Sometimes students are looking for a little help when it comes to their classwork. That’s why Frederick Community College offers tutoring — both in-person and online — for free.
Near FCC’s Student Center are two in-person tutoring centers: the STEM Learning Center in Braddock Hall and the Tutoring and Writing Center in the Gladhill Learning Commons. The STEM Learning Center is located at Room B212 on the second floor of Braddock Hall; the Tutoring and Writing Center is located at Room L226 on the second floor of Linganore Hall. Currently, they are open on Mondays through Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A full professional staff of learning assistants at the two tutoring centers offers aid to students in a wide array of subjects. Students can drop-in in the centers and meet with the learning assistants on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“Both the STEM Center and the Tutoring and Writing Center have a crew to respond as people drop-in,” said Courtney Sloan, coordinator for the Tutoring and Writing Center.
Per its name, the STEM Learning Center and its learning assistants help students with various introductory STEM-related courses.
“That includes general biology, general chemistry, introductory computer science, mathematics, and physics,” said STEM Learning Center Coordinator Brian Penko.
Likewise, Sloan stated that the Tutoring and Writing Center assists students with gateway writing courses, including “all 100 level English courses and the below 100 levels.”
Sloan added that learning assistants at the Tutoring and Writing Center help students at any part of the writing process, not only with writing for humanities and English classes but also with writing “across the curriculum.”
“It doesn’t matter what class you’re in,” said Sloan. “If there’s a writing assignment in your science class, or if you have a discussion board, or if you’re trying to understand an assignment, you can still come to us.” \
Sloan said the Tutoring and Writing Center also helps students improve their study skills, like “how to read better, take better notes, and get over testing anxiety.”
For students who aren’t able to attend tutoring on campus, FCC also offers online tutoring, which can be accessed through Blackboard.
“We want to be wherever students need us to be, and there are still a lot of students who are using structured remote or hybrid or online classes, so we also have options for online tutoring that you can access in two different ways,” Sloan said.
The first option is working with an online tutor from ThinkingStorm. A national organization, ThinkingStorm offers assistance for the following subjects: mathematics, the sciences, writing, business, computing and software, and Spanish. For some subjects, appointments are necessary; for subjects that are drop-in and available 24/7, appointments are not required. Students can access up to 15 hours of free tutoring from ThinkingStorm per semester.
The second option is working with an FCC online tutor. Penko said that, compared to in-person tutoring, “online services have more availability as far as dates and times.” While on-campus tutoring is only available Mondays through Thursdays, online services have Monday through Saturday options available, excluding holidays.
Unlike in-person tutoring, online sessions with FCC tutors are done by appointment, and according to Sloan, online sessions need to be made at least 24 hours in advance. All online sessions are conducted via Zoom and are 1 hour in duration.
Sloan noted that Blackboard has an option that allows students to submit papers for feedback from FCC tutors.
“If you have a writing assignment and you’d like some feedback or some ways to improve it, you can also drop off the paper within Blackboard, and within 48 hours, not including Sundays and holidays, we can get the paperback to students with comments on ways to improve it and what they’re doing great,” Sloan said.
The difference between ThinkingStorm tutors and FCC online tutors is that ThinkingStorm tutors are unaffiliated with FCC.
“They have a lot more hours than our online FCC tutoring has because their tutors are people all over the nation,” Sloan said, “but they might not know specifically what’s going on at FCC and the specific assignments, so it’s much more general assistance.”
FCC online tutors, on the other hand, are “all people who have been working here at FCC, and who know the assignment or have taken the classes,” Sloan said. “They offer a lot more in-depth and personalized assistance for FCC students.”
A Glimpse into A Tutoring Session
Cara Johnson, a learning assistant at the STEM Learning Center, was motivated to become a tutor when she saw how tutoring helped her students improve their grades. Johnson helps students with math-related subjects and introductory chemistry, and this semester marks her fifth at FCC.
Johnson described how the beginning of a typical tutoring session starts with asking students what they’re working on.
“It could be homework, it could be questions from their notes,” said Johnson. “Whatever they need help on, one of us helps them with that, and sometimes we’re working with multiple people at once.
“Usually, we’re going through homework problems with students, so they bring up their math or chemistry homework, and then we just go through the questions with them. Usually, I do one and then have them try some other ones to make sure that they got it,” Johnson said.
To keep sessions engaging for students, Johnson said she tries to prevent it from feeling like a classroom.
“I try to make sure that it’s not a situation where it’s just me talking and just them listening because that’s very boring for students,” Johnson said. “That way, they’re engaged in the problems with me instead of me just teaching them.”
For Johnson, seeing her students improve has been the most rewarding part of being a tutor. “Seeing students being successful at things they thought they couldn’t be successful at and getting A’s or B’s in their classes is always very satisfying,” Johnson said.
Like Johnson, Jennifer Georg, a learning assistant at the Tutoring and Writing Center, was inspired to become a tutor after seeing the benefits it gave her students.
“I saw a lot of my students who did take time to work with a tutor really become more successful,” said Georg.
Georg has been a faculty member at FCC since 2005, and a tutor since 2010. She helps students improve their writing in various subjects, including science-related courses. When asked what a typical tutoring session looks like, Georg said, “Basically, we work on what the student needs help with, so it can look like all kinds of things.”
Sometimes the students were overwhelmed by a new assignment. “They’re not sure what to do with it. I have an assignment sheet, so we begin to talk through and take apart the assignment sheet,” said Georg.
At other times, Georg recalled, “I’ve had students who come in who would like somebody to look over their paper. Or they have a paper halfway written but don’t know where to go with the next paragraph. We help a student with whatever is needed, like generating ideas, organizing, all the way to giving it a final read-through and providing any additional thoughts on something they might have missed.”
To keep the session fun for students, Georg said that she tries to make it more of a casual conversation, where she’s “not an expert telling you what to do, but rather making a suggestion and how you can apply that.”
“It definitely becomes less boring as long as you keep it conversational,” said Georg.
Being a tutor has been a rewarding experience for Georg. “It’s always exciting when the students feel like they know what they’re doing and understand it and are going to be successful as a result,” Georg said. “It’s also really fun when they come back and say, ‘Hey, you helped me on that paper and I did much better than I would’ve otherwise, thank you.’ That kind of thing makes it all worth it.”
The successes of her students have made Georg wish that the idea of tutoring centers existed when she was in college. “It helps students so if they take time to utilize the service,” said Georg.
Sloan shares the same sentiment. “What we’re really here for is to walk the path alongside each student who comes to see us, and just help take some of that stress off, so that they can go further and be more successful,” said Sloan.
In fact, Sloan added, “The students who see us most often are the ones who are doing well in their classes, because they realize that by coming to see us, we can help them go farther, faster, and with less stress.”