Academic Services Adapt to Virtual Model During COVID-19 — MARIST CIRCLE – Marist College The Circle

Tutoring during the COVID-19 pandemic evidently looks different, but students are reaping the same benefits. The Academic Learning Center and Writing Center have been working for the past two semesters to provide COVID-safe tutoring options. 

“There is so much support at Marist for students. They just need to ask for it,” Richard Cusano said, director of the Academic Learning Center.

With 175-250 tutors on hand, Cusano can find a tutor for most classes within 48 hours. In an effort to practice social distancing, Zoom has been a crucial factor in making this possible. Camryn Stoner, a sophomore tutee and athlete on the Women’s Lacrosse team, said that despite the periodic technical difficulties, it’s extremely convenient to just log online for a session.

Even as an athlete with a tight schedule, Stoner has never experienced difficulty finding a tutor. “I think the tutors are great with scheduling. Our practice times are all over the place, but I’ve never had an issue not getting in,” Stoner said. “If I needed one now, I could probably get one.”

To make it even more convenient to receive academic help, the Writing Center has implemented a new email tutoring service for essays. Students can send in their papers and receive extensive written feedback without ever meeting someone face to face. Kathleen Weisse, director of the Writing Center, said this service is extremely popular.

Similarly, the proofreading service, which is connected to the Academic Learning Center, has seen even more submissions since going virtual. “We’ve had an increase in faculty submissions, which really speaks to the program itself — that they feel confident having student proofreaders proof papers. I always get positive feedback from them,” Nicole Murphy said, who leads the proofreading program.

Both the Writing Center and Academic Learning Center have seen an increase in students placing their trust in these tutors — sometimes with more than just their classes. “Writing is already something that can be very challenging. It can be emotional and exhausting,” Weisse said. “We have a lot of students coming in and unloading with our tutors if they haven’t talked to someone in a while, or they’re feeling disconnected from their classes. I’m glad we can provide an additional level of support.”

To prepare tutors to give their students this emotional reinforcement, the Writing Center has been providing tutors with professional education on ways to help students who are dealing with anxiety, depression, or disabilities that are left unaccommodated during the pandemic. Weisse said that for the past year, they have also been holding workshops to find ways to actively foster inclusivity at Marist through anti-racist writing and communication.

Sophomore tutor, Eliana Assaf, said she started tutoring in the fall because she wanted to help her peers. “I like helping people and watching the students understand the material as the semester goes on,” she said. “I get to see them progress from a nervous student to someone confidently asking questions and learning. I would definitely continue this in the future.” 

However, online tutoring is not without its challenges. Both Assaf and Stoner agree that not being in-person to work out a problem together has been difficult. Sometimes, it’s easier to show what you are trying to do rather than finding the words.

Academic Services directors are hopeful that tutoring will return face-to-face in Fall 2021, because virtual tutoring cannot fully replace the hands on experience. However, they do plan to continue certain forms of virtual tutoring because of its convenience.