UMSU developing peer-to-peer tutoring service

The UMSU executive is making good on its promise to introduce a peer-to-peer tutoring platform for students.

The idea was introduced by the Elevate UMSU slate, which went on to sweep the executive ballot, during the 2018 UMSU general elections.

The project, which will connect students with student tutors through an online app, began to take shape in the summer.

In August, UMSU president Jakob Sanderson said there were already more than 100 tutor applicants for the program. At the Sept. 13 UMSU board of directors meeting, it was announced UMSU hired a part-time staffer to handle the influx of applications and vet potential tutors.

It was also noted that UMSU hoped to have a base of tutors ready for “mid to late September” and would advertise the program to possible tutees then.

UMSU VP student services Carly Mastromonaco said the app will be a chance for students to get help from peers with specific classes.

“This program offers students the opportunity to connect with peers and be tutored one-on-one in course-specific topics,” Mastromonaco said.

The university offers a student-centric tutoring program through the Academic Learning Centre (ALC). Located in the Tier building, the centre offers peer writing tutors, peer study skill coaches, online tutoring, writing workshops and more.

The ALC also provides resources for English as an additional language (EAL) students, including an EAL instructor who, along with assistance with assignments, provides support with communication skills and improving students’ grasp of the English language.

According to the Aug. 30 UMSU board of governors meeting agenda, peer tutors hired through the UMSU program “may earn up to $15/hour” when approved. Tutors can request a maximum of $15 an hour for their services, which will then be paid by the student through the app.

The ALC writing tutor position and the ALC content/study skills tutor position both remunerate $17 an hour.

Outside of fees included in base tuition costs, the ALC tutoring service is free to students.

Mastromonaco said the UMSU peer tutoring service can be considered a different service from the ALC because of its course-specific options.

“While providing some course-specific tutoring options to students, the ALC focuses heavily on general academic writing and studying skills,” Mastromonaco said.

“This program provides heightened accessibility to course-specific tutors, the program helps to facilitate the efficacy of connecting a tutee to a tutor and will hopefully address the overwhelming volume of students looking for course-specific help on campus.”

The ALC is not the only tutoring resource available to U of M students. Many faculties have their own separate systems, including a tutor registry set up by the faculty of engineering, and help centres for math, physics and computer science.

The UMSU tutoring program will operate through the Nimbus tutoring mobile app, which will, according to a Facebook post published by UMSU, allow students to “match with interested tutees, set up meetings and communication and control payment in app.”

When asked about the overall cost of setting up the app, the vetting process of hiring tutors and other fees, Mastromonaco said there were “no numbers available.”

Tutors will also have the opportunity to receive a letter of reference for their services.