Jeff Carpenter, tutor specialist, Tutoring Center
Kipp Cozad, coordinator of tutoring and literacy, Tutoring Center
China Dostal, web services manager, Information Technology
Mike Loveday, senior web content specialist, Marketing and Communications
Ann Pendergast, tutor, Tutoring Center
Kaylyn Walters, lead tutor, Tutoring Center
Alec Werner, lead tutor, Tutoring Center

When COVID-19 was threatening to shut down the campus, the thought of how to continue providing tutoring to struggling students was keeping Kipp Cozad awake at night. He had to figure out how to provide the same level of service to students in an online environment as in a face-to-face setting.

“I was thinking, ‘How can we come up with a plan to do this?’” he said. Luckily, he had a team with a can-do attitude to transition the center into its new format.  This talented team was named the recipient of this year’s Innovation of the Year Award.

Cozad said he came to the center one morning and shared the changes he had formulated during a sleepless night with the team. He was quick to point out that  although he had many ideas, he needed others to enact them. “All the people who won this award had amazing skills,” Cozad said. “Jeff had a great ability to  make tutors feel comfortable. Alec had experience with online tutoring. Kaylyn was proficient using our TutorTrac software program and overhauled it so we could make appointments online. Ann helped implement the online processes and trained tutors and front desk workers. Ann, Alec and Kaylyn were hired as  effective tutors, and they became indispensable agents of creativity and ingenuity.” Cozad also credits Michael Morsches, dean of Learning Enrichment and  College Readiness, for supporting the team and trusting them to put their plan in place.

China Dostal and Mike Loveday created an online form students use to request a tutoring session. When a student completes the form, it goes to the Tutoring  Center’s email, which became the “virtual front desk.” Student workers then schedule the appointment through the TutorTrac system, and inform the tutor and  student of the scheduled time. The tutor then sends a Zoom link to the student worker staffing the virtual front desk to forward to the student. By continuing to  have student workers handle the scheduling function, the center was able to keep them employed and busy throughout the spring 2020 semester. Since then,  they have used work-study students, which saved the college money while providing jobs for students.

Werner said he thought about how things would work if tutoring went online even before Cozad announced the decision. “I didn’t even know if we were going to  have a Tutoring Center. My main concern was all the technology people would need to use,” he said. “Training was the biggest thing.” To ensure the 30 to 35  tutors learned the necessary software, Werner created instructional videos and worked individually with each one. Carpenter said, “The tutors responded so well  to this crisis. We’re proud of their efforts.”

Cozad enlisted Marketing and Communications’ help to inform students about the availability of online tutoring through MVConnect, eNews, Buzz and a social media campaign.

The project’s nominator highlighted its magnitude by stating, “If this team had not acted so promptly, we would have had no academic support  services for hundreds of students. This was critically important as they faced a modality shift they were not prepared for in courses where they needed extra  help.”

The center has conducted approximately 3,000 online appointments. In addition, the project’s nominator pointed out that the team created this program  at no additional cost to the college. “Other schools have resorted to outsourcing their online tutoring, ” he said.

The Tutoring Center’s pivot to an online environment impacted students in a profound way. “I’ve had students say, ‘I probably would have stopped school if it  wasn’t for online tutoring,” Werner said. “It’s such a wonderful feeling to be there for the students,” Cozad added. “And it shows what great people we have in the  Tutoring Center. We had to bring technology into every element of our systems where there wasn’t any before. Everybody had to think innovatively. It gives me  such pride to know these people are among us at the college, and that they do such an amazing job.”