Magazine article University Business

One-Stop Tutoring Shop: Colleges Make It Easier for Students by Co-Locating Tutoring Services

Magazine article University Business

One-Stop Tutoring Shop: Colleges Make It Easier for Students by Co-Locating Tutoring Services

Article excerpt

IT IS A WELL-KNOWN FACT: Tutoring helps students perform better. The trick is getting them to use it. In keeping with the cyclical nature of trends, community colleges are rediscovering the advantages of student success centers, which consolidate math, writing, and language help in one place.

FORM BENEFITS FUNCTION

Much as one-stop shops for student services allow students to easily work with the bursar and financial aid offices in rapid succession, co-locating academic resources provides students with a more robust tutoring experience.

The Oconee campus of Gainesville State College (Ga.) is a good example. Its Academic Computing, Tutoring, and Testing (ACTT) Center opened in 1995, bringing math, writing, ESL, and foreign language labs together in the library. Angela Megaw, the ACTT Center's assistant director, says the arrangement allows librarians and writing tutors to easily refer students among their services when needed. It's also convenient for the subject matter tutors to meet and design strategies for specific students.

"It is much easier for students to learn where to go for tutoring since all the tutors are in one place," says Byron Drew, director of libraries and of the ACTT Center. Other advantages of the tutors being under one roof are standard hours and consistent pay and job descriptions across disciplines.

These points are supported by Oussama Alkhalili, co-director of the Tutoring Center at Highline Community College (Wash.). In his experience, a centralized center offers better reporting and can improve the ability to obtain certification from the College Reading and Learning Association, a professional association for student-centered learning.

Centers that combine tutoring and other student services might also help out with hiring future employees at a community college. Drew notes that the center at GSC has served as a training ground, with many former tutors moving on to staff or faculty positions on campus.

LOCATION IS KEY

Deciding which one roof to locate a learning center under can be a challenge. With campus space often at a premium, and tightening budgets likely putting new construction on hold, many institutions are using existing space for a center until the program is mature enough to justify their own space, explains James Matson, associate vice president of Los Angeles-based HGA Architects and Engineers.

"The more flexible the space, the better," he says. Areas to include are computer labs, individual work areas, rooms for group work, and soft seating. Being near a library or other natural gathering area can help increase foot traffic.

"As long as any kind of academic support is on the margin, it will be viewed as marginal," asserts Laura Hope, interim dean of instructional support at Chaffey College (Calif.). Although Chaffey students have had access to a success center for 10 years, they were originally squeezed into repurposed space. Administrators recently opened a new, centrally located building specifically designed to be a learning center. In addition to the variety of gathering spaces Matson suggests, Hope says the center has a full reception area to receive students and point them in the right direction.

Besides tutoring and lab work, students come to the center for individual directed learning projects designed by their instructor, for instructor-led study groups, and for large group workshops. In order to match success rates to activities, the students log in and out of the center with their ID cards. "Many centers look at how much time students spent there, not what they were doing," says Hope.

Of course, students can't spend any time in the learning center if the campus layout prevents them from finding it, a difficulty Parkland College (Ill.) students no longer have to overcome. "We laugh about the construction of our school. You give directions but never know if a student makes it," say Pam Lau, director of the Center for Academic Success (CAS). …

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