Tutoring Services Integrate Virtual Format

Texting photos from the textbook back and forth, writing on a digital white board, and learning Chemistry from the couch are all commonplace for students engaging with tutoring services offered at Baldwin Wallace during the fall semester.

Prior to March 2020, all tutoring sessions at BW were held in person, many meeting in Ritter Library’s top floor in The Learning Center. Students sat next to each other and exchanged notes and study tips, but now with social distancing regulations this method of tutoring had to adapt and become virtual.

To engage with tutoring services this semester, students start by visiting the BW SMART tab on BlackBoard where they schedule their appointment, at least 24 hours in advance. Students can search to see if the class they need help in has tutors available, and if not they can request a tutor.

During a tutoring session, students log into BlackBoard Collaborate, Zoom, or GoBoard to videochat with their tutors for a half hour to an hour session. Together they can see video and screen share for homework help or to develop study strategies. Once the session ends, tutors submit a recording of the session to The Learning Center for evaluation and if needed, students can schedule more sessions, attend drop-in tutoring, or utilize other Learning Center resources for additional help.

“Everything we do now we did in the past except for now, everything is via Zoom or BlackBoard Collab” said Teri Seabrook, the LHE Intern for The Learning Center. Seabrook explained that while one-on-one sessions are online, drop-in sessions still take place in-person with limited capacity and social distancing.

Learning to navigate the online format was tricky at first, but the more the students work with it the more improvements can be made, explained Ashleigh Varner, a senior at BW who works as a tutor. Ashleigh tutors subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology. Weekly, Varner meets with BW student Morgan Gotwald to serve as her Chemistry tutor.

Previously, Gotwald hadn’t sought out tutoring in any of her classes, but after having technical issues with online learning she turned to The Learning Center for support. “With classes online it is harder for me to learn because I learn by example” Gotwald said. She and Varner meet to reinforce concepts and work through any problems.

At the beginning of the semester all sessions were done via BlackBoard collaborate. Varner said that this platform didn’t allow for her to easily explain concepts or share any notes she had. “It’s [BlackBoard Collaborate] just not a great platform for that,” she said. Gotwald agrees and in regard to BlackBoard Collaborate’s technical issues said “Sometimes we have problems getting to see some things.” In response to this feedback The Learning Center has introduced GoBoard, which Varner said is “infinitely better” and allows for a more productive session.

One upside to virtual tutoring is the ease of scheduling. Julie DeLima, office manager of The Learning Center said, “it might be a little bit easier in that regard because they don’t have to come back and forth to the library.” Gotwald agreed saying that she is a commuter student, so being able to do sessions in her home without having to drive to campus is a plus.

Varner feels that some students may prefer online tutoring because it’s more private. “For some students, coming to tutoring is an embarrassing thing,” she said. Varner understands how having sessions in Ritter can be anxiety producing but with sessions not being held in a public space “there’s a little bit less pressure on the students,” she said.

The Learning Center staff has not yet compared the number of students using tutoring services this semester to other semesters but Varner said that in her experience she has seen a decrease so far this year, both for her one-on-one sessions and her drop-in sessions.

Online help has always been available with resources like SMART Thinking, but virtual one-on-one tutoring is completely new this semester. When looking to the future DeLima said, “It may very well depend on how the students and the tutors feel that it’s going. If they really like it and it’s something that makes sense, maybe it’s something we’re able to continue.”

For all the challenges she’s had, Varner still feels like she’s still able to do her job. “I wanted to be able to help people feel more confident with the material, to a certain extent I’m still able to do that…it’s definitely limited but I don’t know that that’s hindering my ability to help people better understand the material.”