There have been continued discussions about the benefit of a call centre model of tutoring for the faculty of humanities and social sciences (FHSS). While this model has proven to be useful in certain faculties, I do not think it is a “one size fits all” solution.
The FHSS is based on creative thinking, personal interpretation, and can be arbitrary. In the sciences there is one right answer; in some of the FHSS there is no wrong answer. Some courses are primarily teaching formulas or base knowledge such as facts to be memorized, equations to comprehend and understand for what they are, or relations to interpret and comprehend. In these subjects having a call centre (or, as it was renamed, the student success centre) would be essential to being able to move forward in a course with success. Being able to reach someone at any time and get an answer to a straight forward question (straight forward as in there is a single answer), would be exceptionally helpful. It would make the process easier on the student, who no longer has to wait two days to get an answer to a basic question, and for the tutor, who can then focus on more difficult questions or aiding a student who is struggling. In this scenario I think the student success centre makes sense. It is a win-win situation for both student and tutor alike. As a disclaimer, I am an arts student, and while logistically it makes sense, I am basing my opinion here on both the logic behind it as I see it, and from the comments I have seen from time to time on social media, which show a majority of students in these departments like the student success centre for these reasons.
So, while I understand that the student success centre has an important role in distance education. I do not believe it has a role in the FHSS. My success, and the enjoyment of my courses, have depended greatly on being able to make a strong connection with my tutor. The experience of the tutor in these courses helped me to understand concepts and how to apply those ideas to other topics. They taught me how to think critically. When my understanding was lacking, the connection with them is what made the difference. I think that if a student success centre was established in the FHSS, a majority of courses would find that the centre only played the role of “middle-man.” I don’t believe that the centre would be able to address the majority of questions that students would have, and that they would be pushing them on to the tutor anyway. In this case, the centre would only be an added cost, and not taking weight off the tutor, nor helping students advance quicker. On the contrary, it would cause stalls and likely cause students with questions to attempt to figure them out themselves rather than seek help, as doing so would require they get past the gate-keeper of the centre.
Students are not the only ones with concerns when it comes to implementing the call centre in the FHSS, tutors have many of the same concerns that students do. In these courses it is key to be able to have that connection with a tutor to get the most out of the course, and for the tutor to be able to connect with their students. The implementation of the call centre will result in students and tutors alike suffering a loss.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature
Editors Note: If you have something to say on this topic, the FHSS is hosting a teleconference with students on March 30th to get their opinions. Contact AUSU (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more details.