Changes to tutoring aim to make quality help more accessible for students

TutorMe logo. Courtesy of Mnh5065.

The Academic Achievement Center at William Jewell College has switched to using an outside online platform for tutoring services as opposed to having college students tutor their peers.

All students now have access to TutorMe, a virtual service that pairs students with highly educated tutors in a variety of subjects. The service’s website boasts that tutoring is available at all times and students will be connected with a tutor within 30 seconds of a request.

Pharamond Guice, director of the Academic Achievement Center, pushed for the switch because he feels it makes high quality tutoring more accessible for students.

“A concern I had over the years was getting tutors, and then getting good tutors, and then getting good tutors to commit,” Guice said.

In the past, the Academic Achievement Center hired Jewell students to tutor their peers. Guice experienced Jewell tutors not responding to requests for tutoring, not showing up and giving confusing instruction. TutorMe means students are able to get qualified instruction the moment they need it.

Guice says he had been interested in investing in a virtual tutoring platform for about three years. He expected to make the transition in the next two years but implemented the change sooner because of COVID-19.

“COVID shined a big, bright light on a lot of different issues. In auditing the way I work and the way I structure academic achievement center, I’ve essentially eliminated the barrier to tutoring,” Guice said.

In the past, students filled out a Google Form to request a tutor. The Academic Achievement Center would then process the request and assign a student to a tutor. After a tutor was assigned they would initiate a tutoring session. This process could take anywhere from 24 hours to one week.

Now to request a tutor a student should enroll in AAC 101 on Moodle. The Moodle page provides instruction for both Critical Thought and Inquiry (CTI) and non-CTI courses.

Tutoring for non-CTI courses will be provided exclusively via TutorMe. Students must first watch a brief instructional video before following the Moodle page’s instructions on connecting with a TutorMe tutor. 

Guice likes that he can see analytic data on TutorMe’s website. 

“You can see the ratings that the students give their tutors. It’s just incredible,” Guice said of this analytic feature. 

He purchased 200 hours of tutoring back in March. Students have used six hours so far. He expects to see a significant increase in tutoring with the release of week five grades in October.

Guice has received positive feedback from students who have already used the service.

“I had a first-year student actually reach out to me to give me her review of the platform and ironically enough her tutor with whom she connected actually studied the same Latin book she was using. It was pretty cool to hear that story,” Guice said.

The cost of the platform is one drawback. However, Guice believes the investment is worth it for the quality of instruction. 

The Academic Achievement Center had no training system for tutors. With TutorMe, Guice likes that students always get qualified tutors.

He also notes that TutorMe makes tutoring hours more efficient. In the past Jewell students have been allotted four hours of tutoring per week but Guice thinks TutorMe can cover the same amount of material in less time.

“What would take a Jewell tutor maybe an hour and a half to convey, these tutors can get it done in 15 minutes,” Guice said.

Jewell students still serve as tutors for CTI courses. The only change to CTI tutoring is that students can now directly contact the designated tutor instead of filling out a Google Form first. The Moodle page includes a Google Sheets document with contact information for CTI tutors. Tutors will respond within 12 hours.

All tutoring is available virtually. CTI tutors have access to a professional Zoom account so they can help students who may be in quarantine, off campus or uncomfortable with meeting face-to-face.

Guice’s goal with the changes to tutoring is to make sure high quality help is easily accessible for all students.

“The last thing I want a student to encounter is a huge barrier to getting the support they need,” Guice said.

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