Hot topics in higher education include retention, completion, and student success. Outside of the classroom, student services programs play a vital role in the success of college students, and tutoring is probably one of the more effective programs that engages students in their learning and helps advance them to the finish line of degree completion.
The Learning Center at Robeson Community College is celebrating National Tutor Appreciation Week Monday through Friday. The center opened in spring 2011 and has been an integral part of helping students perform better in their courses and move more quickly to accomplishing their academic goals. The college’s tutoring program is certified by the College Reading and Learning Association, along with more than 800 other institutions internationally.
The Learning Center employs professional tutors with bachelor and advanced degrees as well as peer tutors, who are students that have earned top grades in their course work. Currently, 18 tutors serve the center and since the beginning of the fall semester, about 175 students have visited the center. Subjects available include reading and writing, math, science, accounting and business.
According to the center’s director, Dr. James Bass, director of Student Success and Leadership, the popularity of the center is growing with students. Last fall, requests for tutoring nearly doubled from 2014, and Bass said that while he doesn’t expect to see those numbers double again this year, he believes that the center is seeing consistent growth in student engagement.
“We serve a diversity of students. Some of our students are recent high school graduates who want to be successful in their courses, and we also see non-traditional students who have not been in a classroom for a few years and may be transitioning into a new a career,” he said.
“They have come to realize that tutorial assistance is not a stigma — it’s not always about students who are doing poorly in their classes. Many of our participants realize that the job force is competitive and they take advantage of our services as a means of sharpening their skills and making themselves more marketable.”
Bass collects information from students about their experiences in the tutoring program that helps to guide the services provided by the center. Often this data includes testimonials from students.
According to Bass, when students get a little help it can make vast improvements in their confidence and self-efficacy, which make a significant difference in their decisions to persist and ultimately complete a certificate or degree.
“It helps me solve problems, and it helps me understand the concepts in my classes,” said Corrina Cummings, a second-year student at RCC. “I am treated well, and it’s helping me toward my major.”
In addition to one-on-one tutoring, RCC also utilizes an online tutoring platform called Smarthinking, which allows students to upload their writing assignments and receive feedback from a professional tutor. The feedback students get is often used to revise and improve their essays and help them become more independent learners.
“When we tutor students, we don’t give them the answers, we help them find answers on their own, and this strategy enables them to solve other problems they encounter using the study skills our tutors share with them in their sessions,” Bass said.
During the typical academic year, The Learning Center engages students in about 2,000 tutorial sessions, and that doesn’t include the workshops the center offers, which can attract anywhere from five to 65 students for a session. Earlier in the fall, Bass conducted a workshop for about 60 students, most of whom were nursing students who came to learn new strategies for tackling test-taking anxiety and acquire new study skills to employ in their major.
Students interested in tutorial services at Robeson Community College are encouraged to visit the center and find out how they can benefit.
Dennis Watts is the public information officer for Robeson Community College.