Academic Support in Our New Online Context

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By Amy Dayton, Department of English

Many faculty members rely on UA’s academic support programs to provide students with the individualized help they need outside of class. Despite the current crisis, the UA Libraries, Capstone Center for Student Success, and UA Writing Center continue to offer support to help students meet their academic goals and to supplement your classroom instruction.

“University Libraries faculty and staff have been redeployed to critical priorities to support all UA students, staff, and faculty in teaching, learning, and research in an online environment through our website gateway,” says Sara Whitver, Coordinator of Library Instruction and the Library Liaison to the English Department. “We have also launched a new Live Chat service so that folks can reach us immediately with their research needs.”

The University Libraries Continuity of Service Guide explains the resources and services that the library is providing,  including the synchronous chat service available seven days a week, continued access to databases, ejournals, streaming videos, and ebooks through Scout.

Faculty can arrange real-time synchronous integration of library instruction into their courses through Blackboard and Zoom.  And subject librarians are still available remotely for research consultations and office hours.

For general academic support, assistance with reading and study skills, and tutoring for introductory math, science, and business courses, students can expect the same high level of support from the peer tutors and coaches at the Capstone Center for Student Success, only online!  Coaches offer one-on-one meetings and skill-building sessions, and tutors are available for online drop-in hours just as before, all via Zoom web conferencing. Links and schedules are provided on their website for free tutoring, academic coaching, and skills sessions. If students cannot meet for tutoring at the times announced, they should contact Capstone directly at ccssinfo@ua.edu to arrange a time that suits their schedule.

Anthony Winston, Manager of Tutorial Services, says that “Nursing students and tutors have established a very strong relationship. [Tutors] Autumn and Emma are taking time at the beginning of each session to reassure students that they are ‘there’ for them and that we are all in this together. There were many familiar faces in the CH 105 tutoring sessions this week. It is helpful for students to find something that feels ‘normal’ in these uncertain circumstances.”

According to Jennifer Roth-Burnette, Director of Academic Support, “During our first week online, we had over 60 visits to tutoring in Math, Chemistry, Biology, Accounting, PY 211, and more. We have the capacity to serve many more and we hope students will continue to lean on us for support and help with course concepts during this time.”

Finally, the UA Writing Center is still offering support for students in all disciplines. Students can visit the UAWC website to register for the service and reserve a slot. The e-tutoring service is asynchronous, so students do not need to be online during the appointment. They should upload their draft when making the appointment, and include specific questions or concerns that they would like the tutor to address. Peer tutors will read the draft, looking at both big picture issues (thesis, organization, content, and so on), and sentence-level concerns such as grammar and use of sources.

When working online, writing center tutors try to maintain the conversational, personal approach that the Center uses for in-person consultations. They will ask questions, respond to students’ ideas, and give suggestions and tips to help students improve their mechanics and practice basic skills. Students or faculty with questions can email the Writing Center at writingcenter@ua.edu.

A lot has changed in recent weeks, but faculty and students can be confident in one thing: our academic support programs on campus are working hard to maintain the same level of support that you have come to expect from us.