I have not kept track of how long this lockdown has lasted, but since the pandemic everything has become remote. My classes were on Zoom and as I managed those online, I also had to become with using Zoom as a host myself. As a tutor at the Emory Writing Center, I had to adjust to tutoring remotely. Naturally, this produced a new set of challenges I had not encountered before while tutoring on campus.
The first challenge was not having the paper in hard copy. While it is easier to edit one's work if the the document is open, it also complicates the revision process for the both the tutor and the tutee. The Emory Writing Center has a policy that requires everyone have a printed copy of the work they wish to review. This is done for a plethora of reasons. It's easier to keep track of corrections that need to be made and why they need to be made when annotating the hard copy. The comparison of before and after is much easier rather than immediately changing the run-on sentence or structure. It also prevents the writer from skipping over punctuation or spelling errors since the paper is in a different format. The writer becomes accustomed to their own writing in digital form, but grammar and punctuation often becomes more apparent when printed.
The second challenge is building rapport over Zoom. There is a certain atmosphere created in the physical writing center. Tutors are working with their tutees. Someone else is looking at the writing handouts. Overall, there's a feeling of productivity and focus. On the other hand, logging into Zoom can feel rushed. Sometimes there is technical difficulties with slow connection and lag or audio issues. Even though it is a minor interruption, each distraction takes away from working with the writer. Depending on the writer or the tutor's environment, it may not be conducive to a quality session. Sometimes tutor may call from their car or have family in the background. In person, these issues rarely present themselves.
Another challenge is time zones. Many international students utilize the writing center. I had a call from a student from Taiwan. I was amazed at her conviction to seek help from the writing center with such a major time difference. It is marvelous how we can communicate and help each other from opposite ends of the globe. However, on campus, such an appointment wouldn't be an issue. Due to the time differences, appointments can no longer be made last minute. They must be made at least five hours in advance and the same rule applies for cancellations. Although this rule was made to give tutors time to set aside for the appointments, it also makes it harder for students to arrange last minute appointments.
Nonetheless, I am glad the Emory Writing Center has done their best to make the transition to remote tutoring as smooth as possible. Everyone has their own experiences with remote tutoring and these were a few things I noticed while conducting sessions online over Zoom.