Students pay forward through new online tutoring initiative

Posted: December 17, 2020

Metro Schools’ high school and middle school students have enjoyed free online tutoring in all subjects since October, thanks to a partnership with The Ohio State University College of Engineering.

The idea was hatched in August during a monthly meeting among partners of the STEM-focused school located on West Campus. There, College of Engineering K-12 Outreach Director Howard Greene asked Metro High School Dean of Students Cory Neugebauer, “What do you need?”

A student participates in an online tutoring session.
Alfonso Tinoco Lopez is one of more than 50 Ohio State students serving as volunteer online tutors for middle and high school students.

“We need tutors,” Neugebauer said, “as many as you can give me.”

Without hesitation, Greene promised him 50 tutors.

I had no idea whether I could really do it or not,” said Greene, who is also a member of the Metro Governing Board. “But I know we've got amazing students in the College of Engineering who want to be impactful. They want to make a difference, to volunteer.”

Greene contacted student organizations and partners in the college and across the university. By October, more than 80 students from the Colleges of Engineering, Arts and Sciences, and Education and Human Ecology volunteered to be tutors, with more than half completing tutoring assignments by October 30.

The response of the Ohio State students has been just awesome,” said Neugebauer, who earned a master’s of education from Ohio State. “I'm so proud to be a Buckeye. These kids, the fact that they care about my students makes me very emotional.”

Tutoring is offered every weekday in all subjects, including English language arts, social studies, math and science, during multiple virtual teacher office hours and subject-specific sessions. Each session is conducted via a secure, online platform and moderated by a Metro Schools teacher.

It's worked particularly well with math,” Neugebauer said. “If the average Metro student has one thing they need help with, it's math. I think they’ve had the biggest success because they've had the biggest need.”

Math tutoring sessions are offered every weekday morning and afternoon to meet that need.

“These tutors have been fabulous and they're really vested in the process,” said Math Teacher Carol Van Fossen, who leads the Metro High School math department. “I'm noticing that the students who are attending office hours are better prepared to move forward with content. It's been all value-added.”

Third-year industrial and systems engineering major Alfonso Tinoco Lopez said around 20 high school students usually attend the algebra and trigonometry sessions he helps with. Most of the questions he receives are about assigned homework problems or from students seeking additional practice problems.

“I think it's going really well. I will say it’s a success just by looking at the number of students that go to every session,” said Tinoco Lopez, who is also a tutor with the college’s Academic Coaching in Engineering Program. “Personally, I feel rewarded because I’m helping the students and the teacher.”

Metro Middle School Science Teacher Isabel Lewis said she appreciates having assistance during her virtual office hours.

“It allows me to be more specific with the kids for what they need,” said Lewis. “[The tutor] is able to take kids into a room for doing content and then I'm able to focus on the kids who need guidance with what assignments to do next. That helps a lot.”

First-year pre-science and engineering major Jason Roussos works with Lewis. After tutoring kids in high school, he was glad to put his experience to use to help Metro School students during a difficult year.

“It's a very good feeling to help and realize that you're making a difference,” Roussos said. “Just to give an hour or two a week to see what you can do to help people.”

Both Metro School teachers and their students are giving the program glowing reviews.

“I've actually had a student, email me say, ‘Thank you, that was so great. He helped me so much,’” Lewis said.

Although the pandemic spurred the launch of the remote tutoring program, organizers plan to continue it even after in-person tutoring resumes due to its success and convenience for students as well as volunteer tutors.

“It's been a need for a long time. We never thought we could meet it because of the logistical considerations. Now with the pandemic and everything being in remote mode, it cleared out a lot of those barriers,” Greene said. “This is not going to go away whenever our new normal comes, because it's meeting a need for Metro and their students.”

In fact, since Greene has more tutors available than are needed by the Metro Schools, the program could expand.

“We've got more capacity to do this with other school partners,” he said. “Now it requires a really good partnership, but it's made me think about, how can we extend the impact to other K-12 schools?”

Neugebauer agrees, adding that the program provides a model other universities could use to partner with K-12 schools, no matter their physical distance.

“For rural schools, could this type of program create more connection? And not only get kids help and tutoring, but imagine all these Ohio State students talking to kids in rural areas or kids who don't have exposure to college students,” he said. “How powerful would that modeling, that connection be? I see a lot of possibility in this.”

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications,