The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

City College math students now automatically enrolled in Math Lab tutoring

(James Fife/[email protected])

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, most City College students and faculty have been immersed in a new form of education—distance learning. With that change, City College has implemented a new online learning resource for math students: they are now automatically enrolled in Math Lab tutoring.

Halsey Boyd, the Math Lab faculty coordinator, organizes free tutoring for courses such as mathematics and statistics, but he also said that the Math Lab can help with other courses that have a math component, like geography and nursing.

Before the pandemic, students had to go through three different manual processes to sign up for math tutoring, Boyd said. He hopes that, by consolidating the process and moving the manual registration to automatic, those seeking math tutoring services will find it less stressful and enable them to focus on other priorities. 

“We felt that it was a barrier in that students already have to go through a lot of administrative hurdles. They have financial aid they have to navigate through. They have admissions, they have holds, probations—so, just to remove some of that for them we thought was a good idea,” said Boyd. “We thought taking out steps for them would be easier.”

According to Boyd, there used to be a paper tracking system used for the Math Lab, which required a 24-hour wait after students signed up. In addition, math faculty had to manually enroll their students for tutoring. The new automatic enrollment helps faculty spend more time with their students and increase the availability of tutoring sessions.

“It’s pretty easy. The tutors will give their optimal schedules, and we’ll look at what times we need the most help—which is usually [during] the core of the day—and we’ll plug the students or the tutors into the specific time slots. It works fairly organically,” said Boyd. 

Boyd explained that when students need a tutoring slot, they are able to find availability, just as their tutors need hours in those respective slots. He added that if a student needs a different time slot or help with a subject not covered by a tutor, the Math Lab will try to accommodate that student. 

“Our tutors are very willing to try if they don’t quite have the exact same subject or at least to  find resources that will help students,” stated Boyd.

However, the Math Lab faces funding challenges, Boyd said. The Math Lab’s budget must meet the challenges imposed by online learning while maintaining maximum efficiency for faculty, tutors and students. 

“The minimum wage is going up, but the funding has stayed the same, so we’ve had to do the same amount of work but with less money. We’ve had to scale back or be more strategic in our offerings,” explained Boyd. 

The Math Lab has shifted hours, removed tutors when they’re not needed and tried to be more strategic about how to allocate its funding. Despite limited resources, Boyd said, they still try to provide the utmost accessibility and quality of services for City College students. 

In addition, Boyd said that there are advantages to online tutoring. He stated that students are able to have social interactions, which are now restricted due to COVID-19, and that they can also get extra help that may—since professors and students alike are new to online learning—be harder to come by. 

“Students may need more help than they did before. They may need help with the online aspect, such as how to submit something online to Canvas or even how a Canvas shell works for their professors,” said Boyd. “The students are needing even more assistance with the material but also with just online learning. So it’s been very beneficial for students to get that support and navigate through the system.”

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One of the biggest problems of online tutoring is the evolution and growth required of a student, Boyd explained. Every student has a different level of computer skills and computer literacy, which can affect how successful they are when working with computer programs required to complete mathematics courses at City College. 

Boyd pointed out that gaining these skills can take a little bit longer for some students. To help with that, the Math Lab has created short workshops for students, posted short tutorials and built modules focused on specific topics in Canvas.

“For example, we see a bunch of students who need help with equations, and we would build some material and worksheets and contents around that and then give access for our students,” said Boyd.

According to Boyd, the Math Lab tries to work with students who have obstacles,  particularly with students who cannot attend tutoring sessions during the Math Lab’s normal hours. Some students may work two jobs, have their family responsibilities or are going through life ordeals that affect their health and well being. 

“One of the issues is to find resources for those students who can’t make it to the tutoring center during our open hours, so we have a pop-up session where we just pop up in an open room on a Sunday night or Saturday morning—just random times,” said Boyd. “We have an overnight question board for students; they can post at 2 a.m. if they want to.”  

As with any new method of teaching, there are always kinks that need to be straightened out for the benefit of the faculty and students. Boyd indicated that getting tutors acclimated to teaching online in Zoom or Discord was initially an issue.

“Our tutoring itself is pretty smooth now. Students come in and they go into a breakout room and work individually or in a small group,” Boyd said, adding that he would like to offer a chat option rather than just a video interaction. 

According to Boyd, he said a chat version of online learning would benefit students who do not have a computer, laptop or iPad readily available. He indicated that it would be helpful if students could use their phones to access the Math Lab’s tutoring services through a chat option.

“We are still working on [the chat option] because the equations—how do we incorporate equations into that or math symbols?” Boyd explained. “We are still trying to find the optimal ability to chat with students and provide a different avenue for students who don’t have video or a computer at the time.”

Based on his findings of accessibility and student interest in utilizing these services, Boyd thinks that online Math Lab tutoring will remain a part of City College tutorial services.

“I think it is a success, and I think it’s now something that we’re going to continue to do, even when we go back to a primarily face-to-face model,” said Boyd. 

Online learning has opened the gateway for students who are non-traditional, have commuting issues or otherwise could not reach out for help by visiting City College services on campus, explained Boyd.

“I think it’s a success because, at the very least, we are offering tutoring now for a huge population of students who, for whatever reason, cannot access our live, physical location,” Boyd said. “Those are students during the day or have child care, those are probably students who want to stay at home and don’t want to commute. I had a student who would commute an hour a day just to come to campus and back and some days just to come to the lab. I think there are a lot of students who can be reached.”

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