010
Imperial students’ opinions on the College’s tutoring system, and on the experience of studying for a Master’s degree, have been revealed in two new surveys, the results of which have now been sent to all departments.
TOLE (Tutorial Online Evaluation) and MOLE (Master’s Online Evaluation) solicit feedback from students on issues such as the structure and organisation of lectures and their interactions with their Personal Tutor. Results and comments are sent to the individual members of staff concerned, as well as to each department’s Director for Undergraduate or Postgraduate Studies and, for TOLE, to the Senior Tutor.
In its first year, TOLE’s overall response rate was 44 per cent, with respondents revealing a reasonable level of satisfaction with their personal tutors. The ease with which they can contact their personal tutor was rated as good or very good by 72 per cent of respondents, while 59 per cent rated their tutor’s advice on study skills as good or very good. Feedback also included a high level of praise for the friendliness and approachability, and sometimes sense of humour, of tutors, with one Electrical and Electronic Engineering student commenting that time spent with the tutor was “the most valuable and enjoyable hour of my week”.
Other comments, however, showed that some students find that pressure on their tutors’ time makes it difficult to arrange meetings, and would like regular get-togethers to be scheduled automatically. One department already doing this is Earth Science and Engineering (ESE), which had the highest response rate of 95 per cent. In ESE, first and second year students meet their personal tutor every second week during term time. Dr Lorraine Craig, ESE’s Academic Tutor, says:
“In ESE, personal tutoring is an integral part of the student experience and it’s important that tutor and tutee get to know each other well. Quite a few of our staff were delighted to be told they were ‘awesome tutors’ in this survey, and there are some examples of really imaginative work – one tutor paid for his first year tutees to see the film 2012 to get a discussion going about plate tectonics and other quantitative practical work. He even bought them an ice cream each!”
MOLE, with a response rate of 35 per cent, showed a high level of satisfaction with many aspects of the experience of being a Master’s student at Imperial, with over 70 per cent of respondents rating the organisation and structure of lectures, the explanation of concepts by lecturers and the approachability of lecturers as good or very good. However, this fell to under 60 per cent in questions on the timeliness and relevance of feedback. Professor Julia Buckingham, Pro Rector (Education), says:
This feedback is immensely valuable at both a College-wide and departmental level
“Many of the comments we’ve seen from these surveys make truly heartwarming reading, and it’s wonderful that our staff are able to see the real difference their hard work makes to the lives of students and how much it’s appreciated.
“However the data from these new surveys chime with the results of previous ones in showing that we need to look closely at how we support students outside of the lecture theatre. We expect each department to take their results seriously and deal with any issues that they may have uncovered.
“This feedback is immensely valuable at both a College-wide and departmental level and it will have a direct effect on how these services are organised in future. I hope that students will see that, and that future response rates will be much higher.”
Agreeing, Jonathan Silver, Deputy President (Education) at Imperial College Union, added: “Imperial can boast a comprehensive set of feedback surveys, but their biggest weakness is students’ lack of faith, and they need to see that the results are disseminated and acted on. When every student is convinced that their responses will be taken seriously, the surveys will be running on all cylinders and will be of huge benefit to everyone.”
— Abigail Smith, Communications
TOLE will now run annually, while MOLE will run twice a year at the end of the autumn and spring terms. More information is available here