A vision for online “tutoring”

If you haven’t heard, the California Community College (CCC) system has undertaken a 57 million dollar, 5 year (to begin with), Online Education Initiative. Check it out if you haven’t heard about it – suffice to say it’s a grand vision for supporting student access and success across the system that goes far beyond provision of online courses to online learning infrastructure and integrated support services for students and faculty across the 112 CCCs.

I am participating in a small working group considering how online tutoring should be a part of the mix (since I helped MiraCosta to become the first CCC to offer online tutoring via the Western eTutoring Consortium rather than by outsourcing completely). In our early discussion, we have been invited to consider a grand vision for online tutoring. Here’s mine – what do you think?

Aristotle tutoring Alexander

Aristotle tutoring Alexander (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Online tutoring in a perfect world is a great support option for all students, not just those enrolled in online classes. The advantages of high-quality learning online are brought to bear: anywhere, anytime, rich media, abundant high-quality relevant resources, a supportive community, flexible options for presentation of information, engaging interaction, and systemic analytics and processes that over time make online support even easier and more targeted for each individual as well as enabling continuous systems improvement.

In this vision, online tutoring is not just a quick fix, remedial option for struggling students, but a performance enhancer, a support mechanism with the potential to help every learner – even those who are already excelling – to go beyond their current capabilities.

Online tutoring in a perfect world is not merely an “extra” layer of support services that students must seek out beyond their typical educational routine. Rather, every faculty member, every course, and even other non-course academic and student support areas (e.g. the library) find ways to integrate online tutoring on-ramps/opportunities throughout the student experience so that tutoring is seen as normal, present, integral, and available whenever it might be needed.

In this vision maybe “tutoring” as a term becomes obsolete and we need to craft a new, more expansive word that encompasses this notion of ever-present support. As this evolves it might more seamlessly incorporate and interface with other forms of online support for all learners, including peer communities, counseling and advising, mentoring, real-world connections with community members, support programs for special populations, co-curricular and extra-curricular experiences, library resources, discipline-specific resources, information literacy guidance, tech support, study skills, etc.

Would love to get more thoughts on this …