Peer Tutoring Amidst School Closures | How One High School Moved Its Program Online

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This is a follow-up post on the peer tutoring program of Pioneer Valley High School, which was recently featured on this blog. In the article below, program coordinator, Heidi Leal shares what has been done to keep their peer tutoring program running during mandatory school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 20th commenced our first week of tutors offering tutoring through video conferences. We and the tutors had to learn a lot within a short period of time. We put this all together within a matter of a week. First of all, my district is very fortunate to have a full time Technology teacher on “special assignment” who helped us determine the best online platform to use for video conferencing. We had thought of using Zoom but became aware of its privacy issues. Nonetheless, every district and school will have to determine what online video conferencing platform they want to use.

We contacted the tutors and proposed the idea of video conference tutoring sessions. We had a good response with nine out of fourteen tutors agreeing to work via video conferencing.
Next, we held a video conference with the tutors to discuss how the policies and procedures we had in place prior to school closure would adjust or remain now that tutoring was going to be offered in online format. We also scheduled time for tutors to practice hosting and being participants in video conferences to help them better assist their tutees through their first session.

Here is the plan we came up with:

  • We would have to adjust the tutoring schedules which we found to be more flexible since we didn’t’ have the school time frame and location parameters to deal with.
  • Attendance expectations would remain the same for tutees (missing four sessions would cause them to be dropped from the program).
  • Tutors would only be paid if their tutee attended the tutoring session (normally tutors get paid to stay in the library and are available for walk-in tutees).
  • For liability reasons, whatever video conferencing platform we chose would have to allow the tutoring supervisor to drop in and view the tutoring sessions. We didn’t want to give the kids an online video platform that would leave them “alone in a classroom” so to speak. The tutoring supervisor would be able to drop in and out of sessions and go back and view recorded sessions as needed. We also determined it would be helpful to use a video conferencing tool that allowed for screen sharing, drawing boards, notes etc. We went with Canvas Video Conferences which allowed recordings of the tutoring sessions.
  • These recorded videos would also serve as documentation of attendance for both tutor and tutee. This was important because the district pays our tutors.

One downside we came across was that the video conferencing platform did not have a tool that would make it easy for drop-in tutoring. Also, internet connection was a challenge since it wasn’t always stable either on the tutors' or the tutees' side but they did their best.

We had planned to have a training session with the Tech teacher shortly after online tutoring began to address any questions or concerns that the tutors could have had and to show tutors what tools were available to use but the tutors had already become quite savvy and were discovering these tools on their own. Overall, it has been a good experience.

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