Valdosta State University’s Academic Support Center announced recently that, starting in the fall semester, they will provide free, around the clock, online tutoring for current students.
While the ASC offers peer tutoring on campus for many subjects, they cannot meet all of the 24/7 needs of VSU students, which is why they have decided to hire an outside company to help.
ThinkingStorm is an online platform that offers access to highly experienced tutors in subjects such as math, science, writing, and foreign language and will be offered free to VSU students.
All of the company’s tutors hold bachelor’s degrees, and over 65 percent of them hold master’s and doctorate’s degrees.
Dr. Chere Peguesse, director of the ASC, piloted two online tutoring programs this semester and allowed different classes to try out the platforms and give feedback on which they preferred.
Based on teacher reports and her own evaluations, Peguesse chose ThinkingStorm, an education company based in the Washington D.C. area that has tutored over 50,000 students online since its start in 2007.
Peguesse said that most of the ThinkingStorm tutors are local to the Washington D.C. area and can meet with each other for training to foster a more cohesive experience.
ThinkingStorm was chosen partially because of the user-friendly setup and simple, clean format.
For math courses, ThinkingStorm uses a virtual whiteboard with a chat function so that students can upload photos of problems or draw them with a pen tool.
Tutors will walk the student through the steps, clarify terminology, and answer any questions until the problem is solved.
Peguesse says that ThinkingStorm’s writing center is equally simple to use.
After students upload their essay to the site and fill out information about the assignment, a tutor will read and leave comments on the document that highlight issues like grammar, sentence structure, or organization.
They also leave a large block comment at the end of the essay that offers detailed instructions and examples of how to correct any issues.
Students can follow up with tutors, request tutors they are comfortable working with, and can always fill out an evaluation after the session ends.
Peguesse appreciated the constructive responses from the tutors when she tested the program.
“It was a really, really positive experience. The tutor stepped me through it and she was very encouraging and super patient,” she said.
Peguesse said there has been a need for online tutoring for a while.
A few years ago, she was approached by members of the Student Government Association who asked for an online option, but there was not enough money to pay for the program.
When he became aware of the need, Dr. Rodney Carr, vice president of student success, approached the University System of Georgia Board of Regents and successfully requested funding to contract an online tutoring company.
According to Peguesse, ThinkingStorm was the more affordable option and will cost VSU $25,000 a year.
Kelsey Dickerson, an English major and ASC tutor has tried ThinkingStorm and thinks it will be a good alternative for students.
“There are only so many tutors here, so it will be nice to have someone else to take over where we can’t,” she said. Around 40 tutors work for the center.
Kylie Fletcher, an interdisciplinary major, had the opportunity to try ThinkingStorm during its pilot period and has also found the program useful, particularly the writing center.
“It was helpful, especially for grammar problems,” she said.
Starting in the fall semester, students should visit the ASC webpage and look for links in their course homepages to find access to ThinkingStorm’s wealth of help.
Story by Annabelle Prange. Photo courtesy of the ASC.
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