Writing Center offers online tutoring after hours

Jonathan Rainey, Staff Writer

Online tutoring, provided by the FMU Writing Center (WC), gives FMU students a new way to access tutorials outside of normal hours.

Dr. Jennifer Kunka, director of the WC, implemented the program last semester for off-campus students, but has decided to offer online tutoring for the entire student body.

“It began because we wanted to provide Writing Center tutoring assistance to students who are not physically taking class on the campus,” Kunka said. “[Now] we have decided to expand it this semester to a wider audience. We’ve opened it up to the entire university and have started to get some interest in it from students who are signing up to make use of what we can offer.”

Justin McGee, one of four online WC consultants, said that Collaborate is an environment that provides almost the same experience as meeting face to face.

“It’s different because you lose that one-on-one interaction between the student and the tutor,” McGee said.  “However, the program we use, Blackboard Collaborate, really makes the sessions as similar to normal tutoring sessions as possible.”

Tutorials take place through an online application called Blackboard Collaborate. Collaborate is part of the Blackboard website which many professors use to post assignments and quizzes for students. Collaborate provides specialized tools for online tutoring allowing students to share documents and to interact with the tutors in various ways.

Students who are interested in using Blackboard Collaborate through the online tutoring program are required to have a microphone and speakers or headphones in order to talk to the tutors. A webcam is helpful, but optional for students. The tutors, however, will have a headset as well as a webcam so students can both see and hear them during the tutorial.

Although the tutoring sessions provide the same quality of tutoring found in the WC, some prior set-up is essential to make sure everything happens as it should.

According to Kunka, ensuring that the technology works is one of the most important parts of a successful online tutoring session

“I will say that there is a little bit of a learning curve to ensure that the student’s laptops are prepared,” Kunka said. “They need to have up to date versions Mozilla Firefox and Adobe Reader.”

These are programs which are available as free downloads online. Students wanting to verify if they have the current versions of these programs can go to the WC website at www.fmarion.edu/academics/wcenter/ and follow the online tutoring link at the bottom of the page.

This link will have all the necessary information needed to set up an online appointment and check to make sure their computer is ready.

Students interested in setting up an online appointment can come by the WC in FH 114-C or call 843.661.1528 during regular hours. Online tutorials are offered Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at various times between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.

According to McGee, those students looking for an extra time to get a tutorial should consider the online option. This is especially true with the regular WC schedule filling up so quickly this semester.

“Just take a chance with an online tutorial,” McGee said. “It’s a little bit more work to set up an appointment, but the quality of the tutorial is the same as one you’d get in the Writing Center. We fill out all of the same paperwork, and we send a note to your professor even though
it happens online.”