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EFSC Tutors Enhance Student Support with National Certification

May 28, 2020 - Within weeks of earning advanced certification from the National Tutoring Association, tutors from Eastern Florida State College's Academic Success Centers (ASC) called on that training to create a virtual tutoring platform that has become a vital part of remote student services during the COVID-19 campus closures.

Four images of tutors with certificatesIn early January, approximately 50 professional and peer tutors completed a day-long training session on the Melbourne campus that included innovative topics such as conflict resolution, diversity, emotional and cultural intelligence, tutoring best practices, plus role playing sessions and roundtable discussions with faculty.

That advanced level training built on basic and intermediate certification that tutors, known at EFSC as learning specialists, had completed in late 2019 via online courses in the college's Canvas Learning Management System.

"Professional training is an integral part of professional tutoring, coaching and staff training. It is incumbent upon everyone active in student support to stay abreast of the current methods and techniques available and to familiarize oneself with the new information that is readily available," according to the National Tutoring Association (NTA), the oldest and largest professional association dedicated exclusively to tutoring.

In early March, EFSC's tutors had just finished celebrating the accomplishment with certificate presentations and group photos on all four EFSC campuses, when they learned the college was moving courses online due to COVID-19.

They had to find a way to move tutoring online as well and they turned to Microsoft Teams, the online collaboration tool included in the Office 365 package students use for college email.

"From our NTA training, our emphasis on teamwork really stands out in our online tutoring," said ASC Director Dr. Marci Hanks. "When it came time to learn new technology for our virtual environment, tutors worked as a unified team helping each other and practicing together. Teamwork enabled us to transition to one unified virtual tutoring environment where we can continue to help our students be successful in their classes."

Many spring term students submitted grateful feedback on the virtual tutoring, which is now serving summer term students.

- “I am so grateful for the Writing Center. If it wasn’t for them I would have failed my online class. I didn’t know how I was going to graduate.”

- "When I found out all the classes switched to online, my first thought was I'm going to drop my Calculus class. But when I received email that says there are online tutors available, it's like I saw the light [at the] end of the tunnel. I know if there weren't online tutors, I wouldn't pass my class with the grade I desired."

- "The tutors didn't just teach me math or science, they provided valuable advice and learning strategies."

During the recent training, eight staff members also became advanced level Nationally Certified Academic Coaches, a position designed to help students be successful through added skills such as time management and staying organized.

The certification effort grew out of a 2018 NTA contest won by Palm Bay ASC Coordinator Karen Loffler and her team in recognition of their National Tutoring Week celebrations.

The prize included free training, which eventually expanded into the comprehensive certification effort that Loffler and Hanks worked together to coordinate. It was a college-wide effort that would pay dividends for students just weeks later.

"It was great to meet and interact with all the Learning Specialists from the other campuses; it's much easier now to work with them online," said Cocoa ASC Coordinator JJ White.

"We have all had to come together and work together effectively even though we don't usually get to work with one another," said Patrick Clayton, Learning Specialist. "I think the training was a step in the right direction to prepare us for where we are now."