Student visits — and grades — on the rise at ECC Tutoring Center
By Emily McFarlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org October 16, 2012 6:44PM
Student Sahaib Khan gets help working on calculus with tutor Bill Jasinski Thursday at the Tutoring Center in ECC. October 11, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 18, 2012 6:15AM
ELGIN — When Annabelle Rhoades, associate dean of academic supports at Elgin Community College, was in college herself, a tutoring notice basically was a handwritten sign stuck to a wall advertising a study group.
And that group was comprised of just students studying together — without the help of a real tutor or faculty member, she said.
Today, Elgin Community College Tutoring Center manager Susan Miedwig said, tutoring is more like Disney World.
At least, the two agreed, the new Tutoring Center inside the Renner Academic Library and Learning Resources at Elgin Community College is that way.
“It’s like being at Disney World because we help make dreams come true,” Miedwig said.
The Tutoring Center offers students help for credit classes through private, in-class and online tutoring with professionals who have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in the subject they tutor, according to Miedwig.
Students also can come in for “five minutes or five hours” during free, drop-in tutoring hours for specific subjects, she said.
New research by the community college shows that not only are more students taking advantage of that tutoring at the center, but also those students who do are outperforming their classmates.
The Tutoring Center opened in its new space on the second floor of the library earlier this year for the spring 2012 semester.
But there’s been a tutoring center somewhere on campus at Elgin Community College for 35 years, Rhoades said.
It started as private tutoring organized by a faculty member at a small table or two in the college library, she said. Students paid the equivalent of one credit hour — then $29 — for that tutoring in any subject, she said.
Later, it moved into its own center, which it shared with the Testing Center, now in Building K, according to the associate dean. It’s been in cafeteria bays and conference rooms. It moved four times just while the new center inside the library was under construction, starting in spring 2010, Miedwig added.
“But the students keep finding us,” Rhoades said.
In fact, Miedwig said, more students than ever are finding the Tutoring Center. And it already is outgrowing its new space, pushing some sections of drop-in tutoring into glass-walled study rooms around the library.
Tutoring for ESL and GED students is in Building K and — using models and other equipment for anatomy, physiology and biology — in the Health and Life Sciences Center.
During the seventh week of the fall semester this year, 534 students visited the center for drop-in tutoring, Miedwig said. That’s compared to 420 students during week seven of last year and 340 during that same week in 2010.
A total 10,154 students visited drop-in tutoring sessions last year at the Tutoring Center, a 157 percent increase from 2007 to 2011, according to the college. The center did not track drop-in visits until 2007.
From 2006 to 2011, it saw a 460 percent increase in private tutoring sessions. That included 2,849 sessions last year, a drop from 3,003 the year before as construction canceled private tutoring over the summer.
That has come as the college stresses to students that their college transcripts will follow them throughout their lives. And those transcripts won’t show the fact students have received tutoring, Miedwig said.
Tutoring can help those students improve their grades, she said.
Those who got tutoring last year earned an average grade of 2.12, compared to those who did not get tutoring, who earned an average 1.79, according to the college. That’s the difference between passing and not passing — a 2 is the equivalent of a C, and a 1, a D.
Miedwig’s goals for the Tutoring Center are “that every student know about tutoring and we are the hub of the campus,” she said.
“Everyone needs to know there’s a place to go. You need help? Come to tutoring. That’s all we do is support students and help them succeed.”
As midterms approached last week, the Tutoring Center certainly looked like the hub of the campus, with a steady stream of students into its reception area, and seats taken at every one of the seven tables in its main room.
Vijal Patel of Bartlett, a computer science student, said she was there for help studying for her calculus class. She motioned to Pooja Lally of Carpentersville, sitting at the table next to her, and joked she “just came for fun.”
Patel comes to the center before every midterm, and Lally ever other week, usually for math, they said.
Both agreed the tutoring was helpful. So much so, Lally said, she wasn’t even nervous about midterms.
“I’m fine because I studied,” she said. “If I didn’t study, then I’d be nervous.”