News from the University Writing Center: Online Tutoring at the UWC

From Mary Tripp—


As students continue to enroll in online and mediated classes—and they do, according to the 2015 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group—it makes sense, as writing tutors, to reach them where they live. Literally.

In addition to face-to-face consultations, the University Writing Center (UWC) offers synchronous online consultations via Adobe Connect. With Adobe Connect, a writer logs in to a session using a computer, a headset, and internet access. No special software is required. Writers who live in other states or other countries can use our services, as long as they have reliable internet. Writers may upload papers and other documents, share their screens, and talk with a tutor in real time.  Tutors can navigate to websites and demonstrate how to use online resources such as the Purdue OWL, and they can make comments or take notes as the writer discusses their work.

Online sessions are by appointment only, and when making the appointment, writers should select “online” from the drop down “Center” menu when they schedule the appointment.

Our experienced tutors receive special training during a six-week mentorship to tutor in online environments that includes working with the Adobe Connect software and troubleshooting computer issues.  More importantly, Writing Center tutors think about how best practices for tutoring play out in online environments.

Setting an agenda for the session or building rapport with a writer is an example of how tutoring might look and feel different in a digital space. Since our online appointments use audio, but not video, tutors tend to “narrate” their actions more explicitly during a session. When a writer uploads a paper to Adobe Connect, for example, the tutor can take control of the mouse on screen and scroll through the paper to read or make comments. In a face-to-face session, this action is obvious because the paper moves from one person to another. In an online environment, these actions must be explained out loud to the writer.

Tutoring online and face-to-face are not that different, and the benefits for students, especially students who cannot easily get to campus, are clear. Our online tutors can work with any level writer, including first-year composition students.

We’re here to support your efforts in the classroom. Remind your students this semester that while they can always go to the Writing Center for help, now the Writing Center can just as easily come to them.




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