Friday, 22 June 2012

Online tutoring and emotional labour in the private sector

an article by Sue Webb (Monash University, Melbourne) published in Journal of Workplace Learning Volume 25 Issue 5 (2012)


What happens when computer software is designed to replace the teacher and the human role is to service the relationship between the software and the learner? Specifically, this paper aims to consider whether or not emotional labour is performed in contexts mediated by technology in the private sector.
The research is a single site, the online tutoring centre, in a large global education company in Europe servicing learners based in companies elsewhere. It is a critical case study with strategic importance for understanding the effects of the transformations to the education work afforded by a work design based on digital Taylorism. Qualitative methods are used, including observation, analysis of tutor/student e-mail exchanges over a ten-month period and interviews with key personnel.
It was found that in spite of the drive for standardisation and consistency, online tutors engaged in considerable levels of emotional labour, individualised in its performance along a spectrum.
Research limitations/implications
The work has value in that it extends into new sites the study of digital Taylorism. In finding emotional labour in this critical case, it suggests that emotional labour will be present in less extreme cases.
Practical implications
The article is a useful source of information for practitioners in online learning centres, as well as researchers in the area of recruitment and training of online tutors.
Social implications
The article provides insights into effects of the recruitment of under-qualified people in private learning centres.
The article provides insights into an area of work-based learning that is under-investigated to date – i.e. the recruitment and practices of tutors in private learning centres and the role of emotional labour.

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