The cat snoozes on the window ledge behind my desk as I quickly type away on my keyboard to return essay comments to students. My “tutoring center” is not a room full of cubicles and desks, but rather just one room and one desk: mine. In this space, I can be just as effective as one in which students might meet with me face-to-face. Online tutoring options, in my opinion, are just as valuable as in-person services. Sometimes, they can be even more efficient because I can compose my thoughts, organize them, and send them back to students without a lot of empty phrases, such as “hmm. . .” or “well . . .” or “let’s see” in between. While many different kinds of online tutoring options may exist, here are a few “low-tech” and “higher tech” options that I like to use:
1) Email submissions, followed up by phone calls/discussions. Email submissions are my “low-tech” option for students who have access to a tablet or laptop or computer with internet/email capabilities—and/or a Smartphone. Students can send me their drafts—and the assignment instructions—and I can mark the drafts up with in-depth comments and suggestions for revision. Typically, I like to spend about an hour with each draft—even if only a paragraph is written. Even with just a paragraph, I can help students brainstorm the rest of their paper and ask questions that might help them think of new ideas. Using the assignment instructions that students also send, I can remind them about techniques and strategies for approaching the kind of paper they are writing. After I return the marked up sample, I can then follow up with a phone call to discuss questions or any other concerns.
2) Video conferencing through free software such as Zoom. Zoom is a product that was introduced to me by a friend and it doesn’t cost anything to download. This program allows me to share my computer screen, documents, and tutoring materials such as videos, audio recordings, and Powerpoints. Students and I can talk to each other and see each other through the use of our webcams on our computers, laptops, tablets, or Smartphones. If students send drafts of essays ahead of time—along with the assignment instructions—we can go over them in “real time” through the video conferencing software. There is even an option that allows me to record the session for students so that they can go back and review if they wish.
With either option above, students still receive personalized feedback in language that’s human, encouraging, and confident. If driving to a tutoring center or an instructor’s office is time-consuming or simply not an option, students can rest-assured that online tutoring can be just as satisfying and helpful. It may even prove to be a better choice for those who prefer to compose their thoughts and reflect in spaces they can call their own.