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Mid-Year Tutor Onboarding: Maintaining Quality

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Each new year can bring new hiring needs for a collegiate tutoring program.

Some years, all of your tutors from the fall semester stay on and continue tutoring for spring. Other years, you may lose peer tutors between semesters due to graduation, internships, athletic participation, course-load demands, or myriad other reasons. 

Many tutoring programs offer comprehensive, full-day training sessions at the beginning of the academic year. They’re a great way to build community among your tutors and torture — that is, develop — them with numerous ice breakers 🙂

So, what do you do when you need to bring on new tutors mid-year but you don’t have time to conduct the same level of onboarding and training that you do for your full staff in the fall? How can you ensure that the new tutors still understand tutoring philosophy in the same way and have the foundational skills needed to succeed? 

Keeping in mind the importance of consistency, let’s talk about how you can integrate asynchronous training into your tutor training experience to provide convenience and maintain quality for mid-year hires.  

Understanding the Importance of Consistency

We know how important it is to ensure that your new tutors are prepared and effective when working with their peers. Maintaining this consistency in tutoring quality — between full-year and mid-year hires — is critical for the student experience. We want students to have similar experiences in tutoring sessions regardless of the tutor. In particular, we want all tutors following appropriate procedures, adhering to your center’s approach to tutoring, and providing a personalized experience to facilitate student-driven learning. Sessions between different tutors shouldn’t be facsimiles of each other, but there should be certain consistencies that build trust in the student for the services being provided. 

For better or worse, we know that assessment is the name of the game for many programs in higher education right now. We will explore how to make program assessment work better for you in the future. That said, regardless of when your tutors are hired, they all contribute to the assessment of your program. Whether you need to assess student learning outcomes (tutors included) or you hope to measure student satisfaction, your entire tutoring staff will impact those results. To that end, it’s imperative that tutors provide a certain level of quality to students, so that you are assessing and measuring comparable experiences. This isn’t a perfect science and there will always be exceptions, but as tutoring program administrators, we do our best to prepare tutors so that students are working with a qualified, prepared, and trained tutor at all times. 

So, time for the tough question: If your mid-year tutors don’t receive the same training as your fall tutors, how can you ensure consistency and quality of services? Incorporating asynchronous tutor training could be the answer you are looking for. 

Benefitting from Asynchronous Tutor Training

Many tutoring program administrators don’t have the time or the bandwidth to be able to provide the same high-touch tutor training at the start of spring semester that they did in the fall. Less time before tutoring begins, different demands, and committee responsibilities are just a few of the reasons why. If you find yourself in this position, consider incorporating asynchronous training into your onboarding of new tutors. Asynchronous tutor training modules offer you the flexibility of delivering high-quality training with fewer demands on your time. 

Whether you create in-house training materials or integrate some of our free modules into your program, you can ensure that new tutors are provided with critical information before they begin tutoring. Most important to cover in the initial training of a new tutor would be tutoring philosophy, the role of the tutor, the tutoring process, and tangible strategies to use in sessions — all of which can be covered in asynchronous training sessions. In addition to these topics, your tutors should learn about the ethics of tutoring: how this impacts their role as a tutor, potential situations they may encounter, and how to handle them. 

While live, in-person, tutor-trainer conducted training is often ideal for new tutors, sometimes we need to pivot (thank you for that lesson, 2020). The College Reading and Learning Association’s (CRLA) International Tutor Training Program Certification (ITTPC) requires that a minimum number of hours of training be Tutor-Trainer Led, Interactive, and Synchronous (TIS). However, you are always welcome to integrate asynchronous training into your offerings. If you are a CRLA-certified tutor training program, you can create or incorporate CRLA-endorsed asynchronous modules (like ours) to ensure that your new tutors are receiving comparable training. These modules will give you the confidence that your tutors will work with students effectively and ethically.

Providing Convenience and Maintaining Quality

We know that TIS training sessions are preferred by CRLA and are more interactive for tutors, but there are also significant benefits to utilizing asynchronous training, especially for your mid-year hires. Asynchronous training is self-paced, so the tutors can work on the training modules when they have the time — rather than trying to find common availability to schedule multiple hours of training for several tutors. We’ve all seen tutors’ schedules and they’re not pretty. Trying to get them all in one room at the same time can be difficult (or impossible), but offering multiple training sessions to accommodate their schedules can be just as difficult and even more taxing on your own time and commitments. See How the University of Florida Used a Demand Driven Model to increase peer  tutoring bookings by 619%.

Asynchronous training allows tutors to go at their own pace within whatever deadlines you set. They can start and stop as needed, rather than having to complete everything in one sitting; this allows flexibility and convenience, while also ensuring they have time to focus their attention on the task at hand. Our tutor training modules also allow you to view a report of each tutor’s answers, with timestamps, for all lessons. This is designed to help you maintain a high standard of quality. If you feel a tutor doesn’t provide enough depth or reflection for certain answers, you can direct the tutor to revisit the lesson and improve their answers. 

Asynchronous doesn’t have to mean “not as good as” synchronous; it’s just a different delivery method. One of the possibly-unexpected benefits of asynchronous training is that being able to review an individual tutor’s responses can actually help you feel better about each tutor’s preparedness. You might be wondering how that’s possible, since you won’t actually be seeing the tutor as they’re learning. Hear me out.

In some TIS training settings, there are always a few tutors who participate less, somewhat “hiding” behind other, more vocal tutors in the room. Asynchronous training allows for you to have greater confidence in an individual tutor’s knowledge because you’re reviewing each of their answers, rather than assessing the understanding of the room as a whole. 

The convenience and flexibility of asynchronous training can even outweigh the benefits of live, in-person training, especially for mid-year hires. Asynchronous training can also be an especially effective and helpful way to train tutors who may be working virtually in a given semester, as many of us have experienced in this last year. Being able to have the tutors complete the training before the new semester begins can also present the opportunity to hit the ground running a little faster in the spring. With asynchronous training, your tutors who are not able to come to campus can still participate in high-quality training at a time and pace that works for them. 

Changing Tactics to Meet Changing Needs

We live in an ever-changing world, with new demands on our time, on our tutors, and even our focus. Rather than feel like you’re short-changing your tutors by not providing the exact same training for mid-year hires, try to think of it as an opportunity to expand the offerings that comprise your tutoring program. Offering asynchronous isn’t “less”; rather, it’s “more” because it’s one more way that you are working to meet the needs of your tutoring staff. 

You can even use asynchronous training as a way to provide a “refresher” in between semesters, so both new and returning tutors are engaging with the same content. We often remind our tutors that they’ll need to incorporate different strategies and ways of explaining material depending on the needs of each student. So why can’t we think about tutor training the same way? Let’s offer various modes of training for our tutors, which will provide them with opportunities to flex different learning muscles as they engage with different tutor training topics. 

It often takes a village to help students be successful — various support services, resources, and touch points across campus. If we think of tutors and their development in a similar way, then we should give ourselves the freedom to bring in other resources to help them become effective, successful tutors. Give asynchronous training a try and you may find that it enhances your current training offerings and increases your bandwidth for more personal, intentional one-on-one meetings with your new tutors. You know, the fun stuff!