The capabilities required by online tutors mediated through learning environment factors
The Internet has provided distance education with a new delivery opportunity that tertiary institutions are rapidly deploying. However, little is known of the characteristics of effective human tutors to exploit this opportunity and what capabilities they require for particular online learning environments. This paper reports on an in-depth study examining the online learning milieu in six separate courses that incorporated the use of text-based online technologies at an Australian university.
The study required a determination of the environmental factors affecting online tutor capabilities and the relationship between these capabilities and the factors. Thirteen environmental factors emerged from an analysis of the data and a set of critical online tutor capabilities based upon five categories distilled after an exhaustive review of the literature. From this a model of the mediated relationship between these capabilities and environmental factors was created and recommendations were made concerning the required capabilities of online tutors that will assist tertiary institutions in selection and training processes. Finally, the study identified a dissonance between the perceptions of tutors, students and course designers that needs careful consideration and further research.