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The pandemic is changing the way colleges offer training. Will students use it?

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 The pandemic is changing the way colleges offer training.  Will students use it?

Getting tutoring at the University of Arkansas has long been easy. The student can simply go to the campus training center and get help from the teacher on demand – for free. But in practice this approach has not always worked for students.

On the one hand, although the training centers at the university offer expert tutors on a long list of subjects, not all of these experts were on hand at all times. And sometimes the teachers sat and waited for help, but no student came in to get help.

“I used to say to myself,‘ I’m going to spend 20 hours of my own [budget] to chemistry tutoring because I know it’s a very challenging course, ”explains Kelly Listtenby, director of learning support in Arkansas. “We were just going through what I was thinking in my brain where we wanted to put it on the schedule, and just hoping that the students [then] had access to chemistry tutoring. ”

The center recently updated the way it does scheduling by introducing an app that allows students to schedule time with a tutor, eliminating the practice of visiting. The change has led to more training sessions, Listenbee says, adding that it also helps make sure students connect with the right expert.

“It made our budget as efficient as possible,” says Listenbee. “It has increased our availability for each subject.”

This is just one example of a college that has rethought its approach to academic learning after the collapse of the global pandemic.

During the last two years of the COVID-19 crisis, this has been the case the surge in students ’use of so-called homework help websites– including Chegg and Course Hero – which sell themselves as teaching aids, but many professors consider them designed to deceive students. Those commercial sites that charge students a monthly subscription fee for access claim to fill a gap in academic aid that they believe colleges do not provide.

But the well-funded marketing efforts of these companies overshadow the reality that most colleges offer their students tutoring services – for free. And the pandemic has forced many colleges to work to make their tutoring more visible and convenient, offering more online options, using new programs for scheduling and doing more on-campus marketing about their services.

“We learned that direct intervention is best,” says Michael Friezel, president of the National College Learning Center Association and director of training services at the University of Missouri. “It’s not” Build and wait until they come. ” You have to make these direct appeals. ”

For example, Friezel says that before the pandemic, his center held workshops for first-generation students about their tutoring services to raise awareness of a group that might not be aware of the resource. He is now looking for more ways to make sure not only this group but everyone on campus is aware of tutoring services. “I need to develop a marketing plan for our unit,” he says.

One of the best ways to spread information is through effective learning, says Jeff Bailey, executive director of the Center for Resources for Academic Achievement at the University of Louisville.

“If a student has a good experience, they’ll tell someone else,” Bailey says. “They’re the best advertisement you can demand.”

Meeting with students wherever they are

Like many campuses, Missouri during the pandemic quickly moved from personal learning to online tutoring. And, like many campuses, the university now keeps both options available, as officials have found that many students prefer convenience online. One challenge, Frisel notes, will be finding funding for both formats.

One of the models that seems to work well, says Friesel, is the model where the teacher is included in a large lecture class, an approach called “Additional training program». “If you have this person in the class, they will use it,” Frizel adds. Unlike having to go to a tutoring center, he explains, “the stigma is gone”.

Additional programs of study include the student tutor in a large class of lectures.

Finding students where they are is also the mantra of a startup called Penji, which offers a service that helps college learning centers and other campus services offer an easy-to-use meeting scheduling app. It is a service used by the state of Arkansas as well as more than 50 other colleges.

“Schools are looking to invest in upgrading tools to connect them with people,” says one of Penji’s co-founders, Ben Holmquist. “We come in and say, ‘You get the same modern experience you get from Chegg, and we’re integrated with the school – and it’s free.’

The idea is that today’s students feel more comfortable calling the app to get help than going to a campus building like a training center hidden in a library basement.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the National College’s Learning Centers Association has organized regular virtual meetings for officials who run on-campus learning centers to share their experiences and approaches. And the band even released a book of parades and articles called “Moving on to the challenge: managing COVID-19 as heads of higher education training centers».

Face big challenges

Tutoring centers are not just changing tactics. In some cases, they rethink what they do.

For example, the Arkansas Learning Center focuses more on how to develop learning skills rather than on helping students with specific assignments.

“We teach students to read textbooks. We teach them to take notes. We teach them how to learn before the test, ”says Listenbee. “We are really moving away from the content of tutoring and delving into learning and how to do it.”

The bigger question is how to re-engage students who have broken away from their classes, a problem facing colleges across the country.

“What we hear surprised me: students are not looking for help,” says Friezel, president of the NCLCA, who says many college training centers have not yet returned to pre-pandemic utilization levels. . “Emotionally, I feel that the whole country just sighed – just pulled in and held its breath for a couple of years. Students don’t feel as comfortable as teachers. “

The challenge for training centers, he says, is to adapt and be prepared for “when students are more prepared for the rigor they absolutely need.”

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