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A New Pilot Program Makes Tutoring Accessible to Non-Traditional Students

For non-traditional students, tutors can be hard to find at the times they’re needed most. Students juggle homework between work shifts and kids’ daycare schedules. They do reading over lunch breaks and on subways. They’re often working late at night when tutoring centers are closed.

Myles HunterMyles Hunter

But McGraw-Hill, an education publishing company, and TutorMe, an online tutoring service, are partnering to tackle the problem with a new semester-long pilot program this fall.

McGraw-Hill already offers personalized online courses, supplemental materials and digital textbooks. But the company will now give students access to TutorMe tutors as they work through course material on McGraw-Hill Connect and McGraw-Hill ALEKS, two of its learning platforms.

Students can reach tutors any time of day or night, and the program will ensure that every student can take advantage of an hour of free tutoring.

“This partnership will really allow us to help all learners be more successful in academics,” said TutorMe CEO and Co-Founder Myles Hunter. “We’re pleased to offer a service that makes McGraw-Hill’s textbooks more personalized and effective and will help with understanding the content available on the exact subject at the exact time the student needs help. It works for any student from any background, giving them needed support busy professors might not be able to provide.”

TutorMe tutors specialize in more than 300 subjects and now have been trained to specifically work with McGraw-Hill content. The service allows students to match online with tutors trained in the particular area they’re studying. Tutors can communicate with them through live audio and video chats, virtual whiteboards and screen-sharing.

“You’re working with an expert in whatever subject you’re working in,” Hunter said. “Sometimes a video on YouTube doesn’t suffice, and you really want to take a step back and work with someone one-on-one so they’re able to really help you with your particular needs and the problems you’re having in terms of understanding.”

For now, tutoring will be available for McGraw-Hill’s coursework in anatomy and physiology, math, accounting and English. But if surveys show students engaging with and benefiting from it, McGraw-Hill plans to include tutoring with more of its coursework. The company might also partner with more tutoring services and individual schools to expand the program’s reach.

“It’s the beginning,” said Scott Virkler, chief product and operations officer for higher education at McGraw-Hill. “We don’t pretend to have all the answers. We know we’re not perfect. But we’re trying a variety of different things to help our instructors help students.”

Scott VirklerScott Virkler

The pilot program comes after a study by McGraw-Hill that surveyed 3,000 students about their confidence in their academic skills. It found that students from low-income families felt less confident but were also less likely to admit when they were struggling with their work. By making tutoring free and readily available within the coursework itself, the hope is underserved students will feel more comfortable reaching out to tutors for the help they need.

An online forum can be less intimidating and more immediately accessible when students are doing their work outside of school hours.

The program is responding to students’ diverse needs, Virkler said. Increasingly, undergraduates aren’t all full-time students in their 20s with college-educated families who can help them navigate their work.

“If you don’t have someone mentoring you in some capacity – whether it’s family, friends, a teacher or a peer – it can become really daunting,” Virkler said.

The pilot “gives them the opportunity to easily ask for help at the point in time that they need help. That alone is a big step forward.”

Virkler knows how challenging that can be from personal experience. He was the first college graduate in his family. His two children – now both in college – have advantages he never had.

“My parents couldn’t help me,” he said. “I had to figure it out. I don’t know if I ever even knew there was tutoring on campus when I was in school.”

Virkler is excited to see McGraw-Hill using technology to bridge those gaps. He said using their online resources is like looking at “the smartest kid’s used book” with all of its notes and highlights, now with tutoring built in.

He hopes the pilot program will engage students who need extra support but might not know how to find it.

“It gets us out of bed,” he said. “It gets us to come to work. When you get on campus, you can really see you’re making a difference.”

Sara Weissman can be reached at [email protected].

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