State tutoring program gets expanded

Published 12:07 am Sunday, August 31, 2008

Alabamians regardless of age are able to benefit from free tutoring services by logging on to

The tutoring sessions had been available to students in the fourth through 12 grades since the Internet program was launched statewide in 2005. With more than 200,000 online tutoring sessions since then and an overwhelmingly positive response to the service, it is being expanded so “students from five to 95 can connect to a tutor for free one-to-one help,” Gov. Bob Riley said last week.

Expert tutors are available to offer assistance from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday in subjects ranging from English to Math, Science and Social Studies. Alabamians can connect to a tutor for live help through any computer with Internet access, including computers at their local public library or at home.

“With today’s technology, we can literally transcend the walls of the traditional classroom,” Riley said. “But our commitment to providing children with the tools to learn must not stop when the school day ends. Technology offers innovative ways to improve student achievement and give our children the one-on-one help they need after school.”

Riley noted that more children are being introduced to the computer at earlier ages than ever before. “Parents who bring their young children to these live online tutoring sessions will provide them with a new and safe learning resource. It will also help increase a young child’s ability to work with computers, and in today’s world the value of that experience is extraordinary,” said Riley. “We also have many adults who can benefit from a tutor, whether they’re working toward their GED, taking an adult education class or seeking grammar help with their resume or a work-related project.”

Since began in 2005, students have logged on for free tutoring sessions more than 204,000 times. If parents had paid a tutor for those sessions at the average national rate of $35 per session, the cost would have been more than $7 million.

The service uses to select and train the tutors, who are current and retired teachers, graduate students and college professors. Every tutor must pass a security check. In addition, before they are hired, prospective tutors submit resumes and teaching samples that show how they would help a child solve particular problems, complete technology training, participate in mock sample sessions, undergo a 30-day probation period and work with a mentor.

During a demonstration at Juliette Hampton Morgan Memorial Library on Monday, Riley was connected to a tutor over the Internet. Tutors help students through the use of instant messaging, an interactive virtual “chalkboard” and shared Web browsing. Drawing and diagramming features allow tutors to demonstrate math and science concepts. When the session is complete, students can print their session for future reference or share it with a parent or teacher. Both students and tutors complete surveys, which are shared with the Alabama Public Library Service each month.

– from staff reports

According to surveys, 91 percent of students who have used it said Homework Alabama is helping them complete their homework assignments, 90 percent said it is helping to improve their grades, and 95 percent said the service makes them more confident about their school work.

– from staff reports

Can students use the system to get tutors to do their homework for them? No. Every tutoring session is recorded and monitored, tutors are trained to prevent such problems and tutors are forbidden from completing homework for students.

“Homework Alabama is obviously a great service for students, but it’s great for parents, too. There are many parents out there who can’t always be available to help their children with homework. Sometimes even if they are available, they don’t know enough about the subject,” said Governor Riley. “It’s so easy, even a parent can use it.”