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Danna,

I could go on and on and on about the advantages of hiring your own students over contracting with one of these companies.  If you have the money, do not use SmartThinking or BrainFuse or any of these others.  Money gives you a great opportunity to help your own students, your own university and your own community by hiring your own tutors.

Answers to your questions, Danna:

*         Do any of you use your own tutors to do your college's online tutoring?  If so, how have you structured your program?

We use our own tutors, and this is the best.  We tried using SmartThinking, but for the learning of our students and the development of our tutors, using our own tutors is best (and also considerably less expensive).  We also check out Brainfuse(spelling?) and found it not to be as good as the use of our own tutors.  Our tutors know our courses and our professors better than any company would, and they have taken these classes and know what is expected of them.

We use Blackboard as a platform for online tutoring, but it is actually very loosely set up. Blackboard is often just the online space where tutor and student meet, then they use some other means of communicating.


*         Do you have a special lab for the tutors to conduct the online sessions?

No.  They can do this from any computer on campus or even their own personal devices.

*         Do you allow them to tutor while they are at home or do they have to be on campus during operating hours?  If allowed to tutor at home, did you issue the tutor a laptop and webcam, if they did not have their own?  Did your college provide tech support for the tutor's personal computer if it stopped working properly?

We have done this both ways.  We actually had one of our tutors, who was spending a year in Brazil, tutor online from there.  Mostly, if the Tutoring and Learning Center is open, tutors work on computers there, but they don't have to. They can use their own computers, cell phone or other devices if they wish. Because we serve an area (Eastern Kentucky) with poor bandwidth issues, we don't necessarily always provide tutoring via webcam.  Sometimes, telephone or good old-fashioned email may be the only means to tutor "online" in our region.

For these reasons and just for ease of service, the tutor and the student generally work out a means to communicate through texting, instant messages, Skype, telephone, email or some other means.

*         Do you have "drop in" tutoring by having virtual walk-in hours where the tutor waits for someone to ask a question online?

We use the discussion board forums on Blackboard in order for students to ask questions 24/7.  Tutors subscribe to the forums of subjects they tutor (for example, chemistry or accounting).  No one has to monitor these forums, and tutors generally answer very quickly (incentive: they  get paid for a "tutoring session" for devising and answering questions in the forum).   That would be the equivalent of "walk-in" I guess, but this way, we do not have to pay any tutor for "walk-in" availability -- time when they may have nothing to do.

*         Is it made available 24/7?  Basically, if a tutor says they can be available at midnight, do you allow that?

See question above.  If a tutor is up studying or playing games or whatever and he/she gets a question from the forum, then the tutor works to answer the question whether it is midnight, 2 am or 4 am.  If no one answers the question within six hours or so, my grad assistant starts sending out notices to tutors in the appropriate course subjects.

*         Did you hire student tutors or "professional" (with at least a Bachelor's degree) tutors?

We only hire student tutors, and there is such a case made for doing this and this only: We are providing great development for these tutors -- a chance for them to have experiences and respectable paid positions while attending college.  Not only do we help the university by tutoring students, but we help by giving our student tutors the kind of experience which can help one get in med school, for example, or get a teaching assistant or scholarships for grad school.

Hiring undergrad students also has the benefit of helping the local and campus economy by keeping our money flowing throughout this area.  An online tutoring company's employees will not be spending money at your college's bookstore or coffeeshop or at the local movie theater or restaurants.

We do occasionally hire some of our own graduate students, but usually any grad student who can tutor already has a graduate assistantship at our university.  We do not hire "professional" tutors.


If you do not have Blackboard, I think this kind of thing could be set up inexpensively through Moodle or other such educational/online communication programs.

I would not invest in other companies' doing this work.  Your tutors are the best resource you have. This way, you support them, your local campus economy, and you help your students with personalized service that no company could provide.

If you have any questions, let me know.

Gentry Alvin Madden-Grider
Learning Strategies Coordinator
University College
606-783-5181
Allie Young 215

"Those who do not study are only cattle dressed up in men's clothes." -- Confucius (551-479 BC)

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From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of Danna Baggett [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 5:54 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: operating online tutoring through the use of college's own tutors

Good afternoon!

I have been tasked with finding out about other colleges' online tutoring programs.  I have found that most colleges use an outside source such as Smarthinking and Brainfuse instead of their own tutors.  We are leaning more towards using our own tutors instead of other company's tutors.  I have several questions, and was wondering if anyone could help me out.


*         Do any of you use your own tutors to do your college's online tutoring?  If so, how have you structured your program?

*         Do you have a special lab for the tutors to conduct the online sessions?

*         Do you allow them to tutor while they are at home or do they have to be on campus during operating hours?  If allowed to tutor at home, did you issue the tutor a laptop and webcam, if they did not have their own?  Did your college provide tech support for the tutor's personal computer if it stopped working properly?

*         Do you have "drop in" tutoring by having virtual walk-in hours where the tutor waits for someone to ask a question online?

*         Is it made available 24/7?  Basically, if a tutor says they can be available at midnight, do you allow that?

*         Did you hire student tutors or "professional" (with at least a Bachelor's degree) tutors?

I am sure I am leaving out some other important questions. So, if there is any other important details that you think would be beneficial, please include them since you have gone through this process.

As always,  thank you very much!



Danna Baggett
Apache Tutoring
Tutoring Services, Director
903-510-3114
[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Vaughn Library, 2nd floor

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