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PCC’s Academic Support leaders and staff create Virtual Tutoring for students

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A screen capture of one of Karin Gitchel's Zoom meetings. Gitchel is the Rock Creek Campus Academic Support manager.

A screen capture of one of Karin Gitchel’s Zoom meetings. Gitchel is the Rock Creek Campus Academic Support manager.

Portland Community College may be conducting business and classes online, but that doesn’t mean students can’t get the support they need to facilitate their academic success.

The college’s Tutoring Centers haven’t stopped offering service because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; rather, they’re offering remote tutoring beginning spring term. In addition to eTutoring, Virtual Tutoring is now available to all PCC registered students using the Zoom platform for “Drop In Tutoring” appointments. Services are staffed with tutors and part-time faculty trained to provide personalized virtual tutoring sessions.

PCC recently announced it would move business operations remotely and offer classes online until May 4.

Cascade Academic Support Coordinator Amanda Harrison is hard at work from home.

Cascade Academic Support Coordinator Amanda Harrison is hard at work from home.

To maintain services that support equitable student success during this time, Virtual Tutoring centers across the college are providing more tools, resources and options to students. This enables students to see and connect with familiar faces they know from their respective campuses, and it allows for real-time, culturally responsive tutoring options.

“Our goal is to provide PCC students as many resources as possible during this unprecedented move to virtual/remote classes and online learning,” said Kellin Thompson, interim manager for Academic Support. “We are here to partner with others in new and powerful ways to support our students.”

The conversion has been driven by numerous college departments, including 200 PCC staff who put in long hours to make online tutoring a reality. Academic Support staff conducted more than 40 Zoom meetings and training sessions to prepare for the historic term. In Academic Support, work was led by Amanda Harrison (Cascade coordinator), Gloria Bryant (eTutoring coordinator), Jerry Annen (Southeast interim manager), Karin Gitchel (Rock Creek manager) and Thompson.

Their teamwork resulted in a virtual system where students can see and connect with tutors from subject areas like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, ESOL, Math, Reading, Writing, and others. All of these subjects are supported by the Academic Support Centers and the World Languages Department.

Cascade Campus student Vivi Chen provides virtual tutoring support through the Student Learning Center.

Cascade Campus student Vivi Chen provides virtual tutoring support through the Student Learning Center.

Students connect at the tutoring homepage where they can access virtual services by clicking on the campus of their choice. Each campus webpage features the subject schedule for tutoring, sign-in options, and links for one-on-one bookable appointments, as well as access to the Zoom waiting room for drop-in virtual tutoring.

Plans are moving quickly as Academic Support employees continue to add subject areas and support. Staff will provide more links along with schedules on the tutoring webpage, and they encourage students to take advantage of the tutors available and connect with them.

In the end, the strong district collaboration among PCC staff has led to a consistent online experience to benefit students — at the same time staff has adjusted their home lives to set up their remote workstations.

“I have noticed that, as we all work together to stop the spread of this new virus, something else is spreading,” said PCC President Mark Mitsui. “It is a resurgent sense of collaboration, creativity in providing instruction, student services and operations, as well as a determination to bridge our new social distance in innovative ways. It is a sense that we will get through this together.”

Virtual Tutoring Tips
  • Plan ahead: have textbooks, questions and materials ready.
  • Be sure to share the full wording of the problems you would like to work on.
  • Test links and ensure your computer/iPad/iPhone can connect via video and microphone.
  • Students do not need to be experts in tech to use this service and should be patient as tutors, staff and students are learning the system together.
  • Computers and smart devices are not required to access remote tutoring. It is accessible via phone.

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About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Public Relations Manager at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section editor for the Newberg Graphic, Wo... more »