Pirate Tutoring Center staff, clockwise - upper left to right, Elizabeth Coghill, Tom Doumaux, Donna Davis, Katie Wicker and Lisa Bennett have seen demands for assistance grow since the center began. (Photos by Travis Bartlett, Student Affairs)

Tutoring success drives expansion to new locations

By Rachel Castro
ECU News Services

High demand and success have driven student tutoring at East Carolina University to branch out, taking its services to a residence hall on College Hill.

“We decided to expand on to College Hill to continue our partnership with the residence halls in providing academic support programming to our students,” said Elizabeth Coghill, director of the Pirate Tutoring Center.

It’s an effort to reach out to students, she said. An expansion of the PTC began operating in Jones residence hall this summer and will continue throughout the academic year.

Officials decided on the move after seeing demand for student tutoring skyrocket in the three years since the tutoring center began. In the 2010-2011 year, tutoring appointments increased 32 percent and the center served more than 5,000 students.

Growing class sizes due to budget cuts means students are increasingly in need of one-on-one attention, said Coghill. Fewer sections of courses are available, which means academic success in available courses is critical.

Students receive tutoring, individual needs assessments and GPA calculations from the Pirate Tutoring Center for free. Staff members all have a minimum of a master’s degree in different discipline areas. State funds pay staff salaries at the center, which is a part of the Division of Academic Affairs.

Students helping students

The center’s growth and success rests on the work of an unusual number of volunteers — a fact which sets ECU apart, Coghill said.

“In the 2010-2011 academic year, tutors service equaled $73,188 in donated hours to the students of ECU,” said Coghill. “This volunteerism is unlike any other university in the UNC system.”

The volunteers who provide these tutoring services are students themselves. As the numbers seeking help increased, so did tutors, made up of undergraduate and graduate students. More than 300 students volunteered in the previous academic year.

“The PTC helps all students in every kind of learning style,” said junior Elise Gaines, a nursing major and second year tutee at the PTC.
Students in the center help other students with subjects they find difficult.

After transferring to ECU from UNCC during the summer of 2009 and receiving help from the tutoring center over that summer for organic chemistry, Lindsay Fulcher of New Bern decided she wanted to join the tutoring crew.

“Now as a tutor, my favorite thing is to use my creativity to help my tutees make sense of complicated and frustrating concepts,” said the biology and chemistry major.

Most tutees are freshman, said Coghill, and these volunteers are changing the freshman year experience.

“If it wasn’t for the Pirate Tutoring Center tutoring me in biology and math, my freshman year at ECU would have been very different. They not only helped me with my academics, but the tutors and tutees became some of my friends,” said core health student Caitlyn Gray.

Walk in tutoring is available at night three times a week at Joyner Library and students have taken full advantage of these services. “There are lines from the security desk to the Pirate Tutoring desk some nights,” said Coghill.

Success with advanced students

Numbers during the summer were as high as numbers for the spring semester, Coghill said, which is a first for the tutoring center.

About 78 percent of these summer students receiving tutoring services were juniors or seniors. The classes they were seeking help for, therefore, were not foundation classes, but classes that were imperative to their majors and barriers to graduation.

“I received tutoring for my organic chemistry courses that I had to take not only for my BS in biology and my BA in chemistry, but to apply to medical school as well,” said Fulcher.

Coghill is especially pleased with the center’s accomplishments improving physics students’ success.

“Students who came into the center for tutoring two to three times a week improved their grade in physics, a class that has a high failing rate,” she said.


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