Smarthinking Submit Essay For Publication

As of June 2003, SMARTHINKING's e-structors have served 34,311 students, logging over 155,859 individual tutorial sessions. Grounded in principles of effective instructor training, the virtues of one-to-one instruction have been extensively documented. There is significant formal research that supports SMARTHINKING's approach to one-to-one instruction and supplemental services. Psychologists as well as educational researchers have found that one-to-one supplemental tutoring programs across disciplines improve student performance (see, for example, Cohen, Kulik and Kulik 1982, Bloom 1984, Frey and Reigeluth 1986, Hock 1995, Topping 1996, Bender 1997, Ginsburg and Fantuzzo 1997, King 1998, Mann and Rheinheimer 2000, Falchikov 2001, Moss 2001, Baker 2002). Positive effects on learning, attitudes, and self-perception, increased confidence, and better performance have all been documented. Effectiveness has been measured broadly in terms of grades/class performance, persistence in a particular class, retention and "students' attitudes towards tutoring" (Maxwell, 1990, p. 14). Maxwell (1990) also concludes that tutoring has improved the retention and attitudes of disadvantaged minority students (see, for example, Akah 1990, House and Wohlt 1991). Boylan, Bonham, and Bliss (1995) found that students who worked with trained tutors exhibited higher performance, while those students who worked with untrained tutors did not. A seven-year longitudinal study of the effectiveness of peer tutoring by Reinheimer and Mann (2000) found that five or more hours of tutoring increased performance. Interestingly, same-sex tutor/tutee pairs were no more effective that cross-sex pairs. Finally, academic organizations such as the National Association for Developmental Education have compiled comprehensive annotated bibliographies of research studies further documenting the effectiveness of tutoring (see for example, Annotated Research Bibliographies in Developmental Education: Tutoring 2000). It should be noted, however, that the internet, as employed by SMARTHINKING, allows new teaching strategies as well as a level of flexibility and data collection that is entirely new to the provision of tutoring and instruction. The elements unique to teaching and learning in an online environment, therefore, remain largely unstudied. Preliminary research by Lotze (2002) indicates that online tutoring in mathematics can be effective in facilitating student learning. SMARTHINKING is currently exploring "Success" in term of student and faculty perspectives, student outcomes (grades and retention), and the nature of the online instructional process. To investigate overall satisfaction, perceived helpfulness of the service, perceived benefits in terms of, for example, deeper learning and confidence, online surveys have been administered to both students and faculty at client institutions. Overall, students who have used SMARTHINKING report improved grades and high levels of satisfaction with the learning experience at SMARTHINKING. When difficulties are reported, it is typically due to technological or internet-based problems. Preliminary findings from another study exploring both the process of online writing instruction as well as student outcomes provide further evidence that SMARTHINKING's online instruction does improve student grades and, most importantly, the quality of the student learning (Hewett, forthcoming). Set within the context of a writing class at a post-secondary institution, this study investigates whether and how students use SMARTHINKING's e-structors' comments to improve their writing. The changes that students do make are investigated for their quality and link to the overall improvement and clarity of the essay. Student satisfaction surveys have also yielded largely positive results. The biggest hurdle in student satisfaction seems to be related to the conquering of fears of using technology in new ways. Official findings are to be published in 2004. Finally, plans for a larger scale, longitudinal study that investigates student pass rates, retention, and perceived benefits are also in development. The implementation of this project is still to be determined. Our experience also suggests that options such as pre-scheduled sessions, asynchronous essay/question submissions, and live "droping" tutoring, make using support services more convenient for the student. Providing students with a "suite" instructional options improves usage and subsequent student success. Further, initial reports from schools who use aggregate and individual usage data provided by SMARTHINKING, indicate that it helps them better direct instruction and resources to students who most need them.

 

Finally, SMARTHINKING has conducted research into the training of online instructors. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is currently reviewing a book submitted for publication that presents SMARTHINKING's principle-centered training methodology for online instructors. Refined and tested during the course of training over 400 online instructors, SMARTHINKING's training methodology is geared to producing highly qualified online instructors and sets research agenda for investigating distinctive elements of online teaching and learning.

Cons

The expectations are absurd. Essays can range anywhere from first year college students composition papers, ESL papers, business reports, and resumes to PhD dissertation chapters. The tutor must create three original, personalized lessons for each paper in 30 minutes, even if the paper is over 20 pages and the subject matter is not even close to the tutor's field of study (such as nursing graduate papers or resumes for business majors). The essays are downloaded by the students, and the tutor has no idea what type of essay will appear or if the student includes any type of assignment instructions.
 Lead tutors always look for something wrong in the tutor's response and never, ever give high ratings for a tutor's work.
If the tutor has a Ph,D. (and many do), they get a whopping $12/h. Those with masters degrees get $10. These rates are lower than what fast food workers make, and high expertise in writing, grammar, style, and career advice is required. Then the tutor's hard work and expertise is continuously bashed during reviews.

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