From the characterisation of academic learning and OLS above, it is clear that, althought similar in many respects to more traditional approaches and even to face-to-face delivery, constructivist online tutoring is distinct in a number of ways. Numerous authors, such as Gerrard and McPherson and Nunes, assess the online environment in caparison to f2f, as follows:
- Places greater emphasis on written skills;
- Produces a more formal tone;
- does not follow a linear conversation but instead promotes multiple conversations;
- does not confine tutoring to specific times;
- places greater emphasis on student-student learning;
- requires tutors to develop new ways of encouraging participation;
- requires tutors to access the worth of online contributions.
Therefore, even for the more experienced f2f tutors, there is much knowldege to be acquired about the skills required for online tutoring. However, in addition to the subject matter expertise and traditional pedagogical training, the online tutor must be able to demonstrate additional skills necessary to be successful in a constructivist REAL, such as the ability to;
- Plan and organise delivery by clearly specifying learning objective and outcomes;
- set learning agendas and provide leadership and scaffolding in learning activities;
- welcome and embrace diversity of learning outcomes, attitudes and styles;
- adapt supporting styles to the needs of individual participants;
- provide advice on different levels of access to learning materials according to the needs of individual participants;
- Create an atmosphere of collaborative learning of which the e-tutor him/ herself is often an integral part;
- Be able to cope with and resolve online conferencing conflicts and difficult behaviours;
- encourage active construction of knowledge by being actively involved in discussions, activities and debates;
- develop and implement methods for learner feedback and reinforcement;
- present advance organisers into the content materials and advise on learning pace so as to avoid cognitive overload and information anxiety.
These constructivist online tutoring skills, necessary to support academic learning, pose particular challenges, since very often the tutors have not themselves undergone a constructivist tutoring experience.