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Developing an Online Tutoring Program

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					Developing an Online
 Tutoring Program
 Deborah Hardwick, Interim Manager
    Houston Community College
      Online Tutoring Program
     Developing an Online Tutoring
               Program
   Once you start thinking about an online
    tutoring program, myriad decisions have
    to be made. The purpose of this module is
    to walk you through the decisions to find
    the best solution for your institution.
        But first, an introduction
   Houston Community College operates what is
    probably the largest content in-sourced online
    tutoring program in the country.
   We offer online tutoring at all levels of math,
    biology, chemistry, physics, and English; for
    papers in all disciplines; and two-tier tutoring in
    psychology.
   We out-source the technology and in-source the
    content.
   I manage the HCC online tutoring program.
   We currently serve about 15% of the
    55,000 students enrolled in the institution,
    and that number keeps growing.
   Typically, we respond to 1,000 – 1,300
    student submissions per month.
   We have 23 tutors.
   We provide tutoring 24 / 7/ 365.*
                  24 / 7 / 365
   Because we offer access to the asynchronous
    parts of our program 24 hours a day, and
    because I have several insomniacs on my
    tutoring staff, we have an average turn-around
    time of 6.5 hours for student papers and other
    submissions.
   We work through breaks because students are
    studying then, and since we offer mini-terms
    between long semesters, we are available all the
    time.
                   A Warning
   This is a long presentation, but developing
    an online tutoring program from scratch is
    a complex process.
       We jumped in and made many decisions as
        we went along. That is NOT the best way!
               A Commercial
   I will be presenting The Ins and Outs and Ups
    and Downs of Online Tutoring at the ATP
    conference in St. Louis.
   I’m also doing a round-table discussion on
    developing a program at the League for
    Innovation conference in Denver in early March.
   Please join me at either or both conferences if
    you are considering developing a program.
                 Definitions
   Before we begin, let’s take a few minutes
    to agree on a common vocabulary. Some
    terms are used in their generally accepted
    meanings while others have specific
    definitions in the online world.
             Online Tutoring
   The provision of academic and/or work
    force content support through electronic
    media rather than through face-to-face
    communication.
   Tutors can work from home in their robes
    and fuzzy slippers, as can students. Others
    work from vacation spots.
    Synchronous Online Tutoring
   Chat rooms and Instant Messaging are
    examples of real-time online tutoring.
       Tutors and students communicate in an
       electronic form of conversation.
   In chat rooms, one or several students
    may be present, with or without a tutor.
    Asynchronous Online Tutoring
   This is a delayed response form of online
    tutoring. Students submit papers and / or
    questions, tutors answer them, and
    students retrieve the responses later. It is
    the most common, cost-effective, and
    efficient form of online tutoring.
    Open-Read Message Boards
   This is an online communication system in
    which anyone with access to the system
    can read and respond to questions and
    answers.
       It is useful when tutors wish to post review
        materials for many students.
       It is also useful for information that many
        students may be interested in.
    Private Online Communication
   Most communication in online tutoring is
    in private communication, similar to e-
    mail, between the tutor and student.
       Private here means that other students
        cannot read the information, but supervisors
        and other tutors MAY be able to, depending
        on the technology you use.
                  Outsourcing
   This is the purchase or use of technology
    or content from an outside vendor.
       Some textbook publishers now provide online
        tutoring for students using their books.
       Other sources are purchased by the
        institution.
                 Insourcing
   The opposite of outsourcing is providing
    the technology and/or content from
    institutional resources.
                Technology
   The form of electronic service that will be
    used depends on many factors. Servers,
    operating systems, and archival systems
    all need to be considered.
   Add-ons must be considered, depending
    on the technology you choose. We use
    cyber-tablets for math and science tutors
    and macro toolbars for English and math.
                   Content
   Who actually provides the tutoring is the
    most important factor in the success or
    failure of an online tutoring program.
   The amount of help given must be pre-
    determined.
                     Decisions
   Shall we offer online tutoring?
   What will we tutor?
   Who will we tutor?
   Who will tutor?
   Will we in- or out-source the technology?
   Will we in- or out-source the content?
   Who will be responsible for online tutoring?
   What administrative structure do we need?
   How will we convince students and teachers to use the
    system?
   How do we measure its effectiveness?
      Why Should We Offer Online
             Tutoring?
   In today’s world, online communication makes
    possible solutions to problems that were
    unsolvable just a few years ago.
   College students today, especially in community
    colleges, lead incredibly complex lives. Online
    tutoring eliminates a large stress factor.
   Cost is a factor in all colleges. Online tutoring
    means that tutors aren’t paid for sitting and
    waiting. Additionally, space isn’t tied up that
    could be used for additional classes.
                     Why?
   Distance learning is HOT! Students need
    the flexibility that DE offers, and online
    tutoring supports online learning.
   Even students who take classes on
    campus can’t always make it to the
    Tutoring Center when it is open.
             What Will We Tutor?
   Will we confine online tutoring to one discipline
    or will we offer services in some or all subjects
    offered?
       If tutoring is offered in only one discipline,
        management is relatively easy, but effectiveness is
        limited.
       If it is offered in multiple subjects, management is
        more difficult, but effectiveness is broader.
       Multiple subjects creates synergy. Students come
        online for math, say, but discover that help is also
        available for psychology.
          One-discipline Tutoring
               Advantages
   If you decide to offer online tutoring in only one
    discipline, management resides within that
    department. Funding will probably come through
    the discipline, as will tutors.
   Face-to-face(F2F) tutors can work both forums.
    We call such tutors “hybrid tutors.” This
    minimizes “sitting around” time, but both forums
    are usually busy at the same time.
   Cross-referrals are easy.
           One-discipline Tutoring
              Disadvantages
   Students may experience frustration at not
    being able to access online tutoring for all their
    tutoring needs. Franz Fanon called this “the
    Revolution of Rising Expectations.”
   Schools with large distance programs will have
    to explain why online tutoring isn’t offered
    across the board.
   Cross-over questions may not be answered as
    completely as you would like.
        Multi-discipline Tutoring
   Offering tutoring in all or some of the subjects
    offered at your institutions widens the field while
    making tutoring user-friendly. Students use one
    log-on, one format, and one protocol for
    tutoring in many subjects.
   Cooperation among a variety of departments,
    when it works, promotes collegiality. When it
    doesn’t, it’s a headache.
    How Much Help Will We Give?
   Certainly, we all agree that tutors should never
    DO homework for students, but how much help
    is enough and how much is too much is a critical
    decision.
       In math, chemistry, and physics, we give more hints
        and help to students who are completely lost. Tutors
        often work through a similar problem, and then ask
        the student to try and re-submit.
   How many times can or should a paper be
    looked at by a tutor?
       In our English Center, we expect readable drafts. We
        prefer to look at no more than two drafts of a paper,
        but sometimes students slip a third one in.
        English Tutoring Issues
   Will we only offer online tutoring for
    papers for English classes or for papers in
    all disciplines?
   Will we focus on grammar, structure,
    organization, content, or a combination of
    these factors?
   If we provide English tutoring in all
    disciplines, what do we do about content?
         Cross-discipline Tutoring
   Tutors in our online English Center are not
    content specialists in all the subjects for which
    we get papers.
   We piloted a two-tier approach with psychology
    tutors, and it worked so well that we are
    expanding it to other areas.
       English tutors work the paper for grammar, structure,
        and organization.
       Then, we pass the paper to psych tutors who deal
        with the content.
       Students get two responses.
             Who Will Tutor?
   If you choose to outsource the content,
    the company you hire will provide tutors.
    There are no decisions to be made.
   However ...
   if you in-source the content, you need to
    look at many categories of potential
    tutors. Active faculty (full-time and
    adjunct), retired faculty, students, and
    outside tutors should all be considered.
                    Faculty
   1. Consider faculty first. Your faculty know
    the curricula, standards, materials, and
    sequencing of classes.
   They are familiar with your student
    population and can tailor tutoring help to
    the students in your school.
             Full-time faculty
   Full-time faculty who also tutor are
    invested in the program and will
    encourage its use to their students.
   Release time or office-hour tutoring can
    reduce costs.
   Overload tutoring provides income with
    less work than teaching another class.
   English teachers, however, often don’t
    want to mark even more papers!
             Adjunct Faculty
   Adjunct faculty whose classes don’t make
    or to whom you can’t give a full load can
    be kept in the system by using them as
    tutors.
   This is probably the richest source of
    online tutors.
             Retired Faculty
   Retired faculty members or adjunct who
    choose not to teach for a semester or two
    are also a great resource. They have all
    the advantages of faculty but can usually
    tutor more hours per week than active
    teachers.
                    Students
   Peer tutors may prove useful. If you have a
    strong SI (Supplemental Instruction) culture,
    this can be a great source of tutors.
   Upper division or graduate students are also
    wonderful tutors. This is a way to groom
    potential faculty for later. However, they
    probably don’t have the knowledge of your
    system, so additional content training may be
    necessary.
              Outside Tutors
   While outside tutors can enrich a program,
    they probably do not know your system
    well, so more training is necessary. You
    may have to provide textbooks for classes
    they will tutor in.
         Who Will We Tutor?
   There is a tendency to think that only
    distance-ed students use online tutoring.
    WRONG!
   Approximately 80% of our students are
    taking lecture classes, but their schedules
    make online tutoring necessary.
   Online tutoring isn’t only for
    developmental students, either – a
    common misconception.
                   Technology
              In- or Out-sourced?
   In-sourcing technology means working
    very closely with your IT department.
       Sufficient server capacity and back-up are
        crucial.
       Archiving is needed.
       Tech support help needs to be available.
       E-mail can be used, but archiving and
        oversight are problems.
                E-mail Tutoring
   Some schools use their in-house e-mail
    system for tutoring. However, archiving
    and oversight are much more difficult.
       There is no way to effectively archive work for
        review by supervisors and/or other tutors.
   In my opinion, this is the least effective in-
    sourced technology arrangement, but it
    may work to show the need for a better
    system.
        In-sourced Technology
   If you decide to in-source your
    technology, you can design a system
    tailored to your needs.
   Tweaks and changes are quite easily
    accomplished if you have a good working
    relationship with your IT department.
   Authentication of student-users must be
    considered.
       Out-sourced Technology
   There are three primary types of
    outsourced technology.
   1. Commercial sites that provide
    technology and content on a per-use
    basis.
   2. Textbook-linked sites that are typically
    free to users of the company’s books.
         Out-sourced Technology
   3. Companies that provide the technology
    but not the content.
       This is the choice that we made. We use
        askonline.net. There are a few more
        companies coming along to do the same
        thing, but I do not have experience with
        them.
       (This is not a paid endorsement!)
     In- or Out-sourced Content
   This decision is the heart of the matter.
   Commercial services that provide the
    tutors are certainly easier to manage.
    Checks just have to be written on time.
    Depending on the company and the
    agreement you have with them, selected
    college personnel MAY have access to
    tutor work for oversight purposes.
   However ... (my opinion follows)
       Out-sourced Content
 tutors who are unfamiliar with your
 courses, your sequencing, your grading
 standards, your calendars, and your
 population may not be as helpful as tutors
 who know these things.

This is why we chose to in-source our
 tutors.
      Publisher-provided Tutors
   These tutors can be really helpful, but
    only to students who are taking classes
    that use the texts.
   MyCompLab and MyMathLab are two of
    the biggest. Student- and teacher-
    satisfaction with them are quite high at
    HCC, but not all of our classes use
    textbooks from ABLongman Publishers .
                A Summary
   In my opinion, based on a year and a half
    working with online tutoring every day,
    out-sourcing the technology and in-
    sourcing the content provides the best of
    all worlds.
   However, managing such a program is a
    time- and labor-intensive process.
        Who Will Be Responsible?
   Depending on the size and complexity of your
    program, options are available.
       1. If you confine online tutoring to only one subject,
        the chair of that department (or her designee) may
        oversee online tutoring.
       2. If your school has a tutoring manager, this can be
        added to his job description.
       3. If you choose to provide online tutoring in several
        disciplines, a new position should be created to
        oversee the entire program to ensure consistency.
          Responsibility - more
   Decisions must be made about whether
    overall responsibility will reside on the
    faculty or student services side of the
    house.
   We chose to keep it within the faculty
    domain because tutoring is teaching.
   I have been managing our program on
    release times, but we have discovered
    that that is not the ideal situation. In the
    new budget, we have asked for the
    creation of an online tutoring manager
    position dedicated solely to overseeing
    and growing our program.
        Responsibility – even more
   Someone needs to oversee
       Hiring and training of tutors
       Scheduling of tutors
       Payroll
       Budgeting
       Marketing
       Technology trouble-shooting
       Supervision of the work product
        How Should We Structure the
        Administration of a Program?
   Who is ultimately responsible for the
    development and management of an
    online tutoring program depends on your
    institution’s overall structure.
       Do you have someone who oversees all
        tutoring or does each department or division
        take care of its own?
       Where will funding come from?
       How involved are student services personnel
        in the tutoring process?
   How many students do you expect to
    tutor?
       If you expect to reach fewer than 3,000
        students a year, or if you plan to offer
        tutoring in only one discipline, a release-time
        manager may be the best answer. Larger
        programs need more supervision.
   If you in-source the technology, is there
    sufficient IT support, or does the online
    manager need to be a techie?
   If you in-source the content, is there
    clerical support for hiring paperwork and
    payroll?
   To whom will the online manager report?
      Marketing Online Tutoring
   No matter how wonderful your online
    tutoring program is, it won’t work if
    teachers don’t recommend it, students
    don’t use it, and administrators don’t
    support it.
        Marketing Online Tutoring to
                  Faculty
   1. Tutors can save time for teachers.
       Non-English classes often require papers, so
        teachers in those disciplines spend an
        enormous amount of time slogging through
        bad grammar, spelling, and organization
        instead of looking at the content. An online
        English Center can cut the non-content work
        down to practically nothing.
   2. Tutors are a back-up voice for teachers.
       Students often need to hear something
        several times and from several people before
        it sinks in. Tutors have non-judgmental voices
        that back up what teachers say.
       Good tutors never second-guess teachers, but
        they point out areas of concern.
   3. Students may need the anonymity that
    online tutoring offers.
       Students often do not want to “bother” their
        teachers, so unasked questions stay
        unanswered. Online tutors can provide a
        “safe” refuge for asking questions.
      Marketing Online Tutoring to
               Students
   1. Students can get help at their
    convenience, not only when a tutoring
    center is open.
   2. Students can ask questions without fear
    of offending or antagonizing teachers.
    (Yes, this is a student fear!)
   3. Students avoid the perceived stigma of
    needing tutoring, which many believe is
    only for “dummies.”
        Marketing Online Tutoring to
              Administrators
   It saves MONEY!
       Tutors are paid for active work time, not
        passive waiting time.
       Space can be freed up.
       Parking spaces can be freed up.
       Tutoring can be offered in more areas than
        may be available in person.
         Evaluating Effectiveness
   This is the hardest part.
       It is difficult to know how effective tutoring is
        in general. What percentage of a student’s
        grades are attributable to tutors and what
        part comes from the teacher?
       Students who seek tutoring assistance are a
        self-selected sub-set of all students. Often,
        those who need tutoring the least are those
        who use it the most.
Qualitative Analysis from Students
   Student feedback is an important
    component of any tutoring program, but
    especially for an online program since
    there is no other way to know how the
    program is perceived.
   A “How are we doing?” online survey
    provides data about student satisfaction.
   We have found that students often send
    thank-you notes. These need to be saved.
Qualitative Analysis from Teachers
   Communication with faculty is crucial.
    Online tutoring managers need to attend
    department meetings to discuss questions,
    concerns, and faculty recommendations.
   Teachers who require / strongly
    recommend online tutoring can be
    surveyed via e-mail.
            Quantitative Data
   This is the hardest type of information to
    gather in a non-research institution.
   I don’t have any great ideas about
    gathering and interpreting such data, so
    this is one of the areas that I will be
    asking for help with in St. Louis.
   We have found that the number of repeat
    visits by students correlates with high
    satisfaction.
               Wrapping It Up
   Schools need online tutoring to effectively reach
    those who cannot get to on-campus tutoring
    centers when it is open or who hesitate seeing
    face-to-face tutors because of embarrassment.
   Online tutoring is cost-effective for schools.
   Tutors love working from home, without the
    pressure of lines of students waiting for them.
   Students appreciate the flexibility of online
    tutoring.
   However, designing an effective online
    tutoring program requires cooperation
    among faculty, tutors, administrators, and
    students.
   Forming advisory committee of the
    different groups of stakeholders is a good
    first step.
   Looking realistically at what your
    institution can and will support is crucial.
   Assessing your technological and human
    strengths is part of the foundation for
    good decision-making.
   Finally, thinking outside the box and
    looking for creative solutions to complex
    problems is a thrilling challenge!
         Contact Information
   Deborah Hardwick
   Deborah.hardwick@hccs.edu
   713-718-5430

				
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