Online tutoring is available to all, and is playing an important role in keeping students on track during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pictured above: Palomar College tutor Mario Martinez during an online tutoring session.

SAN MARCOS — While Palomar College students were adjusting to life under the new social distancing requirements over spring break, the college’s tutors were preparing to meet them online when classes resumed in a remote learning environment on March 30.

Behind the scenes, a team of faculty, tutors and technologists at Palomar integrated tutoring into the learning platform called Canvas that all students would now be using to continue their education.

Those who oversaw the transition recalled a collaborative process in which the college’s tutoring services were brought together into a one-stop shop for students.

“We had to coordinate with all 10 of our tutoring services on campus to get one schedule for our students, which we’ve never done before,” said Katy Farrell, who helped manage the rapid up-scaling of online tutoring at Palomar.

Farrell is a professor in the Reading Services Department and a member of the Palomar College Tutoring Committee. Like many faculty and staff at Palomar, she took on transitional duties in addition to her usual workload to help students get the help they need to carry on.

“My job was to communicate with the tutors to explain how the process was going to work, and to get input from them,” Farrell said. “Who was going to be offering the tutoring? When would they be tutoring? We tried to coordinate our schedules so we could cover the most time, from early in the morning into the evening.

“I cannot emphasize enough how collaborative this process was,” she added. “It’s really our tutors who are doing all the work.”

“What an inspiration, to observe the faculty and staff at Palomar coming together so quickly to provide high-quality remote services for our students. I have been really impressed with everyone’s contributions,” said Dr. Jack Kahn, Acting Superintendent/President.

As of April 17, nearly 400 students and 50 tutors—including a number of faculty members— were active in the new tutoring system, which is set up as an online course in Canvas and connects students with tutors using the video-conferencing platform Zoom. For as long as the Governor’s Stay at Home order is in place, academic tutoring will remain online.

Najib Manea, Palomar’s Academic Technology Manager, was in charge of creating the technology to facilitate hundreds of sessions a week.
Now, when students log in to Canvas, they can “enroll” in the tutoring course to see when tutors are available in the required subject, and then join live Zoom sessions or schedule a tutoring session. For off-hours tutoring, students can access NetTutor, a third-party tutoring platform with additional resources.

Manea said the tutors open their Zoom “rooms” during their tutoring hours for students to drop in for help.

“It’s been a shift in our way of doing things,” he said. “We used to offer online tutoring for online and Camp Pendleton students only, as well as some of our remote sites. But we’ve opened it up for everybody, and we sped up the process to get this ready for students within the first week of the COVID-19 crisis.”

Mario Martinez, the Tutoring Center Coordinator of Palomar’s Escondido Education Center, said tutoring is a crucial service because of how it contributes in measurable ways to student success and retention.

“Videoconferencing replicates the face-to-face interaction that students are used to, and is providing better access for students,” said Martinez.