Merrimack College’s Academic Success Center has moved all of its services online, offering students virtual tutoring, coaching and social experiences while on-campus classes are suspended during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I would encourage every student to visit our website to learn about our resources and ask questions,” said Assistant Dean of Student Success Robert Koch. “The more we help students, the more they can be successful in this crisis. We need everybody to use all their tools and resources.”
Remote learning isn’t a new concept for the Academic Success Center. The center had online learning strategies in place before the pandemic, including a team of tutors who were already trained in online one-on-one work.
Jonathan Grossman, assistant director of student success, had prior experience in tutoring math in the online environment. He quickly moved math tutoring onto Blackboard Ultra with the help of the IT Department. The Tutoring and Math Center now offers virtual tutoring throughout the day.
The center has been using Zoom, a cloud-based video conferencing service to coordinate virtual meetings with students and staff. Professors are using the technology to hold classes, while peer tutors and academic coaches are using it to meet with students one-on-one.
“Zoom has worked extremely well for remote coaching and connecting with our students,” said Assistant Dean of Student Success Jennifer Evans.
Video conferencing allows tutors and professors to share information with students more quickly than emails or telephone calls. It also lets them see students’ facial expressions to better judge whether they understand the material or are feeling frustrated or confused, Evans said.
Zoom offers the important bonus of maintaining the sense of community that is a hallmark of Merrimack’s campus.
“I think it helps our students when they see everybody in their class through Zoom,” Evans said. “It also helps them have a sense of structure. Course work is something they have some control over to help them move forward with their goals in an uncertain time for society.”