A little bit about you - your story up to now and how the pandemic has affected you.
I undertook my Master's degree in mechanical engineering at Imperial College London from 2012-17. I did a year in industry with Atkins between the third and fourth year of my degree which was a great opportunity for me to put my engineering knowledge to use and for me to see what working as a professional engineer was really like. Atkins also offered me a job for when I finished my degree and part sponsored my final year of study. I actually decided to do a PhD after graduating but even then Atkins still upheld the job offer and part sponsorship, so I will likely be rejoining them once my PhD is completed. In my PhD I am researching how we can better understand and interpret data from tests that we carry out on alloys that deform at high temperatures. Part of the reason why I chose to do a PhD is that it allows a great deal of flexibility, so I have been able to not only continue to tutor through Tutorfair but also teach through Imperial College Outreach and as a graduate teaching assistant for various modules of the undergraduate mechanical engineering course. Luckily I haven't been too badly affected by the pandemic. Some of my experimental testing was delayed for a couple of months after the start of the initial lockdown, but otherwise I have been able to carry on mostly as normal. I certainly haven't had nearly as much demand for paid tuition, but this in part spurred me on to apply for volunteer roles.
How have you found tutoring online? Does it fit OK with the way you like to tutor? Do you enjoy it or are you finding it taxing?
I have found that the quality of online tutoring depends very heavily on the quality of my student's audio. I have now had a number of online students, both paid and through the foundation. Some of them have had brilliant audio quality to the point that it's almost like talking to them in the same room, and some of them have had much poorer quality and I have struggled to hear what they are saying, which can be frustrating. For me, as long as I can communicate clearly with my student then I am completely happy to tutor online. It was not something that I wanted to do as much before the pandemic as I thought it wouldn't be as good as doing it face-to-face, but I have found that it has been much easier to develop a rapport with a student online than I previously thought.
How have you found the technology? What issues have you had and have you managed to find solutions?
Bramble is a good platform for online tutoring. It's certainly convenient to have audio and screen sharing bundled together, as well as the ability to upload past papers etc. I don't think any of the students I have taught through the foundation have had tablets, so they haven't been able to make use of handwriting but we have made do, either by the student typing out their answers, or by them telling me what to write down.
Would you recommend the program to other tutors? If so, why? If not, why not?
I would definitely recommend the programme. It has been a completely different challenge to all the other teaching that I have done until now. It's no secret that clients who are able to pay for tutoring are likely to already have access to better education, so I have almost never taught foundation maths to students that really struggle with it. It has forced me to think about what I take to be very basic topics in a completely different way so that I am able to try and explain how they work to a student that does not understand them well. It has also been satisfying and rewarding to give these students the opportunity to improve their maths skills, an opportunity that they would not otherwise have without the foundation.
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