BYU Writing Center introduces online tutoring

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Hannah Gasinski
New online tutoring services will improve writing center accessibility for students on campus and abroad. (Ari Davis)

The BYU Writing Center recently began offering online tutoring, with plans to launch more online services for students in the coming semesters.

“Certain clientele do much better with online resources, whether they be parents, students who have anxiety issues or maybe they are just more comfortable with written responses because English isn’t their first language,” said BYU Writing Center associate coordinator Lisa Bell.

Bell, who also built UVU’s online writing center, said she believes online tutoring is an essential part of being a comprehensive writing center program and stressed the importance of matching the medium of learning support to instruction as BYU introduces more online classes.

Brent W. Webb, former BYU academic vice president, outlined the future of BYU online in his 2016 conference address and described plans for incoming freshmen to be able to take 15 online credits toward their degrees by 2020. It is estimated 600-700 online sections will be needed to accomplish this goal.

“Since BYU is moving towards having a certain number of credits taken online by all daytime on-campus students, we are going to need solid assistance for these courses,” Bell said.

Bell said there are two types of online tutoring: asynchronous and synchronous. Asynchronous learning involves emailed papers with feedback from tutors given in the form of notes or pre-recorded video. Synchronous learning, or a real-time approach, involves a live video session or face-to-face interaction. Only asynchronous sessions are currently available, so tutors can become comfortable with the technology before launching synchronous tutoring system in the fall.

“Some BYU students might be on a study abroad, or maybe they live far away and can’t physically come into the writing center, so this is a more accessible service we can offer them, as well,” said Erika Larsen, a writing adviser at the BYU Writing Center.

The BYU Writing Center has evaluated data from other writing centers across the country to help shape the services it offers and better understand the context of its work. Research and surveys will also be conducted locally to monitor satisfaction and self-efficacy.

Two evening appointments are available per day since the writing center launched online tutoring, and there are plans to introduce more services in the future.