Here's my two cents on online discussions, for those like Arleen who are
interested, with some wisdom from two presenters at the NTA in Nashville.

I've used a listserv for tutors for the past 6 years, and each semester
the interest has flagged.  Why?  I think that while listservs get the
messages into the email inboxes of tutors (which is good; they don't
have to go to another site), it's also bad, because they get lost among
all the other messages and any threads are hard to follow.  As well, I
used to require 12 substantive messages a term but lowered that b/c some
were doing them w/o much enthusiasm.  So I've been looking for another
structure, and after using Blackboard spring before last, I thought I'd
try it again.

Then I got some great ideas about just how to do it at the Nat'l.
Tutoring Assoc. conference in Nashville this April.  I went to one
session about online tutor training by Sarah Gardner (who coordinates
the tutor training at SUNY New Paltz) in which she talked about her
increasing use of online training, esp. using lead tutors (head
tutors...) to moderate the discussions.  She had examples of prompts
that the lead tutors and she had come up with, some examples of threads
that had transpired.  Impressive.  She stayed out of the conversations
for the most part and gave guidance (content and administrative, both)
to the lead tutors when necessary.

I met Lynelle Williams, now of UNC Wilmington, who presented on her
online training both there and back in Idaho (I think).  Her handout
(available on the UNCW Tutoring and Learning Center website) talks about
what she did out west, using WebCT.  In it she mentions having tutors
post certain journals or analyses to the whole group on WebCT.

At my end of year conferences with my 30 tutors, I asked them about the
possibilitiy of having discussions on Blackboard, and got very positive
reactions.  I then approached the three peer leaders (one for
writing-intensive courses, one for foreign languages, and one for
quantitative courses) about having as a big part of their duties to be
moderating the conversations: putting out prompts one by one, keeping
each thread going, and they are excited about the prospect.

I plan to have 5 prompts (topics) in each of the three content areas
over the term.  All tutors will be required to post a response of their
own and respond to someone else's for each of the five topics, as part
of their course requirements (it's a one-credit course for all tutors
whenever they tutor; they also come to 7 staff meetings, two of which
are content-specific, with profs invited).  We'll see how it goes, but I
know that having a peer facilitate will be very good (for them and for
me...) And having the discussion with tutors in similar courses is
something they have appreciated for a while.

I also have another crash-training course for new tutors, which is
twelve f2f hours before tutoring starts (eeek!) followed by reflective
journals.  In the past, these were typed and given to me.  But now I
will be asking them to post to Blackboard so they can all read everyone
else's.  They need to learn from each other.  And I'm telling the
veteran tutors they can join in the discussion too.  They get credit by
the number of hours they put in to communicating with their colleagues
and with their profs--their PhD content mentors.  Bottom line?  Since
these are credit course (they get paid for time tutoring), I can require
them to post messages.  Some will do it minimally, but others will
embrace it.  I can't wait to see how it goes.

I will still use the listserv or maybe just the Bb email  capability to
make announcements--"don't forget that this Wednesday is the meeting for
Q folks, not writing or for. lg."  or "mid-terms coming up; send those
class emails to students in the courses you tutor," etc. etc.
Whiteboards and notes in the mail cubbies on real paper are good for
that too.  Hit them from all sides.

Thanks for asking the hard questions, Arleen.  (and get out of Tampa
before Hurricane Charley hits and heads up the I-4 corridor to Orlando,
to my house! My son at New College in Sarasota left on the bus this


Janz, Arleen wrote:

>I'm curious as to how you manage to keep your tutors plugged in to the
>discussion board throughout the semester. I attempted this a few years
>ago, and my tutors would forget to check in, and when they did, they'd
>rarely discuss things with each other. It turned into an online message
>board. The whiteboard in our breakroom works better because everyone
>sees it almost every day. I ended up using their personal email
>addresses, but not for discussion. I'd let everyone know plans and what
>to prepare for in the next staff training meeting. I really would rather
>stay out of their personal email box and have a forum that they're all
>plugged into for discussion, but I just haven't found a way to make it
>work. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. We're a staff of
>between 9 and 13 tutors. It varies.
>Arleen Janz
>Dale Mabry Tutoring Center
>Hillsborough Community College
>Tampa, Florida
>>I'm now using Blackboard for my tutor training course, to add
>>some online discussion forums in different content areas and
>>generally to extend the conversations from our 12-hr crash
>>training and our 7 staff meetings per term.  Even with those
>>ample hours of training, I find that an online support group
>>fits the communication style of our tutors and makes the
>>learning much richer.
>>Susie Robertshaw

Suzanne Robertshaw, tutor coordinator, [log in to unmask]
Thomas P. Johnson Student Resource Center, Rollins College
1000 Holt Ave. 2613, Winter Park, FL  32792  USA  tel. (407) 646-2652
Tutoring at TJ's web site:
Quote of the moment: (Thanks to Jennifer Wright, UCF tutor coordinator, SARC)
 "This is a learning center, not the Magic Kingdom.  That's down the road..."

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