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Homework Help 2.0

Jan 19, 2008
It's a hi-tech homework haven--where the blackboards are chalk-free, students receive one-on-one attention, and the classroom is actually your living room. Welcome to the world of online tutoring and Tutapoint.com.

Tutapoint.com may sound like an academic utopia, but it's one of the latest, online meeting places for high-school students, and parents need not worry: this Connecticut-based website is populated by licensed educators and savvy students seeking assistance in high-school-level math and science courses.

"Students are already exceptionally busy, and accessing tutoring help via the Internet makes a lot of sense to a busy family," says Tutapoint.com Executive Director Beth Kelly.

Tutapoint.com was somewhat of a natural fit for Kelly, a computer technology teacher at Madison's Walter C. Polson Middle School and Daniel Hand High School.

"TutaPoint.com offered me a chance to mix two of my passions together: education and technology," she says.

And while online tutoring, offered in the wide open spaces of the Internet might seem impersonal, Kelly and founders Ryan Duques and Michael Callaghan strive to provide a personalized approach to modern learning by using local, Northeast-based tutors who communicate with their students live and in real time.

"All of our tutors are required to use a webcam while tutoring," Kelly explains. "This feature allows the session to take on a more personal [approach]. The student and tutor can converse in a manner similar to that of a real, in-person tutoring session."

Plus, online tutoring offers students one thing a library or learning center can't: complete privacy in the comfort of one's own home.

"What I like about Tutapoint is...it eliminates the awkwardness of face-to-face tutoring where it takes weeks to feel comfortable with your tutor," says Alison Lamothe, an 11th-grader from Madison. Lamothe recently sought help with her Algebra II homework. "The tutor I had...was very helpful because he presented different topics in many ways and then we worked on which way was best for me."

The length of the session time is customizable, too, according to the student's needs, whether it's an on-demand quick fix for a trig problem (at a minimum of 15 minutes), or a scheduled session, after dinner, to prepare for a biology mid-term (with a maximum of two hours).

Kelly says, "A student may not realize they need help with a particular homework assignment until they begin their homework at 7 p.m. If they encounter trouble, they will not be able to immediately access a tutor immediately the conventional way. TutaPoint.com can offer that student immediate assistance with that homework problem as quickly as 7:05 p.m. Online tutoring makes sense in this day and age."

And returning Tutapoint students may continue to work with the tutor of their choice, based on his or her availability. "If a student had a great experience with a particular tutor, they simply need to make a note of the tutor's username and they can enter that username into the session screen. This sends out an immediate request to that particular tutor," Kelly notes.

Tutapoint is designed to be student- and parent-friendly, which is why the set-up and sign-in process is kept simple. All it takes is a high-speed Internet connection and a parent's permission for a student to log in and get help. There's a special section for parents on the site, too, where they can get to know the site's staff and read up on the professional requirements for Tutapoint's tutors.

Kelly states, "The screening process includes criminal background checks following a round of extensive phone interviews and e-mail correspondence. TutaPoint.com prides itself on employing certified teachers and college professors. We also offer tutors currently attending Ivy League colleges such as Yale, who are majoring in high levels of math and science."

And Tutapoint's staffers are already talking about expanding the sites services, to offer tutoring in English grammar and foreign languages, an accredited certification process for tutors, and assistance for students who need help meeting No Child Left Behind requirements.

Launched on Oct. 15, Kelly says students are already taking advantage of Tutapoint's services and returning with enthusiastic feedback. Lamothe notes, "I have been recommending the site to my friends since the day after my first session. It is a great program!"

Recently featured on WCBS radio, Tutapoint.com is also garnering an adult fanbase. Kelly says parents have already visited the site to comment on its affordability ($24 an hour, and the first session is free) and how much it has helped their children.

Lamothe concurs. "My math grades increased significantly, probably about seven points," she says. "Math just made more sense to me...There is not a doubt in my mind that I will most definitely use the site again."

Visit www.Tutapoint.com to watch an online demo, schedule a tutoring session, and for details on its current curriculum and study materials.
About the Author
Marisa Nadolny is an experienced writer and editor. Ms Nadolny edited the book High School Science Made Simple , is the editor of Úlan magaz
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