At the university, a student can either become a tutor or a HiWi (Hilfswissenschaftler (student assistant)). As a mentor, I receive queries related to HiWi jobs (& tutoring jobs) and I would turn this blog post into an opportunity of having a conversation with other students who had been a tutor before.
In this blog post, we discuss tutoring jobs. There are different courses like “Vorlesung; Übung” (lecture, exercise classes), seminars and projects. Teaching Assistants or Tutors are needed for the former two. It appears like a little more responsibility than other HiWi jobs because what you say might impact students and the experience is rewarding as well.
The contributors to this section are:
- Alishiba D’Souza was a tutor of Data Mining (2019), Advanced Database Management (2019), Bayes Network (2018), Data Management for Engineering Applications (2018)
- Shivani Jadhav is a tutor of Information Retrieval course (2019), Data Management for Engineering Applications (2019)
- Anirban Saha (yours truly) was a tutor of Machine Learning (2019)
- Madhuri Hebbale was a tutor of Data Mining 1 (2018), Database Concepts (2018), Distributed Database Management (2018).
“If you are comfortable explaining a problem to a group of friends and if they can understand you well, you can become a tutor”, said Alishiba. While I nodded my head in some sort of an agreement, she continued, “..you will just have a bigger group and maybe more questions”.
Yes! But if someone wants to be a tutor, what should his next steps be? Is it easy to become a tutor? What are the prerequisites?Information:“It will be announced in the class ”, quipped Shivani while I remembered Prof. Spiliopoulou did exactly that during the last class of the Recommenders. She announced that she needed tutors for the data mining class and should we be interested, we should get in touch.
But not always, because Alishiba was directly contacted by the faculty of Bayes Network. I came to know about the Machine Learning tutoring position while in a conversation with the concerned Ph.D. student. If not that, there might be a notice on the door of the concerned faculty! One sure-shot way of knowing if there is any opportunity is to send an email to the concerned faculty and wait for a response.Prerequisites:There definitely is a little competition. There are way more applicants than the number of available tutoring positions. We could agree upon at least one prerequisite like the applicant must have taken the course prior to applying for the tutoring role. But clearly there are exceptions to this rule. One being Madhuri, who was a tutor for Database Concepts but had previously not taken the course. Better grades are a major plus, the ability to explain concepts correctly in one’s own words is preferred . “It doesn’t mean that you should know everything about the course but you should know at least the majority of the course”, added Shivani. Trust is a major factor because you would be responsible for students. One way of creating trust is to do projects and a seminar with the concerned person. This way the faculty would know what you are capable of. “Recommendation works wonder!”, Madhuri chipped in, “I never had to apply for a position in the university because at first, my project supervisor recommended me and one thing led to another!”
There would however be at least one round of interviews.Interview:For the data mining tutoring position, all students were given their unique time slots where they had to explain one common topic. During our time, it was Naive Bayes. It was a sort of role-playing where Prof. Spiliopoulou along with the Ph.D. students acted as the students, asking doubts and follow up questions. For the machine learning position, each student was given one topic each from their discomfort zone. Marcus knew I wasn’t very clear about Reinforcement Learning, thus, that was my topic. It was a similar role-play game where he was the student and he came up with all sorts of questions a student is capable of asking. For Information Retrieval, Shivani and other applicants were given a topic of their choice to explain in front of the faculty.
What’re your two tips for the students who are reading this?
- “Spend the first few minutes discussing what was discussed earlier and how it is related to the topic to be discussed in the class, and mention what to expect from the day’s session” – Madhuri
- “If you are becoming a tutor, never think you know it all. Even if you are a tutor you are still a student. Respect what others have to say.” – Shivani.
- “It is okay if you do not know an answer to a query. Encourage the students to communicate with you beyond the classroom. I encouraged students to email me doubts as well. I could sit at peace, decide the answer, discuss with other faculty and then send a response.” – Anirban. Madhuri very enthusiastically supports this!
- “Set the class decorum straight even when it looks silly” – Anirban and Madhuri, because once a student talked in Bangla with Anirban and once a student approached Madhuri in Kannada. (Be friendly, but follow ground rules.)
- “Don’t be awkward, intimidated by someone’s presence. Maybe take the initiative to break the ice, crack a joke and see if that helps”, exclaimed Madhuri trying to sound extremely concerned.
So how was the experience of being a tutor? What is the tutor’s takeaway?Takeaway:“I enjoyed it. There were moments when I felt too much pressure standing in front of the students. It is not difficult if you are well prepared for the exercises. It made me more confident in public speaking and much more aware of the problems students can face while studying. I did learn patience.”, commented Alishiba while bursting into a brief fit of laughter! “It could help me get some new job opportunity or thesis. In short, it is definitely beneficial to strengthen my resume!”, commented Shivani while adding, “.. also helped me understand the concepts better. Also, there were few instances where I had to correct my understanding of a particular concept”. “You know, you get so many perspectives and new questions, you start feeling a little weird and ask yourself why you had not asked them when you were a student.”, added Madhuri. Personally, I couldn’t agree more with that! In addition to that, I must admit, it was like taking the machine learning exam two times a week, twelve weeks in a row with over thirty examiners asking questions! I learnt very specific things like, where to draw the line between being a friend, a tutor and a mentor.
Hey! I hope this blog post helped. Please drop a comment, share it with your friends at OVGU or in some other university. I should be making more such blog posts about HiWi jobs and student life in Magdeburg before I finish my studies here!