Four times a week, Ty Morgan, a veteran majoring in mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at Tyler, makes his way to the Patriot Academic Success Services Tutoring Center, where a peer tutor helps him work calculus problems.
"I can repeat things until I understand them. I can repeat the same style of problems with different variables over and over until I can do that technique over and over again without forgetting how to do it," Morgan, a sophomore, said.
He likes working the complicated problems on a white board.
"When I get stuck with something or I can't go forward and I'm just lost, tutor Daniel Jock helps me out and comes over and shows me why I'm stuck or why I made a mistake," Morgan said. "The tutoring center has been a terrific program for me."
His tutor, Jock, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, tutors about 14 hours a week in addition to attending classes full time. Jock decided to become a tutor when it occurred to him that he could use his understanding of calculus to help other people get better grades.
Jock also comes to the tutoring center for help with some of his engineering courses.
The walk-in tutoring center opened in the fall 2013, operating spring and fall semesters, and this year expanded its hours to include summer tutoring.
Specific times are set aside for specific subjects such as accounting, biology, chemistry, pathophysiology, physics, engineering mechanics, thermodynamics, anatomy and physiology and statistics.
"We want to support the students of UT Tyler. We want to help them to succeed and to promote independent learning. We give them tools and tips they need to help them learn independently in the future," Kiley Wilson, academic program coordinator, said.
"I think it's a good service students should take advantage of whether a student is failing in a class or whether a student just wants to have extra support to get a higher grade in a class and keep up their grade point average."
Most students who come to the tutoring center in the University Center are having trouble in a course or just want to gain a greater understanding of the content material, Ms. Wilson said.
Students come to the tutoring center on their own initiative or because a professor referred them or they learned about the tutoring center through emails or visits to classes by center representatives. It is voluntary for the majority of subjects, although one instructor requires his students to participate in the tutoring service.
The tutoring center chooses which courses to offer tutoring in, based on demand and a report of high failure and high withdrawal rates from classes.
For tutors, tutoring is an on-campus paid job and they must meet qualifications. They must be a UT Tyler student, have made an A in the course they tutor and submit two faculty recommendations. They must also undergo at least 10 hours of training.
The center currently has about 10 tutors, a lot of whom cover multiple subjects.
Kema Anazia works as a tutor. The senior mechanical engineering student said what she likes about tutoring is when people she is tutoring "have that ‘aha' moment. That makes me happy and also when I ask them what grade did they get on a test and they do well. It makes me feel satisfied that I actually did help them."
The center coordinator, Ms. Wilson, said tutors care about the students they tutor and want to see them succeed.
"The tutors want to establish rapport with a student. They try to get an idea of where the student is … how much do they know and where is the disconnect. They try to get an idea of their understanding. From there, we basically are promoting independent learning."
The tutors let students ask questions but before they leave; tutors want to make sure that students being tutored know how to work a problem or how to find content on their own, Ms. Wilson said.
The number of visits to the tutoring center is very high this semester, exceeding 1,000 with a month left in the semester.
"This is the highest volume we have ever had," Ms. Wilson said. She attributed this semester's high volume to increased marketing and the center becoming better known on campus.
Approximately 240 students made those visits, the most the center has ever had, by coming multiple times.
The tutoring is more effective when they attend more regularly and usually it is the most effective if they come five to 10 visits, Ms. Wilson said.
For the fall, spring and summer of the 2014-15 academic year, the grade difference for students tutored five or more times was an average .36 grade point average better than those not tutored, a review of the grade difference for tutored versus non-tutored students showed.
"It's a good average; it's what we are happy to see," Ms. Wilson said.
John McGuffin, a sophomore mechanical engineering student, goes to the tutoring center at least three times a week. "My very first test I got a 44 on it. After that, I passed everything because I was coming to the PASS Tutoring Center," McGuffin said.
Sophomore Abby Baler receives tutoring in thermal dynamics. "I don't know what I would do without it," she said. "The tutor is very knowledgeable about the subject and gives you new perspectives on how to learn and how to determine different problems."
Graduate assistants manage the front desk, checking students in and out, recording what subject they are tutored in and how long they stay.
Graduate Assistant Taylor Martin said the job involves swiping their identification card, keeping track of how many times they have been, logging which tutor they see, keeping track of the time worked by tutors, marketing the center on the social media and the UT Tyler web site and awarding a free T-shirt to students who have come to the center at least five times.
Tyler White said he likes working on the front desk because he gets to meet a lot of people with different majors and a lot of people in different departments that work in the university. "I like that people are getting help when they need help on any type of material," he said.