When Ohio University tutoring services went online this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of weekly appointments went down. However, supplemental instruction went up. This trend has continued into fall 2020.
“We think it was because more students were more available to come when everybody went home,” Elizabeth Fallon, director of academic assistance, said. “They were more available.”
Tutoring services also expanded this summer, from just beyond OU’s main campus –– there was tutoring for every campus for the first time ever this summer, Fallon said.
“We found that we were attracting students from all the campuses,“ Fallon said. “We were pleased with summer attendance, but we've learned a lot because our tutors have learned how to tutor and how to communicate.”
Tutoring services made adjustments to the pandemic early on, Fallon said. Once everything went virtual around spring break, the Academic Achievement Center (AAC) started working on moving its services completely online.
“We knew we wanted to use Teams for holding the appointments,” Fall said. “We developed a process so students knew how to connect with students. We did the same thing with supplemental instruction. We were able to move everything pretty smoothly right off the bat.”
The transition to online tutoring for the Student Writing Center has been pretty smooth, too, David Haugen, interim coordinator of the Student Writing Center, said. “I think all tutors –– peer tutors, writing center tutors –– made (the transition) fairly easy, probably more out of necessity than anything else.”
Changes, however smoothly they’ve gone, have been made. All tutoring sessions call for the same type of structure, Haugen explained. Though the structure is the same, meetings are now twice as long to accommodate for technical issues.
Fallon has also noticed that math tutoring sessions benefit from the elongated timeframe. It appears that virtual math tutoring moves a bit slower, she said.
“We’ve found that math is very slow when you're not sitting there, looking at the problems together,“ Fallon said. “But we are able to account for it, no problems.”
The use of tutoring services appears to have actually gone up, Fallon said.
Haugen said they weren’t quite sure what to expect for this fall, but the results have been impressive.
“Usage has gone up,” Haugen said. “I think a lot of the students are over the shock of learning remotely but are now looking for the resources that used to be on campus and they’re coming to use it because it's an easy service to use.”
Students can schedule tutoring services in a few different ways: by phone, online or email. Students can schedule tutoring using TutorTrac, or calling the AAC front desk, or by emailing email@example.com. The center is utilizing a social media presence more than ever to reach out to students and offer academic assistance.
Tutoring has been vital to her academic success from day one, Callie Martindale, a junior studying English, said in a Facebook message. When she was looking for a new job this semester, she thought it would be a good experience to be on the other side of the tutoring table and help others.
Martindale had never tutored prior to this semester. She trained entirely online.
“So this online modality is the only method of tutoring I'm familiar with for now,” she wrote in a Facebook message. “It's a really interesting introduction to the job, to say the least!”
Martindale is a tutor in the Student Writing Center, where she helps students going through the writing process brainstorm ideas for papers, stay organized and revise and check papers for mistakes. For her, the job is to help students feel confident in their work –– that it’s the best it can be.
Martindale thinks virtual tutoring has both advantages and disadvantages.
“On the one hand, you can plan out your meetings through TutorTrac, work safely from home and still form a community with your fellow tutors, albeit virtually,” she said in a message. “But troubles do present themselves in the forms of internet troubles interfering with meetings, and sometimes just missing that in-person comfort and quality that tutoring can usually provide.”
Martindale said she imagines that tutoring in-person would be a little bit simpler. She also longs for interaction.
“I really wish I was able to meet with people and enjoy their company alongside helping them,“ Martindale said in a message. “And while the job is still very rewarding and I feel very (lucky) to have it, it's still got a different feel to it for the time being.”
Martindale added that tutors are working their hardest to ensure they’re as useful and helpful as they can be during this time.
“We are a resource as we navigate this new virtual classroom, together!” Martindale said in a message.