DMACC Student Earns Scholarship with Support from College's Online Tutoring Services

Posted 4/13/2020

DMACC Program Allows Free Online Tutorial Help Districtwide​

The new DMACC Online Tutoring (DOT) service is helping students in many ways, now providing online, face-to-face tutoring services to students. Because of the COVID-19 virus, DMACC students are now taking their credit classes online, and DOT is helping them to also access DMACC tutoring services online. DOT is available to all DMACC students across the state and around the world.

DMACC Urban Campus Paralegal student Lane Williams of Des Moines not only uses the services for his classes, he reached out to the expertise within the Writing Lab to help him receive a $1,000 DMACC Foundation Scholarship for the 2020 summer semester.

A significant portion of consideration for a DMACC Foundation Scholarship award is based upon the submission of an essay, grades and financial status.

“Since this spring semester is my first time back in class in quite a long while, I was aware that the quality and content of my essay would be very important," Williams said. “In fact, this spring will be my first-ever completed semester of college."

Williams said due to his work schedule, he was unable to get to the DMACC Academic Achievement Center (ACC), DMACC's in-person free tutoring service, for advice, so he submitted his scholarship essay through DOT.

“He wanted to spruce up his essay to get a scholarship," said faculty member Ellen Wilke in the DOT Writing Lab. “I knew the requirements and came up with some ways to improve his essay. He did it entirely through the online system."

Williams said Wilke provided helpful guidance online.

“She gave me excellent feedback about grammar corrections, clarification on punctuation and notes about where I should consider culling my essay for readability and pertinent information," Williams said. “I took her advice and made appropriate changes before submitting my scholarship application. I consider myself a decent writer, but no writer is so good that they can't use someone else's expertise in order to make it better. I truly believe that without Ms. Wilke's editorial advice, I could not have been as successful in my endeavor. It is unfathomable to me that any student wouldn't take advantage of the AAC or DOT."

Williams said after he got home from work, he checked his student email and was notified that he was awarded the DMACC Foundation Scholarship. He said it could not have could at a better time.

“Earlier in the day, I had been furloughed by my employer due to our decreasing workflow because of COVID-19," Williams said.

DMACC Online Tutoring (DOT) was started as part of a college-wide leadership project.

“One of my tasks was to explore how academic support services can be extended to other parts of the institution beyond the traditional face-to-face tutoring," said Farfum Ladroma, Testing Coordinator at the Urban Campus Academic Achievement Center. “Online tutoring was a potential area in the college that had room for continuous improvement."

He said a needs assessment was conducted with Urban Campus students over three semesters with the recurring theme that students wanted extended tutoring hours during nights and weekends because many students work during the day and cannot make it to the physical AAC before it closed for the evening.

Ladroma said with no grants or funds to purchase software, DMACC Senior Business Solutions Analyst Jim Rehder and DMACC Distance Learning Technology Director Joe Raineri were instrumental in the development of DOT through Microsoft SharePoint and Blackboard Collaborate programs. The Online Writing Submissions feature allows DMACC students to submit their essays and receive feedback from Writing Lab consultants within 48-72 hours with an optional online meeting with the consultant to discuss their paper further.

He said he partnered with faculty to encourage their students to use the new online system as part of the pilot.    

“Once students started using it and realized how easy DOT was, we got multiple repeat students," Ladroma said.

And then the coronavirus hit.

“Prior to COVID19, we were piloting the Writing, Math, Research/Library, Science and Computer Lab," Ladroma said. “Once COVID-19 happened, we quickly condensed our two- to three-year timeline to three days. Today, Social Science, Accounting and Engineering/C++ Program Languages joined the other existing labs. Approximately 80 percent of our traditional face-to-face Urban AAC tutoring transitioned to the online format. We already had the infrastructure and resources developed so we worked with tutors from all our AACs across the district to increase the capacity to serve all DMACC students." 

Ladroma said they started with a math class and then added more math sections and eventually covered all Urban Math sections. They then expanded to the Science department and the Urban library, followed by the Writing Lab.

“Once we had the basic foundation developed, we expanded the entire Urban campus and made it available on our website for more students to access," Ladroma said. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the timeline again was moved up dramatically, but our Urban AAC team was ready to transition fully online and serve our students. I think we had an advantage compared to other institutions as we had a viable fully online program with trained staff ready to go." 

He said in the beginning, students were hesitant to use the system. Once they realized how convenient DOT was and that you can access it from your smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc., they had many repeat students.

“This is the first week that we have expanded DOT's capacity to serve the entire DMACC district. We have seen a significant uptick in student traffic in all the labs from students across the district," Ladroma said. “This is certainly a good problem to have. I think DOT and DTE (DMACC Tutoring through Email with Sharon Bittner's team in Ankeny) are gaining momentum. The entire academic support services team strives to serve all of our DMACC faculty and students as best as we can throughout the transition of fully online learning during this unprecedented time.  

To receive free help from the DOT, visit www.dmacc.edu/urban/aac.

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For more information, please contact: Farfum Ladroma (515) 248-7204​

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