THE INSTITUTE The COVID-19 pandemic has forced universities around the world to close their campuses and offer classes online. Faculty members and students have had to adjust to this new way of teaching and learning. To help with this transition at the University of Rhode Island (URI) in South Kingstown, members of the school’s student branch are offering remote tutoring to their classmates.
Faculty members are now spending more time preparing handouts, presentations, and tests for class and have less time to interact with students, said IEEE Member Peter Swaszek, the university’s associate dean of Academic Affairs, in a news release about the tutoring program.
“Students can’t just wander into a professor's office or converse with friends while leaving class. Faculty and students lost that connection in the sudden transition to online learning,” he said.
The remote tutoring sessions, which are conducted through the Webex video conferencing program, offer students the chance to not only ask questions about the material presented in class but also gives them a way to socialize with each other.
ADAPTING TO DISTANCE LEARNING
The IEEE student branch has been offering in-person tutoring sessions to the university’s EE students for the past few years but, now that the campus is closed, the tutors had to change the way they offered their services, according to the news release.
“These are challenging classes that have been made more challenging by the fact that they are not in person,” said IEEE Student Member Nicholas Amore, president of the IEEE student branch. “Adding remote study sessions provides students with more opportunities to reinforce concepts or clarify issues.”
The response to the IEEE student branch's online tutoring sessions has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Amore. The tutors had to set up an additional room in Webex to accommodate the number of students who signed up.
Having two rooms allowed for smaller groups, which gave tutors the ability to answer more questions, said IEEE Student Member Robin Hall, a member of the student branch, in the news release.
In addition to helping students understand the material, the sessions also allow them to socialize with each other during a time of social distancing.
“It's important for students to still connect and maintain a semblance of normalcy during these times,” Amore said. “The barrage of news [about the pandemic] and changes to schedules can be anxiety-inducing. Some of that anxiety can be alleviated by keeping a schedule similar to what we had when we were all still on campus.”
The tutors have also started recording tutorials as a way to supplement their live sessions.
“We are releasing basic tutorials on such subjects as LTspice, a free software that simulates circuits,” Amore said. “The tutorials will help students check homework answers and allow them to visualize what certain circuit topologies do, which is beneficial because they don’t have access to a lab.”
Joanna Goodrich is the associate editor of The Institute, covering the work and accomplishments of IEEE members and IEEE and technology-related events. She has a master's degree in health communications from Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, N.J.