Central Washington University is a regional comprehensive public university founded in 1891 and grants undergraduate and graduate degrees in-person and online. It is one of six state institutions in the state of Washington and has seven campus locations. The OWC uses eTutoring, which is a service of the Western eTutoring Consortium, a network of talent made available through the pooling of resources from participating institutions in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Wyoming, Texas, and Utah.
Institution Name: Central Washington University
Institution Type: Public, comprehensive university
Location: Ellensburg, WA and Six regional university centers
OWC context: The Western eTutoring consortium’s Online Writing Lab is a service sponsored by the Learning Commons in the Division of Student Success
OWC website: www.cwu.edu/learning-commons
Number of Learning Commons staff: 5 professional staff, one graduate assistant, 14 faculty
Types of OWC support offered: synchronous tutoring, asynchronous tutoring, and eQuestions
Submitter Contact Information: Leah Shelton, M.A., Tutor Coordinator, Learning Commons (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Central Washington University is a regional comprehensive public university founded in 1891 and grants undergraduate and graduate degrees in-person and online. One of six state institutions in the state of Washington, CWU has seven campus locations: the main campus is in rural Ellensburg, WA and university centers in Des Moines, Lynnwood, Moses Lake, Pierce County, Wenatchee, and Yakima. These university centers, spread across the state in urban and rural areas, are co-located at state community colleges. Additional instructional sites are located in Sammamish and at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, extending CWU’s reach into many communities. Enrollment in 2017-2018 was 11,376 students, 94% of whom are from Washington State. CWU is a predominantly white institution, with students of color representing 33% of the student body. Many CWU students are the first in their family to attend college.
The Online Writing Lab is part of the Western eTutoring Consortium, and our membership is administered and housed in the Learning Commons. The Learning Commons is the home for developmental education and tutoring services at CWU, made up of the Math Center, the Writing Center, Peer-Assisted Learning, developmental math and English courses, and eTutoring. The Learning Commons employs and trains over 100 student staff each year who work as peer Tutors, and they are all receive CRLA certification during their employment with us. The Director of the Learning Commons reports to the Associate Dean for Student Success. The Learning Commons empowers students to pursue academic excellence by improving learning strategies and promoting student development and achievement. Our core values are: student-focused, quality, diversity and inclusiveneness, growth and learning, and honesty and integrity. Tutoring is offered by appointment as well as on a drop-in basis, and is a popular and widely-used resource for students. We are able to offer undergraduate tutoring in most courses, and graduate writing tutoring on a limited basis. We are regularly invited to partner with campus departments, develop trainings and support curriculum processes, and serve on university committees, task forces, and work groups.
The Online Writing Lab in eTutoring is part of a robust suite of online services that is available to all students, and is especially useful for students at our university centers and online, who do not have the same access to our brick-and-mortar tutoring in Ellensburg. eTutoring is a service of the Western eTutoring Consortium, a network of talent made available through the pooling of resources from participating institutions. All Washington State community and technical colleges are members of the Western eTutoring Consortium, as well as three of our state universities, and diverse institutions in Oregon, Idaho, California, Wyoming, Texas, and Utah. Each partner institution provides experienced tutors who tutor students who attend member institutions in the Consortium via the web platform. This way, we share combined expertise and tutoring resources with each other, increasing the number of subjects tutored and the hours of services provided. Students can log in to this free resource from 5:00 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week for tutoring help wherever and whenever they need it. Tutoring is offered in Accounting, Anatomy & Physiology, Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Economics, Engineering, Math, Microsoft Office, Physics, Psychology, Spanish, Statistics, Web Development, and Writing. The Online Writing Lab offers synchronous and asynchronous writing consultations. Students can meet a writing tutor live in a virtual room according to a schedule, or submit a draft of a paper, ask for specific feedback, and receive their work back with a tutor’s response within 24-48 hours. Students can also leave an “eQuestion”, or a specific question about their work or subject matter, for a Tutor who will respond within 48 hours.
Currently, two CWU Writing Tutors who also work in our on-campus Writing Center in Ellensburg are serving as eTutoring Consultants. These Tutors are already CRLA-certified, as we only recruit experienced, returning tutors to work in this role. They are rigorously trained by the Western eTutoring as well, completing 8 hours of initial training with more professional development opportunities as they continue.
At this time, eTutoring has been utilized at CWU on a limited basis, mainly the result of small marketing campaigns at the University Centers and word-of-mouth. We first joined the Western eTutoring Consortium during 2017-2018 to determine if it was a good fit, and have rolled it out to university center students this year who are in need of tutoring services as they have limited to no access on their campuses. It has been hugely popular; usage is up significantly from our pilot year last year, with very little marketing, and we are noticing that a high number of ESL students and graduate students are using eTutoring this quarter. We look forward to identifying more trends moving forward. Until we can enable single sign-on capability for all CWU students, we are waiting to officially roll out the service university-wide, as we do not have the staff bandwidth to train nearly 12,000 students on setting up a separate account for the system or to troubleshoot login issues. We also believe strongly in making the process as simple and intuitive as possible for our students. Our Information Technology services staff are working to enable this single-sign on during this academic year, so students can seamlessly log in and more clearly identify the service as a branded, endorsed university service. We are hopeful that once this capability is live, we can transition this service to one that is widely, broadly used by our students at all centers. Offering eTutoring is another way we can give our students individualized access to the kind of academic support that works best for them, allowing us to serve more students and to serve them better. At the Learning Commons, we believe that developmental education is a social justice issue, and that we must critically examine which students need which resources and why to increase access and to create equitable, socially just practices that result in success for all students. We are excited to roll out the eTutoring resource to all CWU students; we are hopeful that this will happen winter or spring quarter 2019.
According to Professor Jim Gentile at Manchester Community College, “Faculty at my college are always impressed with the consistency and quality of the feedback their students receive from eTutoring. Whether students are writing at the ESL, developmental, or college-level, they get the type of advice that will allow them both to revise their work and to grow as writers….Whatever strategy they use, faculty appreciate eTutoring as an integral part of the teaching and learning process.” One student who uses the resource shared, “I’ve really enjoyed using eTutoring. It has greatly helped me to improve my writing – I am now picking up on things by myself! I particularly appreciate how the eTutors are kind and encouraging.”