CASA brings academic support closer to student population: “Minute Clinic” and “Thinkingstorm” launched this semester

FSU’s Center for Academic Success and Achievement (CASA) launched a new initiative this week that places student tutors in easy-to-access locations around campus.

LaDonna Bridges, associate dean of academic success at CASA, said the program is called CASA’s “Minute Clinic.”

“We’re placing academic strategy peer tutors (ASPTs) in different locations for several hours a week,” Bridges said. 

Students do not need an appointment to visit the clinics. Bridges said students can “drop in” and “ask us a question.”

Allison Chisholm, academic success coordinator at CASA, said ASPTs are available at Minute Clinics to “break down assignments, or, if they have five things due next week and they just don’t know where to start, they can help them with that.”

She said ASPTs can also connect students to other resources in CASA.

Bridges discussed retention of students at traditional tutoring sessions. “People would make appointments to come in for their one-on-one peer tutoring sessions,” she said. 

“They would start off strong, but they would drop off,” she added.

Chisholm said, “We found that students don’t need or don’t want to commit to an hour-a-week appointment.” She said CASA needed to “decentralize” their services and “meet the students where they are.

“That means,” she added, “seeing them in the library when they’re doing work,” and helping students if they face a “roadblock” while working in their dorms.

Chisholm said CASA has “done a couple of partnerships” with 

Residence Life in the past, but none involving tutors directly.

Bridges said they needed “different ways” to reach students. She said weekly meetings “work for some students, but not for a lot of students.

“Students are oftentimes very reluctant to seek help,” Bridges added. 

CASA currently hosts Minute Clinics three days per week at various campus locations. 

On Mondays, the clinic is in Whittemore Library from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the periodicals section on the upper mezzanine. 

On Tuesdays, the clinic is in Corinne Hall Towers from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the office by the security desk. 

On Wednesdays, the clinic is in the McCarthy Center student lounge from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., and the O’Connor Hall Center for Inclusive Excellence from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Bridges said the Minute Clinic is a pilot program. The first clinic was hosted Sept. 16.

Chisholm said, “We’re pushing it out on social media.

“If we find that it works,” she added, “we’ll expand.”

Bridges said, “If it works out, we’ll add more hours and divert some of our resources – that are more CASA-bound – to be more externally focused.”

Chisholm said, “We’re excited and we hope it works – we want people to utilize it.”

“Hopefully,” Bridges added, “we can steer them to the right resources or answer their question.”

CASA’s new online tutoring system launched July 1 through a link on students’ Blackboard homepages.

Chisholm said Thinkingstorm is primarily for students taking online courses, but also for students who need help “after hours” or on the weekends. 

She said students can “get connected with a math, statistics, or science tutor within about two to three minutes of signing on.” Students can send in problems, screen share, and use a virtual whiteboard to communicate with professional tutors. 

Other services in Thinkingstorm are appointment-based. These include accounting, economics, computer science, programming, and nursing. 

Chisholm said students can make online appointments with writing tutors for “quick questions” and upload their papers for feedback.

“The option which most students use is uploading their paper,” Chisholm said, “and they can receive feedback on that whole paper within 48 hours.

“Usually, the turnaround time is less than 24 hours,” she added.

Even for students who visit CASA in person, Thinkingstorm is a useful tool. 

Chisholm said if students need accounting help immediately, “but maybe their accounting tutor’s next hours are tomorrow,” they can make an appointment with an online tutor and get help in as little as “two hours.

“That’s simply because those folks aren’t always online like the math and science tutors are,” she said.

Bridges said the program was launched over the summer for continuing education students. 

She said nursing students gave feedback, saying it was “incredibly helpful.”

Bridges said, “It’s a very robust tutoring platform.

“We’ve had e-tutoring for a while,” she said, “but we didn’t have students accessing it as often as we would have liked.”

Bridges said students are reluctant to “come into a building to seek help.” Thinkingstorm provides tutoring to students wherever they might be.

Chisholm said, “We want students to utilize the tutors in CASA if it’s easy for them. This is there for students if they would prefer that, or, if they have an accounting question at 11 p.m. and we’re not open.”

Thinkingstorm replaces a previous online tutoring system, which Chisholm said was “ceasing to exist.

“That really forced us to look into some other options,” she added.

Chisholm said she is “very happy” with the utilization of Thinkingstorm so far.

CASA relies on student employees. Bridges calls them the “backbone” of the program.

“I can give you a study tip, and encourage you to do it,” she said, “but somehow – coming from someone who has recently been there – it makes a big difference.” 

Students fill roles including supplemental instruction leaders, ASPTs, and subject tutors at CASA.

“We have a wealth of student academic leaders that work for us,” Bridges said, “and we’re always looking for more.”

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