Guidance for Academic Personal Tutoring in the blended environment

Key principles for academic personal tutoring in the blended environment

Personal tutoring is particularly important for all our students (UG and PGT) in a blended learning environment. We know that contact with a personal tutor can make a real difference to student morale, engagement and retention. For all students, support and guidance from their academic personal tutor is more important than ever.

An effective personal tutoring programme for new students will enable them to transition smoothly to university and independent study. Returning students will have already made relationships with others in their cohort and with academic staff but may be struggling with the transition to back to an in-person or blended learning environment.

The following key principles should apply to personal tutoring in the next academic year to ensure that it fully supports both our new students and our returners.

  • Purpose of meetings: the main purpose of the personal tutor interactions is to help students develop academically and personally. A range of activities or discussions may be used to help:
    • support transition to study or progression through the programme,
    • develop self-awareness as a learner and adapt to blended education,
    • develop their disciplinary identity and sense of belonging to a cohort,
    • with discipline-specific academic skills,
    • formulate plans for their academic, personal & professional development,
    • signpost students to specialist support if needed, eg the Senior Tutor, the Student Wellbeing Service, Residential Life, the Careers Service, the Library, or the Study Skills team.
  • Frequency of meetings and format: scheduled meetings should take place at least as frequently as stipulated in the personal tutoring policy. Meetings should be a mix of one-to-one and small group sessions. Schools should ensure they maintain good records of students’ engagement with their personal tutor and promptly contact any students who fail to attend a scheduled meeting.
  • Platform: if face-to-face meetings are not possible, personal tutorials should take place via a suitable online platform (see IT guidance on video conferencing). Bristol has several platforms which could be used: Blackboard Collaborate and Microsoft Teams are both supported by the Digital Education Office, but Zoom is also available.
  • Communication with students: schools/programmes should communicate with their students to ensure that they understand the purpose and format of academic personal tutoring sessions. Schools should also update their personal tutoring statements and publish them to students. These communications should be shared with Melissa Bevan ( in Education Services.

BILT resources for Personal Tutors helping students transition to academic study

For the 2021/2022 academic year, BILT have collated a number of resources aimed at helping staff to support their students with the academic aspects of transition to university. There are many great examples of practice across the University, including tutorial programs, activities, workshops, online resources etc. You can also find ideas for helping students develop their digital skills and study skills.

Go straight to the BILT Personal Tutoring resource here.

Suggestions for facilitating online tutorial activities

Connecting with your tutor group online

Having an option to meet your tutor group virtually can be a really great way to get to know them, even if some have been unable to make it to Bristol, or are unable to come to campus. These resources provide all you need to set up and run three different kinds of online community building exercises, a social ‘mingle’, a study focused ‘’study lounge’ or a video based activity using Flipgrid.

Online Mingle Toolkit – From this toolkit, look for the ’social mingle’ which you can run with your students to help them get to know each other virtually.

Study Lounge Toolkit – If your students feel like they need more structure, or motivation, to study – or have a lot of asynchronous work to do and feel a bit isolated – try a study lounge. The Study Skills team run these as structured sessions for students, with prompts to help them along. This toolkit gives you everything you need to set one up, and your students can even do this for themselves once they get the hang of it.

Flipgrid Activity – Flipgrid is a free video platform where people can record short (90 second) videos on a specific subject. Others can then comment with video or text replies. The aim here would be for your students to create short accessible content that engages and sparks discussion, allowing the contributors to feel part of a community and explore issues in a safe space.

For group meetings:

  • You could set up a recurring session using a video conferencing tool, Teams or Zoom. Be careful to choose the right tool and set the permissions up so that you can ensure a private session, if this is required. For example, take advantage of waiting room features so that you can choose to allow participants to join a meeting.
  • To explore the video conferencing tools available, see the IT Services guides to video conferencing.
  • Microsoft Bookings is an alternative tool for you and your students to arrange times to meet, as students can select from pre-defined slots in your calendar. To find out more, see this introduction to MS Bookings by IT Services.

Discussions and forums:

  • You could set up a discussion board for students to post on as a means of bringing them together and supporting each other outside of timetabled tutor times. You can set up a discussion forum in Blackboard. However, Padlet would provide an alternative space where students can post messages. In Padlet you can set permissions to only allow access to students to whom you email a link . . For more ongoing chat between you and your tutor group, you could consider setting up a group in MS Teams for you tutor group. However, you will need to be clear what the purpose of the chat would be, and how often you will be monitoring it or replying.

More activities to consider