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Personal Tutoring Statement

Information for Students

The Informatics Personal Tutoring Statement is divided into two parts.

  1. This page is directed at undergraduate and taught postgraduate students in Informatics.  
  2. A Staff Supplement is directed primarily at Personal Tutors in Informatics, but also will be of interest to students and to other staff in Informatics and in the rest of the University.

Purpose

This student-oriented part of the Informatics Personal Tutoring Statement explains the role of a Personal Tutor and the support you can expect from your Personal Tutor.  It also describes related actions you need to take.  Some of these actions are University requirements, all are important for ensuring the effectiveness of the support provided to you by your Personal Tutor and other support staff in Informatics and around the University.

Introduction

Your Personal Tutor and the wider support network provided by Informatics and by the University will work with you in partnership as you

  • become a confident learner in your discipline and play an active part in your academic community,
  • develop and reflect on the range of graduate attributes required for success at University and beyond,
  • meet the challenges and opportunities of University life.

If you are an undergraduate, you  have at least two one-to-one meetings each year with your Personal Tutor.  If you are a taught post-graduate, you have at least three one-to-one meetings each year. 

Support provided to you by your Personal Tutor

Your Personal Tutor will:
  • give you advice on course and programme choices,
  • review with you how you have performed in your studies and how well you have engaged with the various aspects of your courses,
  • discuss with you how to improve your study skills
  • help register you for courses,
  • help guide you through the University's rules and regulations,
  • give you support if you have circumstances which impact on your ability to study (e.g. related to physical and mental health),
  • write academic references for you, i.e. references for jobs, internships and further studies. (For routine references for e.g. accommodation, contact the Student Support Team in the ITO),

  • discuss with you your ideas and plans for your future career.

As needed, in providing this support, your Personal Tutor will consult with others in the School and the University, and will refer you on to these others. For example:

  • the ITO has a Student Support Team,
  • the School has a Senior Tutor (Julian Bradfield) who oversees all the School's Personal Tutors and provides advice in more difficult cases,
  • the School has a Student Progression Officer (Sharon Goldwater) who assists the Senior Tutor in advising students at the start of the academic year on how they can progress when they have had difficulties in their previous year,
  • the College of Science and Engineering has a Dean of Students (Alan Murray) who oversees the running of the Personal Tutoring system in the College,
  • the University has a wide range of support services.

How to contact your Personal Tutor

You can look on the Personal Tutor channel of your MyEd Portal to find the name and contact details for your Personal Tutor. Alternatively, ask a member of the Student Support Team.

You can contact your Personal Tutor by email, phone or stopping by their office.  Sometimes your Personal Tutor will be able to help you immediately.  Other times it is best to arrange a face-to-face meeting.

When requesting meetings, your Personal Tutor is expected to normally respond within 3 working days. If a matter is urgent and you cannot make immediate contact with your Personal Tutor, contact the Student Support Team in the ITO. They might be able to help you directly or will put you in touch with another Personal Tutor.

Especially outside of semester time, be aware that your Personal Tutor might be away from Edinburgh and might not be able to check their email regularly and respond promptly themselves.

While it is often simplest to set up meetings by email, you may instead use the Request meeting button in your Personal Tutor channel.  In this case, the Student Support Team is also notified of your request and they will check that your Personal Tutor has responded.  Use of this button is worthwhile if you are having difficulties getting a reply from your Personal Tutor.

If you feel uncomfortable about approaching your Personal Tutor about some issue, please instead contact a member of the Student Support Team and they will find someone appropriate for you to talk to.  The Student Support Team can also handle requests to change Personal Tutor, e.g. if you want a Personal Tutor of the same gender.   We will try to accommodate any such request but cannot guarantee this.

Your Personal Tutor channel on MyEd

Your electronic student record is accessible through the University's MyEd Portal. It includes information on the programme you are enrolled on, courses you are registered on, and marks you have received for past courses.

The MyEd portal provides you with a Personal Tutor channel for tracking the content of meetings you have with your Personal Tutor, and helping you and your Personal Tutor reflect on the progress and direction of your studies.  This channel enables you, your Personal Tutor and other University staff to record a sequence of notes, each note either starting a fresh subject or commenting on a previous note. A guide to using the Personal Tutor channel is available.

You always have full visibility of all the information on your Personal Tutor channel, and you have a degree of control over who else can see this information. See the next section for a discussion of this control.

You and your Personal Tutor are encouraged to experiment with using this notes facility. Examples of topics for notes include

  • What interests you about your chosen programme of study
  • Courses you have particularly enjoyed or found particularly valuable
  • Satisfaction with your recent progress and identification of subjects or skills that need attention
  • Recommendations your Personal Tutor has made to you
  • Study skills courses you have been on
  • Prizes you have won
  • Career areas you are interested in
  • Relevant experiences in summer jobs and internships

These notes can help in a variety of ways. For example, they can help

  • you plan and guide your studies,
  • you update your CV,
  • your Personal Tutor give you good advice tuned to your situation,
  • your Personal Tutor write you references,
  • staff in the School and the University provide you with support.

Confidentiality of information

Information you discuss with your Personal Tutor is confidential. If you so indicate, Personal Tutors will not discuss sensitive information with anyone else. However, in order to support you effectively, it is very useful if information can be shared with other staff in Informatics and the University. Generally the distribution of more sensitive information is more restricted. For example, information submitted in Special Circumstances reports goes only to small Special Circumstances committee meetings, not full exam boards.

Occasionally, if for example there is a danger of harm to you or others, your Personal Tutor will break confidentiality.

All information is restricted to the University, unless you give your permission. For example, by default, the University cannot discuss anything about you with your parents.

Two levels of confidentiality are available for notes on your MyEd Personal Tutor channel.  By default, all authorised University staff can view your notes. However, as you wish, if a particular note is marked as confidential, its visibility will restricted to you, your Personal Tutor, the School's Senior Tutor, the School's Student Support Team and the Dean of Students. The University encourages you to consider carefully when you restrict visibility, as this restriction might hinder support staff outside the School from supporting you effectively.

The University's Records Management web pages give further information on how the University manages information about you.

Regular one-to-one meetings

Undergraduates have two regular one-to-one meetings each year with their Personal Tutor. and taught postgraduates have three each year.  These one-to-one meetings typically last 15-20 minutes.

Overview

At each meeting, your Personal Tutor reviews your past performance and engagement, discusses the direction your studies are heading in, and might provide advice on additional support that will help you in your studies and academic life. For example, your Personal Tutor might recommend you look into taking a study skills course put on by the University's Institute for Academic Development.

  1. The first meeting of each year occurs at the beginning of Semester 1, either in Week 0 or Week 1.

    At this meeting your Personal Tutor confirms your attendance as part of Matriculation, and if you have choices to make in courses to take, can discuss those choices with you. You make choices for the whole year at this meeting, though Semester 2 choices can be revised at the start of Semester 2.

    If you have had difficulties in the previous year and have not passed all the credits you hoped to, your Personal Tutor is likely to refer you on to the Senior Tutor to discuss your situation and recommend a course of action. It is important that this meeting with the Senior Tutor happens as early as possible, and sometimes your Personal Tutor will make the referral even before you have had a chance to meet with them.

    At the start of Years 1, 2 and 3, be sure to discuss your ideas for your future career and your satisfaction with the programme of study you are registered on. At these stages, there are often opportunities to make changes, though the range of changes becomes smaller as you move into Years 2 and 3.

  2. The second meeting of each year takes place at the beginning of Semester 2, some time in Weeks 1 to 4. A later meeting, in Weeks 3 or 4, is preferable if you have exam results from Semester 1 you would like to review with your Personal Tutor. These results might not be available in Weeks 1 or 2.

  3. For taught postgraduates only, a third meeting is held in early June, at the start of the research project period and after Semester 2 exam results are known. 

A week before the start of each meeting period, the ITO will email you a reminder to contact your Personal Tutor in order to schedule your meeting.

Year-to-year differences

Depending on your position in your programme of study, there are some differences in how these regular meetings are scheduled and what is discussed.

Undergraduate Year 1

At one of the School fresher induction meetings, your Personal Tutor will provide sign up sheets to ease scheduling.

At the Semester 1 one-to-one meeting, if you have any options for the courses you take, your Personal Tutor will discuss these with you and sign you up for your chosen options. It is very likely that you will have been automatically registered for your compulsory courses.

Undergraduate Year 2

At the Semester 1 one-to-one meeting, if you have any options for the courses you take, your Personal Tutor will discuss these with you and sign you up for your chosen options. It is very likely that you will have been automatically registered for your compulsory courses.

Undergraduate Year 3

By this year, your ideas for your future career need to be firming up. Discuss your ideas with your Personal Tutor and explore plans for helping to make them more concrete. For example, you could look into internships for the summer between Years 3 and 4, or could pay the Careers Service a few visits.

At the start of Semester 1, the ITO will contact you directly about how to sign-up for your chosen courses.

Undergraduate Years 4 and 5 (MInf)

Progress on your project should be discussed.

At the start of Semester 1, the ITO will contact you directly about how to sign-up for your chosen courses.

 Taught Postgraduate Year
Selection of project should be discussed at the 2nd meeting, and progress on the project at the 3rd.
At the start of Semester 1, the ITO will contact you directly about how to sign-up for your chosen courses. 

Preparing for meetings

To prepare for each of these meetings, you are expected to print out this Personal Tutor Meeting Prompt Form , add a few notes replying to the prompts, and bring this along to the meeting. If you are an undergraduate at the beginning of your first year or are a starting taught postgraduate, use instead this Prompt Form for Year 1 Start. This form is to help you and your Personal Tutor structure the meeting. You take it away afterwards: it does not become part of your University record.

If you have to make choices about courses, use the advice below to help you draw up a short-list of courses you are interested in.

You may also find useful the advice on preparing for Personal Tutor meetings provided by Institute for Academic Development.

Record-keeping during and after meetings

During the meeting, in consultation with you, your Personal Tutor will add some brief notes to your MyEd meeting record concerning topics discussed, matters agreed upon, and recommendations made. Your Personal Tutor will not enter many of the details of what you talk about.

Immediately after, you are strongly encouraged to reflect on the meeting and add some of these further details to your MyEd record. Of course, when matters are of a sensitive nature, you and your Personal Tutor may want to be very brief, for example perhaps recording just that "A personal issue was discussed".  Add this further information in a Comment note: open this up by clicking on the Comment link within the post created by your Personal Tutor.

A few days after the meeting, your Personal Tutor will check over what you have added, correcting any misunderstandings and perhaps adding further comments.

What to do if you are studying abroad

If you are studying abroad, then your meetings may take place by telephone, live internet call, or a web conferencing application. Email exchanges are not considered to be meetings unless they take place within a pre-agreed time-frame to enable you to have a “conversation” (e.g. if you are overseas and emailing within a 24-36 hour period to take account of time differences).

Additional one-to-one meetings

You should feel free to contact your Personal Tutor at any time of year to request an additional meeting.

Group meetings

Each semester your Personal Tutor leads a group meeting involving you and other students assigned to them. Each group meeting lasts 1 hour and typically involves between 10 and 15 students.  Refreshments are provided.

Discussion is focussed on similar topics to those you discuss directly with your Personal Tutor, excluding of course those of a more confidential nature.   Topics might include

  • study skills, time management skills, work habits and exam-taking tips found most useful,
  • particularly-recommended optional courses,
  • experiences from summer jobs, internships or study abroad years,
  • advice on how to best improve programming skills,
  • job hunting and possible future careers.

The topics of most relevance depend on the years that students in a group come from and whether the students are spread across several years or are mostly or all from just one year.  

Your Personal Tutor facilitates each meeting.  At the start of the meeting your Personal Tutor solicits topics of interest from group members and draws up the agenda for the meeting.  From then on the expectation is that the meeting mostly involves you and the other students contributing your thoughts and reacting to what others say.  

After the group meeting, you are strongly encouraged to add some reflective note to your MyEd record concerning the meeting.  You might remark on advice that is particularly relevant and useful to you, for example.

You are expected to attend these meetings. If you do not attend a meeting, your Personal Tutor will want to know a good reason why.

Usually Semester 1 meetings are held in the week after teaching ends and Semester 2 meetings are held during the mid-semester break in teaching. Postgraduate Taught students have a third group meeting each year after their May exams when they are getting started on their research projects. The timing of group meetings varies for some groups of students.  For example, Visiting Undergraduates are often attending for only one semester and it is more useful to have their meetings in Weeks 4 or 5 of each semester.   

Peer Support

 There are a number of opportunities within Informatics for obtaining support from fellow students.  These include:

  • CompSoc.  The student computing society.  This is a student-run organization which provides avenues for inspiration, support and collaboration to students interested in computing and information technlogies.They run many activities,  including informal lectures and workshops for first years in need of extra help, weekly social events, hackathons and tech meetups (see next item).

  • Student Tech Meetup (STMU).  This is a student-run instance of the Edinburgh Tech Meetup, a social event where students meet with staff of local technology startups for discussions and presentations.  Informatics provide meeting space and pizza.

  • InfBase. A drop-in helpdesk staffed by students employed by Informatics to provide information and advice.

  • Student-run Facebook groups, per-year and general.
  • Course-centred online discussion forums.  You can reach these by following links found on course home pages.
  • Hoppers.  A networking group for women in Informatics across taught students, research students and academic staff.  Run by undergraduate students.

In conjunction with CompSoc and Hoppers, we are currently reviewing this support and considering further activities: peer support during lab sessions and tutorial preparation sessions, for example.

Your responsibilities

Your responsibilities as a student at the University include the following.

  • You must read email to your official University email account regularly. The University will use this email account for many important communications with you.

  • You should ensure that information held on MyEd about you is correct and kept up to date. This includes information about your contact details and about course registrations.

  • Each year you have to attend your regular one-to-one meetings with your Personal Tutor, preparing for them beforehand and reflecting on them afterwards.

  • You should keep your Personal Tutor informed of circumstances that are impacting your studies.

    Individual courses have their own procedures for making allowances for common circumstances (e.g. a minor illness) that affect coursework, and these procedures should be followed. However, for anything more serious, you must keep your Personal Tutor informed.

    After each exam period, exam boards meet to finalise marks. Just before these the exam boards have Special Circumstances meetings to consider situations that have impacted on students' studies. If you have special circumstances, you and your Personal Tutor together draw up a Special Circumstances report that is then passed on to the Special Circumstances meetings for the affected courses.

  • If you ask your Personal Tutor for a reference, you should give them a copy of your CV, and give them suggestions on what to highlight.

Selecting optional courses in Undergraduate Years 1 and 2

To help you select optional courses, we have a list of popular course choices, indicating when the courses are scheduled and linking on to descriptions of the courses in the online Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study (DRPS).  When choosing optional courses, make sure that they do not clash with the compulsory courses for the Degree Programme you are registered on.   The compulsory courses for a Programme can be found by looking at the Degree Programme Table for the Programme in the DRPS.

In the week before classes start in Semester 1, you can also visit the Fresher Fair where many Schools that put on common optional courses will have booths.

There are a variety of criteria to use in selecting these courses.

  • Your selection can provide the option of switching to an alternative Degree Programme at the start of Years 2 and 3. Look at the Degree Programme Tables in the DRPS to see the course requirements of the different Degree Programmes in Informatics and beyond.

    For example, Computer Science and Software Engineering students often take Informatics 2D in Year 2, as this enables the option of the AI and Computer Science, and AI and Software Engineering Programmes in Year 3.

  • You might enjoy a subject related to your central studies, perhaps with a different perspective, for example, a course in Logic or a course in Cognitive Science.

  • You might want to study a subject related to a career path you are interested in after University, For example, the Techniques of Management for Scientists and Engineers.

  • You might enjoy taking up the opportunity to study a subject unrelated to your Degree Programme, a foreign language for example.

  • There might be courses you are very interested in taking in later years that have pre-requisite courses you need to take first.

Selecting courses in Undergraduate Years 3-5

For detailed information, please consult as appropriate

the section of the Undergraduate Year 3 Handbook on Degree Requirements,

the Undergraduate Year 4 Handbook,

the Undergraduate Year 5 Handbook.

When choosing courses in Year 3 (and Year 4 if doing the MInf programme), remember to look ahead to following years to check you are taking pre-requisites for courses you would really like to take in subsequent years.

MInf students should also take note of when a Level 9 (Year 3) or Level 10 (Year 4) course also has a version offered at Level 11 (Year 5). In such cases, they could consider delaying taking a course of interest until the later year. There is however a slight risk in such delaying, as some courses are not offered every year.

Selecting courses in the Taught Postgraduate Year

The Postgraduate Taught Masters Handbook has detailed advice in its section on Specialist Areas and Course Choices.

Further resources

  • The School's Student Support page.  This summarises other School-based sources of individual support, and describes other School-based group activities that both can be sources of support and can provide opportunities for students  to contribute to the Informatics student community.

     

  • The Institute for Academic Development's Study Development page. This is the entry point for a very useful set of pages that give both information about improving study skills (e.g. courses and on-line materials) and about the Personal Tutoring system (follow the Personal Tutoring & student FAQs link).

  • University support services

    Many University student services provide both a wealth of online information and explain how you can set up meetings with specialist advisors.

  • Roles and Responsibilities within the Personal Tutor System

    This document carefully describes the roles and responsibilities of University staff with primary responsibility for providing support, and the associated roles and responsibilities of students (called Personal Tutees in the document).

  • Academic and Pastoral Support at Edinburgh: Standards and Guiding Principles, 2012/13.

    This document explains the University's strengthened approach to supporting students which was introduced at the start of the 2012/13 academic year.