Online students benefit from new tutoring program
Editor’s note: Reprinted from the April issue of GCU Magazine. For the digital version of the magazine, click here.
By Ashlee Larrison
Kimberly Parra is all about helping online students succeed.
The senior English major has been a tutor since September, typically assisting online students with topics such as time management and American Psychological Association research formatting. She works with about 12 online students a week from all over the country via phone or Zoom.
But for Parra, her time with students is about so much more than just helping them with assignments.
It’s about making a connection.
“I feel so grateful that I’m able to give them my help and that I am able to say ‘OK, I am here for you, let’s get you the help that you need,’” she said. “It’s really necessary for online students to know that they have somebody that they can reach out to if they have any questions or if they’re feeling overwhelmed.”
As a leader in online education, Grand Canyon University continues to bridge the gap between ground and online students. One of the ways the University has done that is through the implementation last year of an online tutoring program that links student tutors who specialize in a variety of different subjects to their online peers. (Interested students can contact their counselor or send an email to [email protected].)
Thad Kunce, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering, signed up to be an online tutor because he already had developed a reputation for helping his friends have a better understanding of difficult concepts and subjects. Now he gets to apply those skills to other members of the GCU community – and make new connections, too.
“I don’t get to see any of them because they’re all online, but most of my students return for more sessions, so I do get to build a better relationship with them,” he said. “That’s probably the coolest thing I’ve found with it, personally.”
In addition to tutoring students in math and writing, Kunce educates his fellow students about what resources are available online. For some, particularly learners who are returning to their studies after years away, having somewhere to go for help while getting acquainted with virtual learning can be vital. It’s one more reason GCU’s online programs stand out.
“They’re getting a high-quality service without the cost,” he said.
For former GCU Arena worker Jenna Grettenberger, the online tutoring program was a much needed blessing when the pandemic hit.
“At the time, I had worked for the Arena and we had just been sent home from school and I was still needing a job, since I wasn’t on campus and couldn’t work at the Arena anymore,” she said. “I’m really grateful for this job. I know I’m really lucky to have something like this.”
Like Kunce, Grettenberger was able to pull from prior experience in tutoring to shape how she could help other students. Although having that knowledge base can help, some tutors are doing that type of work for the first time.
Sophomore Alex Schaeffer is a perfect example. Though new to the world of tutoring, Schaeffer has made a lasting impression on the students he assists.
“I get emails all the time after a student finishes a class,” he said. “They usually send me an email or give me a quick call expressing their appreciation for the help, which is really fulfilling for me.”
Schaeffer believes tutoring can change the game for online education, in the best way possible.
“I think GCU’s initiative of providing that human connection for students is really powerful,” he said.
It’s a mutual feeling among some of the online students with whom Schaeffer works.
“Alex, he is so helpful,” said Annabelle Johnson, an online computer programming student who lives in Washington. “It’s been a couple of decades since I took a math class, and going back to school and doing math that I’ve never done before, it was scary.”
Johnson’s path to her bachelor’s degree has been tricky because her program was dropped at her previous university, and the three years she had spent working on her bachelor’s were reduced to an associate’s degree instead. That’s when she decided to try again at GCU.
“GCU has exceeded my expectations,” she said. “I think it’s because they’re making sure their students will succeed. At my old university, I didn’t get the help I’m getting at GCU.”
Colleen Joseph, who has received tutoring from Parra multiple times, found it comforting to be able to reach out to her for clarity in her studies.
“Whenever we would communicate, she would break it down for me,” she said.
Joseph believes tutoring could help all online students.
“I think it’s needed because some of us have not been in school a long time,” the New York native said. “I would highly recommend getting online tutoring.”
Contact GCU staff writer Ashlee Larrison at [email protected] or at 602-639-8488.
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