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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Tutoring services still available online

Students can sign up for online tutoring sessions through Zoom. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

When the university went virtual last month, both the Office of Learning Resources and the Writing Center were ready to continue assisting students online.

Each was already using a third-party online scheduler, WCONLINE, where students can sign up for appointments. The Office of Learning Resources assists students in subjects ranging from economics to math to foreign languages and science. The Writing Center assists students with writing in any subject.  

Kristen Goldberg, director of the Office of Learning Resources, said she had also been piloting an online tutoring system this spring. The system had been installed by Coleen Bennett, coordinator of tutoring and learning support. 

“She had a training program already designed,” Goldberg said. “She had been training the tutors in person. She held four Zoom trainings within a week to bring roughly 30 tutors on board.”

All of the peer tutors and Supplemental Instruction (SI) tutors are now offering tutorials through Zoom, a shift that has been an adjustment for tutors like Claudia Gonzalez ’20, an accounting SI.

“It’s a little bit challenging,” Gonzalez said. “Reading the textbook and doing problems together is something I do in sessions, but is more difficult to do online. Accounting is hands-on problems rather than conceptual work.”

But so far, Gonzales said the transition has gone well, for both her and the students she assists. 

“We’re both new to this, so we all just have to work through it together,” Gonzalez said. 

In fact, Ryan Scanlan ’20, an economics SI, said he thinks the online appointments help students to adjust to online education overall.

“With the transition to online classes, some students may be struggling to focus,” Scanlan said. “Joining these sessions can help them focus more in class, by becoming more familiar with the virtual feel.”

Online assistance is also in place for the Writing Center, which has offered optional online tutoring for several years, according to Jenny Spinner, Ph.D., director of the Writing Center. Tutors are trained to handle virtual appointments as part of the tutor training class they take before becoming tutors in the Writing Center.

“Students in our tutor training course learn some of the basics of tutoring online as part of that course, but the Writing Center has also been offering online appointments for the last few years,” Spinner said. “On snow days, we convert entirely to online appointments, so there is precedence for us shifting our entire operation online. I guess this is something of a very long snow day.”

Like Scanlan, Olivia Cardarelli ’22, a Writing Center tutor, said she has found that online tutoring can be an advantage for some students. 

“It’s an inclusive environment, as in person can be intimidating,” Cardarelli said. “Students may feel more comfortable receiving help behind a screen.”

The Office of Learning Resources has recently seen a decline in usage, Goldberg noted. But Spinner said the number of students making appointments in the Writing Center is comparable to this same period last year, if not slightly higher. Hayley Burns ’20, a writing tutor, said the initial shift to online was slow, but usage increased later on.

“I have actually had quite a few shifts booked completely full which is encouraging as I think it demonstrates how adaptable our students are and, moreover, speaks to their trust in our resources during such uncertain times,” Burns said . “In a way, I hope that our continued presence can offer some type of normalcy for our students.”

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