YouTube tutoring a boost for economics students

Peer tutors star in new channel that has drawn thousands of views

Student tutor Tyler Helms makes a YouTube video

A red bubble popped into the video frame as Tyler Helms explained the effects of inflation on income.

“Listen carefully!” warned the graphic as Helms described the difference between fixed real and fixed nominal incomes.

Helms, a senior majoring in economics and political science, is a peer tutor in the Student Success Center in the W. P. Carey School of Business and has contributed to a new YouTube tutoring channel.

The channel, launched last fall, is called EconTutors and has more than 200 videos with nearly 25,000 views.

“Not everybody can come at any time to the tutoring center. What the videos do is give that same type of instruction on a topic that’s the same quality they would get if they were talking to us,” Helms said.

The channel was the idea of Alexia Shonteff, manager of the tutoring center and an economics instructor at Arizona State University.

Alexia Shonteff and Ying Zhang

Alexia Shonteff, an economics instructor and manager of the tutoring center, and Ying Zhang, a graduate student, work on filming a video for the EconTutors YouTube channel June 1. Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“I realized through the years that the primary problem students have is solving problems. It’s not necessarily the content,” said Shonteff, who has been teaching for 26 years. “I thought it would be a great idea to try to implement something that would be accessible 24/7 to students, and a YouTube channel, being this open access, would be a perfect fit.

“I also believe strongly in peer-to-peer mentoring. There’s a huge amount of lit that supports the effectiveness of that. Because the language that the young people use is different from what somebody my age would use with students.”

Shonteff started simply, using an iPad to record some student-tutor volunteers working out problems. Eventually she was able to buy a video camera and got help from Filip Kovacevic, who earned degrees in economics and film in December.

“The great thing about students is that they give you feedback,” said Kovacevic, who was able to improve the production values. In some cases, he had students work out problems on an iPad using the ShowMe app with voiceover, which improved the clarity.

Eventually Shonteff began adding helpful graphics — like “listen carefully” — during the editing process.

She’s still fine-tuning the process. “Lighting is a problem, so I’m buying a lighting kit. And some of the videos are in a monotone — although there are some topics that can’t not be.”

EconTutors covers material in the introductory microeconomics, macroeconomics and business statistics courses. Most of the videos run from a minute to 15 minutes and cover problems in dozens of topics including cross price elasticity, positive externality, consumer surplus, oligopoly game theory and the Lorenz curve. The problems are suggested by the tutors, who see firsthand what students struggle with, and from economics professors, including Nancy Roberts, professor emeritus.

“We have such big classes. I have office hours, but how can I see 700 students in office hours?” Roberts said. “I give Alexia real problems that I would ask my students on a test.”

Lisa Lavergne

Lisa Lavergne, a junior economics and psychology major, makes a YouTube tutoring video June 1. She has appeared in several videos on the EconTutors channel.

Stefan Ruediger, clinical associate professor, said, “I cover this material in the lectures, but the level of attention is not always very high in the classroom. This gives the students the possibility of reviewing it at a later time,” he said.

Most of the videos range from a handful to several dozen views, but the review videos for course finals drew several hundred viewers each.

In October, Shonteff and Roberts will present the video project at the convention of the national Council for Economic Education, which will be held in Phoenix. They hope EconTutors will be used by high school and community college economics teachers.  

“The students are appreciative of the videos,” Shonteff said. “We’ve had feedback given on course evaluations with students commenting that the YouTube channel got them through the class.”

See the EconTutors channel at


Top photo: Tyler Helms, a senior who is majoring in economics and political science, makes a YouTube video for the EconTutors channel.

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