CALC Tutoring Center in "Link-Up Magazine"

November 1986

Note: This article details CALC's first online school, the QuantumLink Tutoring Center, which was designed, developed, and directed by Margaret Morabito. The Tutoring Center was located inside the Learning Center section of QuantumLink. Shortly after starting the Tutoring Center, Morabito developed and directed the Community College, which offered structured courses in a real-time, classroom format. QuantumLink is no longer in existence, but its owners went on to develop America Online. CALCampus today still has some of the original teachers from these early days from QuantumLink.

Tutoring the Online Way

By Margaret Morabito

Telecomputing is responsible for a new kind of education in this country-- the consumer-oriented kind.

What is consumer-oriented education? It is the offering of educational opportunities to the population that exists outside of traditional schools. Consumer education welcomes all ages of students from all sectors of society, and it promotes learning as an enjoyable pastime. Perhaps what is most attractive about it is that it is inexpensive.

The consumer-oriented environment can do much to make learning appealing, and to bring back thousands of adults who may not have graduated from high school or who graduated without really knowing how to read, write, or figure math properly.

QuantumLink, a national online network for Commodore computer owners, is now participating in this new wave of education. In October, QuantumLink opened the Tutoring Center, the first national online tutoring project. The network is set up for Commodore owners, and is a perfect vehicle for experimentation in this new education area because there are well over five million C-64s and C-128s in use across the nation.

QuantumLink has had success with other educational offerings and expects the Tutoring Center to gain national recognition and to fill a need that is not currently being met by any other commercial online network.

The Tutoring Center is as close to an after-school tutoring lab as you can get. Its goal is to attract the widest range of learners, whether or not currently enrolled in a school, who want to bone up on certain subjects. All ages of students are invited to attend nightly tutoring sessions. The Center is now offering sessions on the elementary and secondary levels in mathematics, English, science, and BASIC programming, with more courses to follow.

Teaching Methods

Deciding which teaching methods to use through the medium of an online network is a challenge for instructors. Teachers must work within the structure of the network, and this calls for modifying their traditional methods of classroom presentation.

Several methods are used on QuantumLink. The most innovative for online education are the live tutoring sessions. These are hour-long sessions held in real-time conference areas (classrooms), where a teacher is available for providing instruction on a preassigned subject and for answering students' specific questions about that subject.

Another method is the use of departmental message boards. Each subject for tutoring has its own message board where students can keep in touch with their teachers between classroom sessions. This accommodates those students who need to follow up on a topic of discussion with their teacher or who may not have been able to attend a live session. Teachers log onto the message boards on a regular basis to reply to students' questions and comments.

The task of providing materials for students to work from is quite challenging. While many students are already enrolled in schools and have their own textbooks, some students are not in school and may not have a reference book for the subject they want to study.

To accommodate both types of students, computer-based instruction is applied. This bypasses the need for providing texts and other hardcopy materials. Each department has its own database area where students can download study materials for use on their computers while offline. Study materials are composed of self-running educational computer programs and supplemental reading in the form of text files. Students download, read and/or print out the files from a word processor or from a utility program supplied by QuantumLink.

Another way of getting students involved in their studies is to provide online interactive quizzes. Many networks currently provide trivia quizzes that can be taken online. This same principle is being used for each subject in the Tutoring Center. Teachers can compose their own multiple choice, true/false, or fill-in-the-blank quizzes for students to take online.

All of the download materials provided through the QuantumLink Tutoring Center are public domain. Some have been created by the Tutoring Center teachers themselves, and many have been donated by educators and programmers who are interested in education but are not tutoring in this project.

Who are the teachers? They are educators from across the nation who have volunteered several hours of their time each week. The majority of them are fulltime practicing teachers from the elementary through university level.

Registration Info

Anyone who has a C-64 or C-128 computer and is (or becomes) a subscriber to QuantumLink can participate in the Tutoring Center. There are no registration forms to fill out nor are there prerequisites to be met in order to receive tutoring.

QuantumLink supplies its own terminal program, which can be used with 300- or 1200-baud modems. Users pay a monthly fee of $9.95, which includes one free hour of online time. Thereafter, usage costs $3.60 per hour. New subscribers get the QuantumLink terminal program free when they sign up.

The network and Tutoring Center are open on weeknights from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. Eastern time and 24 hours per day on weekends. Access is through Telenet or Tymnet.

For more information about the Tutoring Center, contact Margaret Morabito, Director of the Tutoring Center, Rindge, New Hampshire.
(This article appeared on page 12 of the November, 1986 issue of Link-Up Magazine, which was published by Learned Information, Inc., NJ during the 1980s. Link-Up was devoted to news and information about the online medium.)
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