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Arkansas State University

Online Writing Center Helps A-State Students Shine

Students who enroll in online programs at Arkansas State University have access to writing resources to encourage and support their success. On offer since 2018, the resources have been positive for students who are usually juggling work and family obligations in addition to their studies.

As the director of A-State’s Online Writing Center, Stephanie Dekok is responsible for hiring, training and assigning tutors who assist students on their academic journeys.

“We support all the way up from Composition 1 to the doctoral program,” she said. “We have tutors who are capable of tutoring at any point of that writing stage.”

The center uses the Penji Tutoring application for scheduling and connecting students with tutors, which is available for Apple and Android devices. Penji connects to students’ AState accounts and shows who is available at what times. Complete with brief profiles of tutors that illustrate their particular experience, skills and specialties, the application acts as the hub for online students whether they are looking for finishing touches or long-term assistance completing a major thesis or dissertation. All tutors have either completed a master’s degree or are currently at work on one, so they are familiar with all necessary writing guidelines.

The Write Stuff

Students can engage with the writing center in two modes, either asynchronous or synchronous. For the most convenience, students can submit written materials through Google folders for a tutor to analyze and give feedback so the writer can tighten the work before turning it in. Students who need a more intensive session can opt for an eTutoring appointment in an hour-long Zoom video meeting with a tutor. This type of interaction allows both student and tutor to work on more details and improve overarching themes beyond verb tense or punctuation to improve the writing. Student feedback on the process has shown the software works well and provides beneficial interactions.

Dekok notes that her staff often coordinate with faculty regarding the needs of particular programs or writing assignments. For example, a program dedicated to helping doctoral candidates complete dissertations is in the works. Once underway, it will help make the long process more digestible.

Built for Success

These services aim to improve all students’ writing skills and habits, as writing aptitudes are crucial regardless of the career choices students ultimately make. A consistent element of this development, particularly for incoming online students at A-State, has been helping students become familiar with the style and rules associated with APA 7 [American Psychological Association style]. The staff of five to six tutors at A-State’s Writing Center are conversant in these standards and able to guide new students.

Students sometimes return to the same tutors for help as they go through their various projects. The tutors enjoy the opportunity to see the progress of the students they assist.

“We wanted to create something specifically for our online students because they have different needs than our traditional students,” Dekok explained. “Most of them are full-time workers or teachers who have to come to these sessions later at night, so we have those options available. We offer tutoring until 9 o’clock at night and on the weekends, which is something the physical writing center doesn’t have.”

In addition to tutoring, the center offers resources on its site with responses to frequently asked questions regarding research, grammar, style and strategies to improve the writing process.

Given the success of the Online Writing Center, Dekok has overseen the establishment of two additional online student support programs at A-State: the Online Math Center and the Online Career Center, both of which launched in a pilot capacity in the spring of 2021. Assisting students with their math questions and problems, tutors are available through the same process as the Writing Center. In addition, help with resume writing and interview preparation is available through the Career Center; students receive expert advice on all the details of seeking jobs and landing the positions they desire.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s online degree programs.

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