Writing Center Adapts to Pandemic Conditions


    Signage in UNCP’s Writing Center to instruct students on how to sign up for tutoring services. Submitted Image/Dr. Elise Dixon.

    Like all offices on campus, the University Writing Center had to make changes in procedures and working conditions because of the coronavirus pandemic. But director Dr. Elise Dixon says they tried not to miss a beat.

    Right now there are two options for students who want to receive help from the Writing Center, which has a roster of peer tutors from a variety of majors.

    “A student can make an online appointment where you see someone synchronously,” Dixon explained. There is also a text chat feature for students who may not want to appear on video.

    For students who do not want to participate in a virtual appointment, there is also a “review session” option, where students can upload their papers and receive feedback within 24 hours.

    It is undecided whether tutoring services will remain online through the Spring 2021 semester. “I will have to see how things are going,” Dixon said recently. The goal of moving tutoring services online was to ensure the safety of both tutors and clients.

    “I think in terms of health and safety, these are good changes,” Dixon said. “Things are going well.” By October 13 the staff had completed 247 online consultations since the start of fall semester.

    Dixon was hired over the summer. It was the Writing Center’s interim director, Dr. Michael Berntsen, who had to shepherd the student staff through the first period of adjustment in March.

    “Since all the tutors are trained to work with online students, the transitioning to a completely online center was smooth,” Berntsen said. “All of the staff recognized the importance of the tutoring sessions for their peers, so they made every effort to guide students who find it hard to navigate online learning.”

    They completed more than 127 online tutorial sessions between March 23 and the end of the spring semester.

    “Overall, the tutors excelled at maintaining quality guidance for all the students who reached out for extra help,” Berntsen said.

    Dixon’s research focuses on the role that discomfort plays in daily writing center work, especially for marginalized students. She says she is excited for the return of in-person services.

    “Writing centers are their best when they can also be face-to-face, and I cannot wait to get back to face-to-face,” she said.

    To take advantage of University Writing Center assistance, students can visit uncp.edu/writing to make an appointment or request a review session.

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