Help is online

The Center for Academic Success (CAS) has provided a bridge between pass and fail for students who use it weekly, but some might not have had the time to get there for extra help.

Both types of students can now get remote assistance from embedded tutors in Canvas shells.

CAS Director Crystal Kiekel said in a Zoom interview that CAS provides about 50,000 to 70,000 hours of tutoring help each semester.

“To suddenly take that support away from students would have been devastating,” Kiekel said.

Students depend on tutors to be able to get through their classes and to understand the subject matter covered in their classes.

The transition to tutoring online happened quickly and the demand for tutors to be embedded into Canvas shells by faculty was clear.

“Before March 9, we had 136 requests to put tutors in Canvas shells,” Kiekel said. “We’re now up to 417.”

Many have expressed to faculty the desire for tutoring to be online.

Jamie Ray, instructor of English as a second language, said in a Zoom interview that the current circumstance is a silver lining to fulfill that need.

“We were forced into creating this online infrastructure, which is something we feel our students have needed and wanted for a long time,” Ray said.

While not all classes have embedded tutors in their Canvas shells, students with classes that lack an embedded tutor don’t have access to tutoring.

On the CAS website, classes without an embedded tutor still have tutoring available.

Independent Canvas shells have been set up for most subjects, such as sociology and political science, so that students can receive help even when their embedded tutor is unavailable.

The independent subject shells also show the availability of tutors.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, CAS had exclusively relied on in- person tutoring that was dependent on the hours that the CAS building was open.

“There are some tutors who can tutor outside of our normal hours of operation,” Kiekel said. “It’s always been the case that a tutor could do extra hours after the Center for Academic Success closes.”

Communication between tutors and faculty has been crucial in making the transition to online tutoring effective for students and professors.

English professor Marra Kraemer said in a Zoom interview that she has resorted to sending English tutors weekly surveys.

“They’re going to tell me what they need, what’s working, what’s not working and what they would change,” Kraemer said.

She noted that because the tutors are familiar with their independent Canvas shell, they know what works and what doesn’t.

Kiekel expressed that the education system still struggles with either online or in-person learning because addressing one equity concern can neglect another.

“It’s wonderful that we now have more access to people who work full-time jobs, for people who are homebound for any reason and for people to learn better in this modality,” Kiekel said. “But I think we also need to remember that there’s a huge class gap and equity gap associated with technology right now. I know a lot of students who are just working on their phones because they don’t have a computer.”

Kiekel also said that faculty and staff have responded positively and reacted quickly to ensure that their students would be supported by embedded and independent tutors.

“Our big push is trying to get students to know that our tutors are still here,” Kiekel said. “They have not abandoned them.”