The pandemic’s effect on peer tutoring

Jenna DeLuca, junior Italian and information technology double major, with another peer tutor discussing techniques to help students. Photo by Jessica Stamp / The Jambar

By Jessica Stamp

The peer tutoring programs at Youngstown State University have changed how they help students with their courses. The Center for Student Progress, as well as the Writing Center and Language Learning Resource Center, transitioned almost completely to remote tutoring. 

Michael Greco, assistant director for student tutorial services in the Center for Student Progress, lost many tutors when switching to online. 

“I had 85 student tutors on the staff, and when the pandemic began [during] the switch to remote instruction, I immediately lost 20 tutors on my staff,” Greco said. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the CSP only offered face-to-face tutoring. Now, it provides both in-person and online tutoring for over 200 courses. 

The CSP collaborated with faculty and department chairs to assess the needs of YSU students and the faculty. After the adjustment to remote learning, the program saw the number of tutors increase again.

“Now that everyone’s kind of adjusted to Webex, being online, it’s really become the norm and everyone’s developed a comfort level,” Greco said. 

The CSP is now more flexible and lenient with students on attendance or session cancelations than it was before the pandemic.

“Sometimes students just have a connection issue. There’s something wrong with their computer that’s outside of their control,” Greco said. “Sometimes the technology won’t cooperate and that’s really not the student’s fault.” 

The process to become a peer tutor at the CSP has not changed, but there is more of an emphasis on recommendations from faculty members and students describing their capabilities with technology like Webex and Zoom.

“That is something I added to the interview questions,” Greco said. “To describe their experience with technology, with Webex and other forms of technology that we use, so it’s something that we’d look for [but] it’s not a requirement in the position,” 

Angela Messenger, the coordinator for the Writing Center, said she had no problems switching the center to online tutoring. 

“The Writing Center has always offered online appointments, so it was not that complicated for us to make adjustments,” Messenger said. 

Recently, the WC merged with the LLRC. On the WC website, students can schedule an appointment at both facilities and choose between online synchronous and asynchronous appointments. 

“Once students are registered on the website, they can schedule appointments at either center,” Messenger said. 

Messenger said the WC has also partnered with ConneX, a communications tutoring lab on campus, and offers its services through the same scheduling system. 

Some tutors, like Jenna DeLuca, junior Italian and information technology double major, like in-person tutoring better than remote.

“For me, I need that in-person connection … I like to connect with people when I’m teaching them. I like to have a physical whiteboard, I like to have them in the tutoring room with me,”’ DeLuca said. “I feel like it’s a better environment,” 

DeLuca said she is used to the online tutoring conditions by now and understands if students prefer it that way. 

CSP has tutor position openings, and students can sign up anytime. Students interested in scheduling an appointment or becoming a peer tutor with the CSP, WC or LLRC can visit their pages on the YSU website for more information.  

CSP hours: Monday-Thursday: 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

WC hours: Monday-Thursday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday: 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Online synchronous hours: 4-7 p.m. 

LLRC hours: Monday-Thursday: 8 a.m.-8p.m., Friday: 8 a.m.-3 p.m.