Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

The Impact of Web Conferencing Training on Peer Tutors' Attitudes toward Distance Education

Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

The Impact of Web Conferencing Training on Peer Tutors' Attitudes toward Distance Education

Article excerpt

This study investigated the attitudes of peer tutors who received web conferencing training in preparation for synchronous online tutoring. A quasi-experimental design was employed to evaluate changes in peer tutors' attitudes toward distance learning following participation in an online tutor training program. Peer tutors were found to have: (a) an increased sense of the importance of distance learning offerings to adult learners' success, (b) an increased sense of the effectiveness of distance education programs compared to face-to-face, (c) an increased sense of experience level using distance learning tools, and (d) an increased sense of comfort using distance learning tools. Participants also demonstrated an increased overall positive attitude toward distance education. No significant difference in training effects between gender and age groups was found. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Online tutoring is rapidly expanding among college tutoring centers across the United States (Dvorak & Roessger, 2012). As campuses increase their online course offerings (Allen & Seaman, 2010), students may become exceedingly comfortable collaborating online and, therefore, participate more frequently in online support services. Peer tutors play an important role in helping make these services available. Their buy-in impacts the number of online tutoring sessions they hold each semester. To ensure peer tutors possess requisite skills and knowledge to succeed in the online environment, a formal online tutor training program is essential (Dvorak & Roessger, 2012).

The impact of training on peer tutors' attitudes toward distance education, however, has not been explored. Given the correlation between strong attitudes and subsequent behavior (Holland, Verplanken, & Knippenberg, 2002; Peng, Tsai, & Wu, 2006; PerezCereijo, 2006; Tabata & Johnsrud, 2008; Tello, 2004), training may play a decisive role in the success of an online tutoring initiative, particularly in ensuring that peer tutors embrace the platform and view it as an effective alternative to face-to-face services. In this study, the authors worked from the assumption that positive changes in peer tutors' attitudes correlate with positive behavioral change. The purpose of this study, then, was to investigate technology training's impact on the attitudes of peer tutors who participated in a formal training program in preparation for synchronous online tutoring.

METHODOLOGY

A quasi-experimental design was utilized in which a sample group was given a pretest survey prior to training participation and a posttest survey upon training completion. Pre- and posttraining surveys were then analyzed for changes in peer tutors' responses. The training program focused on developing tutor competency using a web conferencing platform. Training sessions were divided into four weekly 1-hour modules: (a) introducing the web conferencing program, (b) utilizing web conferencing tools, (c) integrating interactive whiteboard technology with the web conferencing program, and (d) fostering student interactivity in a synchronous online tutoring session. In each session, skills were first introduced and modeled on an overhead screen. Participants were then given practice time to apply skills and knowledge to their subject areas. Sessions incorporated approximately 25% trainer modeling and 75% guided practice. During the latter phase, questions were posed to the group to promote dialogue and build connections between new information and tutors' subject area knowledge.

Participants

The survey was administered to 28 undergraduate and graduate peer tutors (N = 28) at a large Midwestern public university. Nineteen subjects were male; nine were female. Their ages ranged from 18 to 44. The sample included veteran and newly hired peer tutors, each of whom maintained a 3.0 grade point average or higher, and had earned between an A and B+ in their subject area. …

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