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CARE pivots to provide virtual academic support

CARE pivots to provide virtual academic support

9/9/2020 Kimberly Belser

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, The Grainger College of Engineering’s Center for Academic Resources in Engineering (CARE) made the transition to online services as the center continues to provide academic support to engineering students.  

Dana Tempel, Assistant Director of CARE, said the center offers tutoring, peer advising and exam review sessions for math, physics and chemistry courses via Zoom.  

“Although our programs are going to be virtual this semester, we know that we have the technology, training, experience and positive attitudes that it will take to continue to support the student experience,” Tempel said. 

Sean Golinski, CARE Tutor and Peer Advisor, called the center’s completely virtual sessions the “biggest change” in its services, in that CARE used to provide academic support to students in-person at the Grainger Library.

Sean Golinski
Sean Golinski

“The advantage of this approach is that anyone can get tutoring services without having to go anywhere,” Golinski said. “The disadvantage is that in person interactions are often preferable because we have found them to be easier, more effective, and even more rewarding.”

Tempel said she has a staff of over 40 tutors on the CARE team, so trying to transition and getting everyone “up to speed” on the changes made for the semester presented difficulties. However, she said she is looking forward to the fact that the center is prepared this semester to work online, as the pandemic resulted in the University’s closing in the middle of spring semester.

“Our programs this semester are going much more smoothly, and I know our tutors are much more confident in our ability to support students in this virtual space this semester,” she said.

One of the challenges that CARE may face this semester involves student outreach, and making sure that students know how to access their services,Tempel said. She said that CARE is working to ensure that they have the proper technology to support students utilizing their services both on and off campus. However, she added, this is something that the office experiences in any given semester.

“Although we know it will be difficult to effectively communicate remotely, it can be done. We are up for the challenge. We worked this summer to plan for the challenges ahead, and we have a plan for how to manage them along the way.”

Tempel said one key to success is  connecting with the departments and faculty  for the students and courses we support. 

“But there are definitely going to be challenges that we didn't necessarily see coming, and I think that with the right attitudes and the willingness to try to be flexible I think we will work through those as they come,” she said. 

Tempel said CARE is going to continue to work closely with the departments, as well as the students themselves to figure out how they can meet the needs of students during the online learning. The CARE leadership team, she said, are her “eyes and my ears” on the student side to try to help better understand what the students are experiencing, as well as the bigger challenges that they may be facing. 
“Without them, I couldn't plan and provide programs to help students the way that we do,” she said. “So I feel very fortunate that I have a team of tutors who are truly passionate and invested in not only being successful themselves, but really helping others and the engineering community be successful.”

Tempel hopes that students will take advantage of not only CARE, but the assistance of their advisors throughout their college career.  

“Before I was a tutor, I used CARE a handful of times, Golinski said. “I was impressed by how much the tutors there were able to help when I needed it. In fact, I still use CARE (when I'm not working) if a class is causing me trouble and I know a student there can help.”

Tempel said she thinks the campus community has to remind themselves that we have a fantastic community of administrators, students, faculty and staff who care, and I think that's what makes the university special.

“This semester is going to be unlike any other, but I do think that if everybody can stay positive, patient and work hard, we will do this together, I know that we can and we will be successful,” she said. “And I just hope that students know more now than ever that the College of Engineering cares so much about the student experience and we're here to help along the way.”