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ASU expands online tutoring services

University Academic Success Programs has taken its tutoring services online, grown its offerings and hours

A woman uses a laptop

May 12, 2020

In news that will come as a surprise to no one, calculus can be pretty difficult. So can writing an essay, or applying the scientific method to a real-world problem. Thankfully, University Academic Success Programs (UASP) at Arizona State University can still help students with all of those things and more. Not only have tutoring services gone completely virtual since social distancing measures were put in place due to the spread of the novel coronavirus this spring, they will continue to be offered online indefinitely, including throughout the summer for sessions A, B and C.

UASP offers a variety of tutoring services: traditional, group tutoring sessions for subjects like math, biology and chemistry, where students can drop in and enter a queue to have individual questions addressed; one-on-one, appointment-based writing tutoring sessions; and supplemental instruction, in which a student who has completed a certain course with a grade of “A” provides tri-weekly review sessions specifically tailored to that course for students currently taking it.

While some tutoring services were available online before the COVID-19 crisis, supplemental instruction offerings were fewer and regular hours were limited to 3-10 p.m. Now, supplemental instruction offerings have expanded, and all services are available from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

To make this happen, nearly 280 student tutors at UASP spent their spring break training via Zoom on how to provide digital academic support. 

“Just imagine being a college student on spring break and being asked to do this,” said UASP Director Ivette Chavez. Still, they rose to the challenge, and tutoring services were up and running at full capacity within three days of transitioning online. Since then, UASP has served more than 8,000 students, for a total of 19,518 site visits.

Chavez said the peer-to-peer tutoring model is part of the reason for UASP’s success.

“There’s a lot of research that talks about the benefits of the peer-to-peer model, but you definitely learn better when you teach something,” she said. “So the tutors are benefiting a great deal because they’re learning the material a lot deeper, and for the students being tutored, it’s less intimidating. There’s a level of comfort, and honestly, they just speak the same language and can relate a little bit better.”

All student tutors at UASP receive 10 hours of training before they begin tutoring, and they then receive an additional nine hours of ongoing training per semester. Among the things they learn are a variety of educational techniques, from those that benefit visual learners to auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic techniques.

Computer science senior Umer Ahmed has been working as a student tutor for UASP for three years, after having benefited greatly from the services himself.

“It was their help and the resources that got me through my first year, so I thought I would return the favor,” he said.

Ahmed tutors for several math courses and said the transition to tutoring online was fairly smooth, save for some expected technical issues.

“I’m glad that ASU took the opportunity to make sure tutoring services are still there in times of crisis,” he said. “It really speaks to the character and dedication of the university. We’ve had days where there have been 50 or more students in a queue. Students from Arizona and all over the world are dependent on these resources, and ASU is meeting that need.”

Social work graduate student Kathy Leger has been using the tutoring services for one-on-one writing help since 2018.

“I knew I needed help, especially with citing and references,” she said. “Once I started using the tutoring services for that, I found even more benefits. They can help you to polish a paper, or even completely rework it. They’re like mind readers, because after being inside of a project for a long time, I just lose sense of where I am, and they help me get back on track. Toward the end of writing a paper, my brain is like chip dip, and they’re able to clear through the muck and help me get it done.”

Beyond that, Leger praises the tutors for their suggestions of further resources that she can use on future projects.

“The tutors are just amazing, and the center itself has a lot of integrity,” she said. “There’s a real desire to be able to assist in any way they can, and it can make all the difference in the world. There have been many times when I’ve gone from a ‘D’ to an ‘A’ because of them.”

And for students who might be hesitant about taking the plunge and asking for help, Ahmed has some advice: “We’re your friends. You can come in and ask one question, or you can ask 10 questions. We’re not going to judge you. We’re here to help you. Your success is our success.”

Learn more on the University Academic Success Programs website.

Top photo by janeb13/Pixabay