During the last two semesters, life at IUP has looked very different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the Academic Success Center at IUP (ASC@IUP), this meant changing the way that peer tutoring and supplemental instruction were offered to students.
The ASC@IUP offers students a variety of tutoring options through the Tutoring Center. Peer Tutoring is offered to students who need one-on-one help. Supplemental Instruction (SI) is designed for classes with a high rate of failure or withdrawal. SI involves a single instructor who helps many students at once study for tests and brush-up on difficult material learned in class.
“For the spring 2021 semester, we have moved to a completely online format via Zoom,” Alexandra Stossel, the graduate assistant for ASC@IUP said. “This allows us to offer a consistent tutoring schedule and keeps our tutors and students safe.”
“Supplemental instruction is being offered completely online during the spring semester,” Meghan Erwin (coordinator for supplemental instruction and peer assistance) said.
The move to an online format presented tutors and students with a set of unfamiliar challenges, but those challenges got easier to deal with and adapt to over time.
“At the start of the pandemic, SI was more challenging because the online modality was unfamiliar for both the SI Leaders and students,” Erwin said. “Now that we are more experienced with an online environment, the SI Leaders have become comfortable with the format and effectively use online resources to assist students.
“Student engagement is a challenge in this online modality, but as students continue to regularly attend, the environment becomes more comfortable for students to engage with the SI Leaders and other students.”
“Once students are familiar with the online format, tutoring is more accessible for every student,” Stossel said. “A student can connect with a tutor on Zoom from any location. They do not need to be on campus in the tutoring center to receive assistance. We are also able to offer more flexible tutoring hours because of the online format.”
Both Erwin and Stossel indicated that the overall number of students seeking Peer Tutoring and SI services has decreased during the pandemic.
“I do think we are capturing less students, likely because of Zoom fatigue, or students have other commitments that fill the time of their SI support,” Erwin said. “Students residing at home may have more barriers to accessing online support if they have commitments in and outside their home.”
Despite the decrease in overall demand for Peer Tutoring and SI, many students are still seeking valuable assistance from the ASC@IUP.
“We know from student feedback that many students are seeking assistance, especially with their experiences in remote learning,” Stossel said. “Faculty members, athletic coaches and university staff are also reaching out to us on behalf of their students to inquire about tutoring.”
The online format of classes during the last two semesters has been especially challenging for some students, and the ASC@IUP is always there to help students who are struggling.
“If you are doing poorly in one of your classes, Peer Tutoring and SI can really help you to bring your grade up,” Nick McShea (junior, nursing) said. “SI is the biggest reason that I passed some of my more challenging classes here at IUP.”