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Monday, December 22, 2014

CAPS goes digital with new online tutoring

This semester a new program will help students bring tutors into the comfort of their own home — electronically.

Anne Compton, associate director of the Center for Academic Program Support, said CAPS will debut its new Online Learning Center on Monday, which allows students to receive tutoring from their own computer.

The Online Learning Center, a combined effort of CAPS, Extended University and New Media and Extended Learning, will give tutoring to students who may be too busy, or too far removed, to physically go to the CAPS office, but still need assistance, she said.

Matthew Maez, a program specialist with CAPS, was heavily involved with planning and implementing the new program and said he is looking forward to Monday’s premiere.

“We’re feeling really great about the new launch of the online learning center, we think that were going to be able to serve many more students than we have in the past and we’re going to be able to do a lot better job in helping students learn at UNM because of it,” he said.

The program was built with ease of use for students in mind and has the ability for several different types of tutoring, he said.

One of the biggest issues Maez and his team focused on while constructing the Online Learning Center was to establish the appropriate tools necessary to foster effective learning, he said.

The new platform provides a powerful digital whiteboard that can be used for anything from graphs and equations to teaching other languages, which is helpful for students who learn best with visual aids, Maez said.

“Tutors will now be able to give students a choice of whether to work over video chat or audio and to even use the digital whiteboard,” Maez said.

Compton said that the types of tutoring offered and the times tutoring is available was selected using advanced statistics an analysis to ensure the best content is available for students at the times they need it.

Online tutoring is offered for Algebra, American Studies, Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Geometry/Trigonometry, History, Macro/Microeconomics, Management, Physics, Psychology, Spanish, Statistics and Writing, she said.

“We were strategic in selecting the subjects for the online platform that were most heavily utilized by UNM students,” she said.

Prior to building its own platform UNM had been using a national online tutoring service, she said. The service, however, was extremely expensive and the tutors were not from UNM, she said.

“With the new Online Learning Center, we are able to employ more UNM tutors who better know our student body, faculty and curriculum. Unlike tutors from the national tutoring service, CAPS tutors have firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by UNM students,” she said.

Although Maez headed up implementation of the new services, he said there was an entire team that worked tirelessly to work out all the bugs.

“I think this is a really good example of what can happen when UNM comes together to try to address our challenges and make the University a better experience for everybody”, Maez said.

Matt Reisen is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo.