Prior to joining Smarthinking as an Implementation Specialist I held the position of Director of Distance Education at Western Wyoming Community College. Having experience in academia and the corporate world provides a perspective that may be helpful for others.
As institutions decide how to provide online tutoring and writing support for students, there are some questions administrators should ask themselves when making this decision to help make the best choices for their institution:
- How much time do I have to administer a solution? The reality is our time as administrators equals cost. Do I have time to schedule, train, and monitor on-campus tutors, while creating or buying a software or communication solution and maintaining it? For any solution I choose, how much time is needed? Some off-campus solutions will still require me to find local tutors and participate in scheduling and monitoring them.
- Do we need/want both live (synchronous) tutor availability and asynchronous support? Or do my students just need one or the other? Can my institution have access to only the methods and subjects that my students need? Do I need tutors that can support students across the curriculum in any content area? Do I need tutors that can provide equal support students at all levels, developmental education through advanced materials?
- Can the quality be monitored? Can all live sessions and paper feedback be reviewed both randomly and if there are issues that need to be investigated? Are all sessions archived for the student so they can use them to study at a later date?
- Regarding the tutors provided: Are they all content experts? Are they professional tutors or peer tutors? Are writing tutors trained to provide writing feedback, with the goal of improving writing, or do they just proofread for a student? Are all tutors trained in the same manner, with the same level of student communication expected from every tutor?
- If I want live tutoring: Are they available the hours that would be best for my students? Do the tutors only work with one student at a time? We found, tutoring sessions were longer if tutors were working with multiple students, so a lower cost didn’t come out to be less. In addition, students are frustrated by the wait times as tutors tried to carry on multiple conversations, either by audio or chat.
- For online writing lab paper submissions: What are the wait times? Again, longer wait times really did lead to student frustration and lowered the amount of students willing to use the solution.
I hope these questions provide some helpful guidelines as administrators make these decisions. I welcome any further inquiries into my past or current experiences with online tutoring.
Christine Lustik, Ph.D., Implementation Specialist, Smarthinking