Libraries offer online tutoring service

Live tutors join student in chat sessions to help with homework problems

Posted: Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Students in Juneau have one less excuse for less-than-perfect grades this year. The Juneau Public Libraries have partnered with to pair Juneau students with professional tutors for online homework help sessions.

"The tutors chat online with the students on math, science, English and social studies," said Sandra Strandtmann, the youth services librarian for Juneau Public Libraries.

The service will be available from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, Strandtmann said. Students can log on with computers in the public libraries, or from their home computers via the Juneau Public Library's Web site,

"What you do when you log on is, the kid says what grade he's in and what kind of tutor he wants," said Strandtmann. After about a minute, a live tutor will join the student in a chat session.

Students logging on from their home computers need to download the free Shockwave program to access the program.

Students can ask specific questions about homework problems and even send documents for the tutors to review, Strandtmann said. Each session lasts an average of 20 minutes.

"Once you're on, it's just discovering the potentials," she said.

The Web site is designed for students in grades 4 through 12, although some freshmen college students use it for help with general courses, said Jennifer Kohn, vice-president of marketing for the company.

Spanish tutors are available, and tutors for people preparing for their General Educational Development test can seek help at the site as well, Kohn said.

The Juneau Public Libraries are the first library in the state to use the services, Strandtmann. The $5,000 annual cost of the program will be covered with a grant from the Alaska State Library., an online company based in New York City, was founded in 1998. It has partnered with more than 500 libraries around the country to provide homework help to students, said Kohn.

Students don't have to give their name or e-mail address to use the service. In January, will ask users to create online identification names and passwords so past tutoring sessions can be saved, Kohn said.

The 400 tutors employed by the company work from their homes across the United States, Kohn said. They are college professors, teaching assistants, students, retired teachers and professional students.

Tutors' resumes and backgrounds are verified by Kroll Background America, and each tutor is subjected to a seven-year criminal records check, Kohn said.

Tutors also are subject to frequent reviews by mentors, and the company monitors tutoring sessions to ensure the quality of the sessions, Kohn said.

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