Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

October 4, 2012

Students using tutor program

Cathy Thoele
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM —     A growing number of students are getting free help with their homework thanks to Helen Matthes Library’s revamped online tutor program.

    The increased help is attributed to the new program the library is using after noticing the previous one wasn’t bringing in any new users.

    For the past four years, the library has offered online homework help that places students with a one-on-one tutor in real time. Students with a library card can access the program from anywhere.

    However, the number of students using the service has remained stagnant. In an effort to broaden the service and increase usage, the library changed to a new provider this year and response is growing.

    Since launching Brainfuse HelpNow, the number of people using the program has dramatically increased. In the first two months of the new program, July and August, 82 people logged on. The number of users is already on pace to exceed the yearly average of 200 users in the past four years.

    “It’s definitely up,” said Library Information Coordinator Shannon Wascher of the improved program.

    One of the biggest improvements is elimination of wait time.

    Previously, those logging on to the program  would wait one to five minutes to receive help.

    “When you’re sitting in front of a computer, it gets frustrating,” said Wascher.

    With tutors on standby, the program virtually eliminates that frustration.

    “There’s always enough to meet the demands of the students,” said Wascher.

    Students also are given more time to access the site. The addition of two hours allows students to log on anytime between 2 and 11 p.m.

    Another change allows students for the first time to receive one-on-one help in Spanish and practice tests on other subjects.

    “They can take practice tests on any subject at any grade level,” said Wascher. “They can do it on their own time, and it doesn’t require a tutor.”

    The tests provide skill building lessons geared toward a topic.

    “If they have trouble with a certain topic like run-on sentences, the tutor can give them practice questions,” said Wascher.

    Students may view the results, repeat the test or take a similar one.

    Feedback, provided through an online voluntary survey, has been positive, according to Wascher.

    “When asked if they’re glad we offer the service and would recommend it, 100 percent responded yes,” she said.

    The subject visitors to the site are seeking help most in is math. The survey revealed 95 percent of those utilizing the program are being tutored in math.

    The website also offers something for adults.

    Those studying to get their GED can take a practice test on the website and get help with U.S. Citizenship test, resumes or Microsoft Office.

    Other services include essay feedback and ACT and SAT prep.