By Mary Erskine
New initiative provides online students with personal, professional tutoring that is face-to-face and in real time using Blackboard Collaborate – something few other universities are doing.
Step into Saint Leo University’s Learning Resource Center (LRC) on University Campus any time coffee is brewing and you can feel the energy of dozens of students in deep academic pursuit, many working one-on-one with an LRC professional tutor.
The LRC has recently expanded its tutoring services so that online students now can receive the same personalized tutoring assistance –tutoring targeted at their specific needs in a variety of classes – in real time.
The only difference is that online students need to brew their own coffee.
Tutoring on your schedule.
According the LRC’s Travis Rathbone, who is spearheading the effort as the LRC’s liaison for online tutoring, the best part is that tutoring services are available when it’s most convenient for students.
For the most part, online students are working adults who are busy during the day with jobs and family responsibilities and may be able to study only in the evenings and on weekends.
“For a non-traditional student, such as a working mom who might not be available for tutoring until Sunday night at 8 o’clock once she gets her kids to bed, it means that she can now get the tutoring help she needs to be successful in class,” said Shannon Greer, assistant director, Academic Student Support Services.
LRC tutoring service is interactive and in real time.
Tutoring takes place via Blackboard Collaborate, a webconferencing service that enables students and tutors to see each other and interact live. Rathbone says that using Blackboard Collaborate for tutoring is something few other universities are doing.
According to Rathbone, the LRC has launched the effort by making seven tutors available to online students for a total of 20 hours a week. Initially, they will provide help in undergraduate math, accounting, psychology, criminal justice, business, and English, including paper revision assistance.
The LRC’s professional business tutor is also available for assistance in MBA courses.
“Though schedules are locked in initially, we will have room to expand our offerings and provide a broader schedule of availability for students to meet students’ needs,” said Rathbone.
(See below for tutor schedules and information on how to get started using the services.)
eCOACH, tCOACH, and SI pave the way for online tutoring.
Other academic services that are available for online students have helped pave the way for the LRC’s expansion into live, online tutoring.
eCOACH Online Learning, for example, was developed by Saint Leo psychology faculty member Dr. Shannon Farris. A live, interactive web conference series that also uses the Blackboard Collaborate platform, eCOACH sessions give students and faculty resources and tips that will increase academic and career skills, such as writing, research, and presentations.
Last year, eCOACH expanded its mission so that participants could receive additional hours of follow-up support for each webinar in areas such as APA citation from an LRC tutor called tCOACH.
In addition, the LRC’s Supplemental Instruction (SI) program has been expanded to include several online psychology classes that are taught by Dr. Farris at Saint Leo’s Savannah Center. A trained student tutor who has mastered the classes attends the class via Collaborate, and then conducts two live, interactive review sessions each week for all enrolled student who want to improve their understanding of course materials and their grades.
Growing academic services for online students.
While Saint Leo is just beginning to offer tutoring services in real time for online students through the LRC, Center for Online (COL) students have always had access 24-7 to expert tutoring through SmartThinking, which will continue to be available to online students as a tutoring option.
SmartThinking is a contracted service that puts students in touch with a SmartThinking tutor via asynchronous means. Students who wish to work with a specific SmartThinking tutor in real time, must book an appointment 48 hours in advance.
“We believe our conversion to synchronous tutoring, putting the online student in touch with a ‘real human, in real time’ – someone who is a highly qualified, well-trained and well-supervised tutor invested in the success of SLU and other SLU students – is a far superior mode of service,” said Greer.
“We think doing so speaks to our endeavor to embrace the core values of community, excellence, and responsible stewardship, and it strengthens our ties as one university, whether you’re a student online, on campus, or at a center.”
Online students who would like to take advantage of tutoring services can go to tutoring.saintleo.edu to access the online appointment book.