Virtual tutor support using SMARTHINKING: preliminary findings

McDonell, Jennifer; Parkes, Mitchell and Tynan, Belinda (2010). Virtual tutor support using SMARTHINKING: preliminary findings. In: ASCILITE 2010: Curriculum, Technology & Transformation for an Unknown Future, 5-8 Dec 2010, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, pp. 595–603.



The University of New England (UNE) has been using a virtual tutoring service called SMARTHINKING since 2007. UNE explored the use of a 'virtual tutor service' to support distance education students in their academic development; to reduce attrition; and to provide academic support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to all students with access to a computer irrespective of geographical location. A cascading selection of units across different disciplinary areas and cohorts of students were targeted for the virtual tutorial support service over 6 semesters to provide rich data. A survey consisting of 20 questions was developed and implemented at the end of each teaching period. Preliminary analysis of data indicates that SMARTHINKING appears to be making a difference to student learning outcomes. However, while uptake tends to be low in all cohorts but where students select to use the service they are positive about its effects.

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