In this blog post, we will be sharing the results of our research into student preferences around one-to-one academic writing appointments post-pandemic.
The Writing@Liverpool scheme was launched in 2019, with all appointments taking place in-person in the university library. All the writing tutors are current PhD students at the university and are able to offer appointments at times which fit in with their studies. The service was initially popular, with over 600 appointments being attended in the first semester. However, when Covid-19 arrived in March 2020 and appointments moved online via Microsoft Teams, there was a big drop in bookings.
There could have been many reasons for this decrease in engagement as the pandemic provided lots of challenges for both staff and students. However, rather than guessing what form of writing support students would want post-pandemic (online or in-person), we decided it would be more useful to gather their thoughts and opinions through a short survey.
We received 701 responses, which we were pleased with – the incentive of being put into a draw to win an iPad (funded by ALDinHE) definitely helped with this! We promoted the survey via screen adverts, leaflets, social media and a VLE announcement and saw the biggest increase in responses following the VLE announcement. We were also hoping to do a stand on campus with free pizza to promote the survey, but due to the iPad costing more than anticipated and staff strikes meaning traffic on campus was low, we decided to dismiss this idea.
The results suggested that there is clearly still demand for both online and in-person appointments. There was a slightly greater demand for in-person appointments (56%), especially amongst undergraduates. Within their reasoning for choosing in-person appointments, students frequently mentioned that they thought this style of appointment allowed better communication, provided a more personal experience and that they were able to focus better and would be less distracted in the library.
Students who stated a preference for online appointments stated that this format is more accessible for students who are distance learners or not coming onto campus regularly. Several also described these appointments as being easier to fit into their schedule as there was no need to factor time for getting to and from the appointment. Others said they would feel less anxious about meeting online, especially with Covid-19 still around in the community. There appeared to be more postgraduates than undergraduates who preferred the option of online appointments.
Interestingly, we found that 59% of our respondents had not heard of the Writing@Liverpool scheme, while only 4% said they wouldn’t use the service at all, suggesting that it is not necessarily the format of the appointments that is causing low attendance, but a lack of awareness of the availability of appointments for students.
Following these results, we are planning to offer a mix of face-to-face and online appointments in the next semester. Although our Writing@Liverpool tutors no longer have to come onto campus as frequently for their studies, having the data from this survey is useful to convince the tutors it is worth offering this option.
By Bryony Parsons and Heather Johnston, Learning Developers from the study skills team in the library at the University of Liverpool.