The Center for Academic Program Support (CAPS) at the University of New Mexico, which has been operating mostly online for over a year, has seen a drastic increase in virtual tutoring visits from last year.
CAPS is a learning assistance center where students can get help with UNM coursework, with resources including drop-in tutoring, individual appointments, workshops, conversation groups, supplemental instruction (SI), online learning and faculty office hours.
“(We have) lots of different (services), so we really do have something for everyone,” Megan Rivera, a student manager for the SI team, said.
CAPS data analyst Elizabeth Kerl reported that CAPS had just under 15,000 visits from Jan. 19 to March 12 this year, a 77% increase in visits compared to similar dates last year. This figure takes into account both online and in-person visits with the focus of drop-ins, the online learning center (OLC), appointments with designated subjects, the writing workshop, the online writing lab (OWL), the conversation group, learning strategies, SI and online learning assistants (OLA).
“The same students who use our services continue to use them, so we’re seeing consistency across individual students using our services,” Rivera said.
Rivera said the OWL has been especially successful and has seen an increase in papers being sent in to be edited during the pandemic. Kerl said students prefer writing assistance in an asynchronous environment, as it is through the OWL, rather than engaging with a tutor through the OLC. As a result, there was an 83% increase in OWL visits and a 74% decrease in OLC visits. The OLC has also suffered from a lack of students being able to physically drop in for tutoring, which was common at Zimmerman library.
The decision to go online was made last spring, when President Garnett Stokes announced that the University would remain virtual after spring break.
“We’re definitely fully open, it just looks a little different,” Rivera said, commenting on the online structure. “It’s definitely weird when you go into the library and all the tables are turned upside down.”
The Graduate Resource Center has also seen an increase in students and visits, according to Kerl.
“Graduate students really prefer the online format,” Kerl wrote in an email to the Daily Lobo. “We have seen a considerable increase since moving online and intend to keep many services available to students in an online format, even once services are moved back to in-person.”
However, Kerl said many instructors are not taking advantage of the online CAPS resources and are not requiring students to visit the center like they used to. This has resulted in lower attendance for the language program and learning strategies.
“We used to see students come for a single visit because it was required but keep coming back week after week because they enjoyed the sessions … We have some wonderful language tutors, and they aren't getting to share their enthusiasm with student users,” Kerl wrote.
Virtual services are more accessible for a broader range of students, including non-traditional students or students that work multiple jobs, Rivera said.
“That’s one of the good things about online tutoring, that you don’t have to be physically on campus to attend these sessions,” Rivera said.
Overall, Rivera emphasized that CAPS is there to support students.
“We are hoping that next semester in the fall we can take what has worked from going online and keep that,” Rivera said.
Megan Gleason is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @fabflutist2716