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Finding a Tutor Just Got Easier

New software system arranges academic help online


As a tutor at the Educational Resource Center (ERC), which pairs students needing academic or writing assistance with peers who can help, Hannah Letbetter recalls that in the past, she had to go through a logistical rigmarole.

Her tutees had to hoof it up four flights of stairs in the George Sherman Union to the ERC, where they filled out a form specifying the courses they needed help with, the kind of help, and the times they could meet with Letbetter (SAR’12) and other tutors. ERC staffers then reviewed the form and contacted tutors to match them up. All of this consumed time, while felling trees for the necessary paper.

With the adoption over the last year of TutorTrac software, that oh-so-20th-century approach is gone. Students can now find tutors on their own, using their computer, smartphone, or tablet. It has been a boon to both pupils and tutors, Letbetter says.

“Instead of being assigned three or four students and then trying to work out a time in our busy schedules where we could all meet, tutors now get to input the times they are free and students can sign up for exactly which times work best for them,” she says. “It takes a lot of the stress out of scheduling.” Another advantage: the system sends emails reminding students before each tutoring appointment.

“Students no longer have to come to the ERC to register in person,” says Michael Lantvet, an academic support specialist at the center. “Our tutors and writing fellows create their schedule of available appointments in the software, which means that students and tutors can connect with each other much sooner, without the confusion or hassle of trying to make multiple schedules or time commitments match.”

The new system also spares ERC staff the administrative time spent pairing students with tutors and writing fellows, he says. The ERC website includes a video explaining how to use TutorTrac, as well as information on the tutoring and writing assistance programs.

The rollout began last fall, with sign-up for tutoring in selected chemistry courses made available through the software. All chemistry and physics courses were added last spring, and the rest of the curriculum ERC offers tutors for over the summer.

On average, the ERC has had 3,800 student visits a semester for tutoring and about 450 students a year for writing assistance, the latter helping students organize, document, and stylize their papers and reports. “Some students come just once, some come each week for the entire semester, and some students are getting tutored in more than one course,” Lantvet says. “With the convenience and accuracy of online scheduling, we expect that we will be seeing an increase in visits.”

Students most commonly seek tutoring for chemistry, biology, math, and physics, he says. The ERC works with faculty; for example, Lantvet says that Chemistry 101 was once the course that brought most students in for tutoring, but professors collaborated with the ERC to create alternative support networks for students, and “this has led to fewer requests for tutors.”

The ERC worked with BU’s Office of Disability Services on closed-captioning of its instructional videos, including TutorTrac. “This simple addition means that our deaf and hard-of-hearing students can have improved access to our services,” says Lantvet.

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

4 Comments on Finding a Tutor Just Got Easier

  • Robin B. on 11.16.2011 at 11:35 am

    This is a great resource for the students. Thanks for writing about this.

  • Angela Nalubowa on 11.16.2011 at 11:54 am

    I am one of those who need more tutoring in writing and research. ‘can’t wait for this great opportunity! Thanks for the innovation!

  • CGS Student on 11.16.2011 at 1:28 pm

    That’s really great. Is there any way to incorporate tutoring for CGS students as well? As of now, there are no resources for CGS students seeking additional assistance.

  • Michael Knupp on 11.16.2011 at 4:47 pm

    I am a faculty tutor at Husson University in Bangor, Maine and I am interested in the statement…Chemistry 101 was once the course that brought most students in for tutoring, but professors collaborated with the ERC to create alternative support networks for students, and “this has led to fewer requests for tutors.”

    What are the “aternative support networks”?

    BTW – Our tutor center sees the highest volume of students in the same subject areas as BU.

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