ECU notes: Embedded tutors aid students | Daily Reflector

Photo by Cliff Hollis/ECU News ServicesECU tutor Jennifer Violette listens in during a criminal justice course taught by ECU professor John Kerbs. Violette is one of several students who are embedded in eight key courses - a new strategy for tutoring under way at ECU this spring.

Photo by Cliff Hollis/ECU News Services ECU tutor Jennifer Violette listens in during a criminal justice course taught by ECU professor John Kerbs. Violette is one of several students who are embedded in eight key courses – a new strategy for tutoring under way at ECU this spring.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A select group of tutors at East Carolina University now is embedded in eight key college courses to provide a tutoring experience that reaches a greater number of students and is more meaningful to faculty members and struggling students.

Embedded tutors at ECU are possible through a grant from College STAR (Supporting Transition, Access and Retention) — a UNC system project designed to support students with learning differences. The grant, however, makes the tutoring services available to everyone in the class, not just those with identified disabilities.

ECU is the first university in the UNC system to experiment with embedded tutors, who not only provide academic support outside of class but work closely with professors and are present in the courses they support.

The tutors receive training in learning theory, learning differences and use of assistive technologies.

The eight courses selected for embedded tutors are ones deemed essential to a student continuing in a particular course of study. Sophomore tutor Brianna Horne is embedded in the first chemistry course required for students planning a career in nursing. She partners with professor David Bjorkman, attends the class herself and offers workshops and test preparation to everyone in the class.

“I try to put myself in the place of a student who may be struggling,” Horne said. “I know how that feels.”

Horne uses a laptop in both one-on-one and large format tutoring sessions. And by connecting a tablet device to an LCD monitor, she does not need to hover over her pupils but can remain seated — maintaining an equal relationship and status during a tutoring session.

Note-taking software also changes the dynamics of tutoring, Evan Arthur, a senior tutor from Huntersville, said.

“Students are relieved after learning they don’t have to frantically write down notes because I can send them notes from our session,” Arthur said. “It makes the experience much more interactive and valuable.”

In addition, Horne and Arthur use lecture-capture software to record tutoring workshops that can be viewed as many times as needed by students. They also can be shared with those unable to attend a review session in person, including distance-education students. Grant funding helps pay for the technology purchases and tutor salaries.

Elizabeth Coghill, director of the Pirate Tutoring Center, said the combination of embedded tutors and technology has resulted in sessions that are benefiting to a wider audience.

“Because our tutors are using videos and electronic note-capturing systems, their help is available at all hours benefiting those with non-traditional class schedules as well as those who are juggling a job or a family,” Coghill said.

Subodh Dutta, a faculty member who teaches introductory chemistry, has two embedded tutors and meets with them weekly. Dutta said his students learn valuable study skills from the tutors and benefit from knowing they can get help when they need it.

“I have 500 students and there is no way I can personally interact with everyone,” Dutta said.

Coghill said more than 1,100 students viewed tutoring content about 8,000 times during the fall semester. More than 900 students attending classes with embedded tutors took advantage of the extra help offered.

Tutoring is not only available for entry-level courses. John Kerbs, associate professor in criminal justice, partners with a crew of tutors to support students taking an upper-level statistics course that is required for criminal justice majors.

“These are students who are planning to be practitioners in the law enforcement, court and correctional systems,” Kerbs said. “Numbers may not be their thing and statistics can be very scary.”

Kerbs worked with lead tutor Ethan Cooper who developed review slides that are available to all students online.

“We discovered that one barrier to success in our statistics course was that some students struggled with some of the basic math skills required to thrive in upper-level courses,” Kerbs said. “So Mr. Cooper developed a remediation workshop for algebra that students can take in the first two weeks of the course.”

Kerbs and Cooper shared their experiences this month at the annual meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Coghill recently presented at a summit for North Carolina educators.

The College STAR grant will fund two more years of the program.

Students prepare educational feast

Three days a week, ECU guests can satisfy their lunchtime hunger while supporting nutrition students’ education in the College of Human Ecology’s Darden Dining Room.

Students in the food production in dietetics course — now in its fifth year — acquire hands-on experience in the kitchen, front of the house service and in marketing positions.

During the fall semester, students learn about food preparation and management principles applied to quantity health care food production. The spring course then allows them to put their plans — and menus — into action.

“The students are getting real-world experience. Building a menu and standardizing recipes is something they will do in their future positions,” professor Diana Saum, who teaches the fall and spring courses, said. “We want to ensure that our students are gaining the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in their chosen career.”

Nutrition student Sarah Sykes said she was excited to get into the kitchen this semester.

“I have learned so much throughout this experience, from basic food production terms in the classroom to real-life management experiences in lab,” Sykes said. “Having people purchase our food allows us to gain feedback and fully experience the complete food production process. We value everyone who comes in to try our food and we thank them for aiding in our development as future nutritionists.”

The Darden Dining Room is open to the public for lunch on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays this semester from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Prices typically range from $4 per entrée to $1.50 for dessert. Cash or checks are accepted.

Sign up for Saum’s reminder email, which includes the daily menu, by emailing her at

Upcoming events

  • Today: ECU Men’s Choir & Women’s Choir, conducted by Andrew Crane and Jami Rhodes, will perform at 5 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, 1400 S. Elm St. Free and open to the public.