The COVID-19 pandemic brought changes to the teaching and learning arena and posed challenges to efforts to support student performance. The study aims to identify challenges faced during online tutoring and ways to continue to support the tutoring function to teach and disseminate knowledge to students during lockdown. The study was conducted within a faculty in a higher education institution in South Africa using interviews of lecturers and tutors who were purposively selected. Thematic analysis was used to draw out themes on the challenges faced, support provided and suggestions to improve tutoring in online/blended learning. The study exposed several challenges, including internet connectivity, inadequate knowledge on the use of online platforms, lack of clear guidelines for tutors, disconnect with the students and lecturers on a personal level, insufficient internet data, and students' lack of participation and interest. Further findings supported the need for more innovative strategies in the areas of tutor professional development, standardisation of processes and information, regular tutor-lecturer interactions, and the establishment of a community of practice for tutors that feature peer mentoring and support. These findings provide evidence to inform targeted strategies to support tutors in the blended learning space.

Practitioner Notes

  1. The choice of tutors goes beyond content knowledge. Additional skills, including digital capacity, are vital going forward.
  2. Intervention is critical through developing tailored professional development for tutors through regular and functional training, and mentoring.
  3. Standardising processes and information flow to facilitate and manage online tutoring is crucial.
  4. Intervention strategies need to be implemented at the department and university level, irrespective of the investment cost.
  5. Agile university systems, data and processes must align with each student’s personal needs and circumstances and contribute to their experience before joining, during and after graduation.