Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Online Tutoring...Do we have to??

First and foremost I would like to congratulate Whitney on posting before me twice this week. Not that we race or anything...but if we did, she would totally win. Kudos.

Ok now down to business. As probably suggested by this blog title, I am not exactly the number one fan of online tutoring. In fact, my name probably belongs at the bottom of the list. I have to say first of all that I do admire the intentions of online tutoring mentioned in the articles. For example, I think it is great that students can now access writing centers at their convenience (even if that may increase the increasing lack of oxygen students receive by staying in their dorm rooms). I also like the idea that students can leave the online sessions with a print out of what was worked on that they can refer to later. However, that is pretty much where my positive attitude towards online tutoring ends. Here's why (and I will try to keep this short):

1. I don't like talking to computers. I know unfortunately I was born in the digital age, but technology hates me. This is a selfish reason to hate online tutoring, but I think that because I am uncomfortable the student may be uncomfortable, or at the very least I may not be as effective as I would face-to-face.
2. Body language, to me, is irreplaceable. I am constantly looking for signs that the student agrees/disagrees/doesn't understand what she is hearing, and if I can't see those signs I feel like I can't assess the situation as well.
3. I don't believe students are any more prepared for an online session, and sometimes they are even less so. I think in an online session, students can multi-task (IM/listen to music/eat/talk on the phone), and this definitely takes away from their focus.
4. A lot of the technology used for online tutoring has kinks in it, and a lot of time is wasted during the sessions while both tutors and students try to adapt. This may sound strange, but I've had several sessions where the student and I are typing at the same time and interrupting each other so our ideas don't line up. In addition, I've had just as many sessions where the technology quits working and the screen freezes, or one person is disconnected.

I have some other general concerns, but this blog is getting long. Also I'm not trying to say that because I don't like online tutoring I won't approach it with an open mind. I do online sessions at work, and I try to make them as helpful and friendly as any face-to-face. My main point is that I think the articles we read were a little Bedford-ish in that they present more of the positive intentions than what actually goes on.

No comments: