The University of Connecticut’s Writing Center released a new “flash tutoring” program at the beginning of the fall 2019 semester, Tom Deans, the Writing Center’s faculty director, said.
The new program, running Sunday through Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m., allows undergraduate students to drop in and meet with a tutor without making an appointment, Deans said. This lets students talk in quick five to 20 minutes bursts, instead of full 45 minute scheduled appointments.
“Not everyone is comfortable coming to the Writing Center for a big block of time [and] not all students have a big block of time,” Deans said. “We did it because we wanted to meet the full range of students with the full range of writing projects they have with the … different ways people approach writing.”
In each flash session, the tutor will help address the student’s problem and give them a solution, Deans said. The student could either leave after getting advice or stay until the tutor can circle back to them and provide feedback.
“We have [a] slightly open studio style with an open high top table a little bigger than the others,” Deans said. “At flash tutoring, the tutor might be working with three to four people at the same time but they don’t need to go away. They can hang out and write. They don’t need to be with the tutor the whole thing…The tutor is with you for those minutes [and they can come back to you].”
Typical questions that would be best for a flash tutoring session would be something that can be answered in around 10 minutes, like how to make a proper citation or integrate a quote, Deans said.
“Most of us, when we have a quick question when writing like ‘Is this a good title or does this title suck’ or ‘I don’t know how to close this last line,’” Deans said.
If a student has a question that might take longer than 20 minutes, the receptionists will work with the student to prioritize their main problem to work with the flash tutor, Deans said.
Another difference with flash tutoring is that it is less formal than the 45-minute sessions, Deans said. The flash tutoring will not give out a tutor note explaining what was addressed during the meeting.
“In flash tutoring, there’s no [tutor note]. It’s much less commitment,” Deans said. “It’s not a full date with the Writing Center, it’s a quick speed date.”
There are 25 undergraduate and five graduate tutors in the Writing Center, Deans said. For the flash tutoring, undergraduate tutors with at least one year of experience are the primary tutors. During each session, there will be one tutor.
Annika Anderson, one of the undergraduate flash tutors and a seventh-semester human development and family studies major, said that writers tend to come to flash tutoring with “technical inquiries, such as addressing grammar inconsistencies and citing sources appropriately.”
Anderson said that students seem to be responding positively so far.
“45 minute sessions are great for an in-depth discussion about assignments, yet, if writers have smaller clarifying questions and smaller-scale tasks, they can come visit us at flash tutoring without an appointment,” Anderson said. “Most of my flash tutoring appointments span 10 to 15 minutes, so writers have been pleasantly surprised about the convenient accommodations we’ve made around student schedules.”
Eli Udler, a flash tutor and a ninth-semester computer science and engineering and English double major, said he wants students to realize that flash tutoring is best for short questions.
“The best questions sound something like ‘Can you check the format of my citations?’ or ‘Can you look over my introduction paragraph,” Udler said. “The worst questions tend to be ‘Can you look over my six-page paper? It’s due tomorrow.’”
The new flash tutoring will run simultaneously with the existing appointments in a hybrid style, Deans said. UConn will one of the few universities to offer both options.
Deans, with PhD students Kathryn Warrender-Hill, Sophie Buckner and Kyle Barron, are working on research to see how the length of a tutoring session affects the writer. Deans said that the flash tutoring is just beginning and their research will help them make it the best it can be.
“We are excited for this new program. We think it’s something that can work here and be a model for other universities,” Deans said. “Right now, we need to make sure students understand, know about it and give it a try. If it doesn’t work for them, they can go back to a regular appointment, and if it does, then they should keep coming back.”
Rachel Philipson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.