The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Convenience the key to student tutoring at DePaul

Data from DePaul’s different tutoring offices show thousands of students reach out for academic help each year. Tutoring services emphasize they can help good students become better, but the atmosphere and location of tutoring centers determines which students will use them. 

At the end of the white-walled, carpeted hallway on the third floor of O’Connell Hall, three tutors sit quietly in the Science and Math Learning Center’s (SMLC) main office. DePaul junior Gabby Iverson was almost hidden by the rows of unused computers where she was working on homework. 

“I don’t have a lot of people who use me,” Iverson said. She tutors statistics for psychology students in the SMLC three hours a week. “I’ve been sitting here an hour and a half. It’s pretty slow. The word either doesn’t get out, people don’t realize (the SMLC) is a resource, or they don’t think they need it.”

In contrast, tutors who provide walk-in tutoring in the Learning Commons on the popular, newly renovated first floor of the library said students come in more consistently. Maia Moore, a writing tutor, sits at a table with other tutors from Study Jams, a program provided by the Office for Multicultural Student Success (OMSS). 

Moore said she has a group of regulars now who come in when she’s there. 

“I’ve seen the same girl every quarter around midterms,” Moore said. “She gets hard papers. She knows I’m here five to seven, three days a week. She can sit down really quick without making an appointment.” 

Moore and other students who had used tutoring services said professors, particularly for math and science classes, told them about the tutoring services available.

“But other (professors) don’t, so you have to seek it out,” Moore said. “Which is why I think (the learning commons) is good because it’s in a central place like the library, like this room, where you’re not forced to be quiet. You can just come in any time.”

Before the Department of Modern Languages moved to the SAC from the distant McGaw Hall, very few students made appointments with tutors, German program director Anna Souchuk said. 

“It was kind of unfortunate. The tutors wanted to help and they were just sitting around waiting for someone to need them,” Souchuk said. 

Professors in the department had the opportunity to redesign the language lab when they moved to the third floor of the SAC in 2013. Souchuk said it has been successful in bringing in more students.

According to data provided by the Language Lab, students made about 1,250 appointments for all languages since January 2015.

“This is kind of like a centerpiece of our department where we have conversation in mind,” Souchuk said. “So our new space is really great … it’s a more comfortable, social atmosphere where people can sit in and relax.”   

The University Center for Writing-based Learning (UCWbL) was also one of the offices that moved from McGaw to the SAC in 2013. Next to the escalator on the second floor of the SAC are big windows looking into a large, open room bustling with tutors and students.

According to its 2014 report, the UCWbL increased its appointments from the 2013 calendar year to more than 15,000 in 2014 and served more than 4,000 unique students.   

“From what I understand we’re the most used tutoring service,” UCWbL director Lauri Dietz said. “You’re going to face writing in every major no matter what you’re doing. I think that’s one of the reasons we see more people than other programs.”

The 2014 UCWbL demographic data also showed a higher frequency of appointments with students with higher GPAs. 

“A lot of these kinds of support resources tend to get taken advantage of by people who tend to be successful in whatever environment they’re in,” Dietz said. “We’ve got the people with the good GPAs and they want to maintain those good GPAs.” 

Souchuk also said it was oftentimes the students who paid more attention to their grades in class that approached her about tutoring services.   

“They may not be the strongest students in the class, but they’re certainly more aware of what’s happening with their grades and what’s happening with them in comparison to other students,” Souchuk said. “(When I) see them go to tutoring I can see they’re active about improving their grade or turning their grade around.” 

One student who reached out for tutoring was freshman Anna Freed, who went to the UCWbL to narrow down her topic for her first college research paper. 

“I don’t think it’s weird (to get tutoring help),” Freed said. Freed’s dad is a professor and has always been an advocate of using resources like professors’ office hours. 

Not all students had the encouragement to seek out help. Jade Perry, coordinator at OMSS, said “sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.”

“We really promote self-efficacy which means assessing the areas that you might need assistance in, assessing what you’re already good at, and looking for those help-seeking behaviors,” Perry said. “It’s not weak to ask for help. It’s actually efficacious for you to understand your strengths and to know when you need to reach out for help.”   

OMSS services students of color, first generation students, and students with low financial backgrounds. Perry said her office tries to be conscious of these students’ identities and offer services that will be open, familiar and comfortable for them.

Since moving to the Learning Commons, Perry said the number of students using tutoring has increased. The swipe-access system at the receptionist desk tracks how many students use each service, and Perry said about 200 students used Study Jams fall quarter of this year, which increased to 300 students winter quarter. 

“I think (students) like it that (tutoring is with) a student. Maybe it’s not the writing center, so it doesn’t seem so intimidating,” Moore said.

Sophomore math tutor Lauren Vanderlinden also said making appointments made the UCWbL feel more formal.

Freshman Lauren Walter makes regular appointments to practice Arabic in the Language Lab, but said she gets frustrated when she has to make an appointment at least 24-hours in advance, or when her tutor cancels the appointment before a test.

After working for Study Jams in the Learning Commons for a year, Moore said that one way to improve the service would be  establishing a room like the Learning Commons that is designated specifically for tutoring.

“Sometimes it’s so crowded we don’t have enough space to get people at our table,” Moore said. 

There may be a steady supply of tutors and an increasing demand for services, but secluding them in department offices and limiting walk-in tutoring to a few hours seems to deter students.

Perhaps a larger, designated space in students’ line of sight is the missing link to getting students and academic help together in the same room.

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