EXPLORING THE POTENTIAL OF ON-LINE TUTORING IN A MIDDLE-EASTERN UNIVERSITY WRITING CENTER

M. Eleftheriou, N. Sadasivam, F. Ahmed

American University of Sharjah (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
A Writing Center in the Middle-East initiated an on-line tutoring program. At the American University of Sharjah Writing Center, writing center tutors conducted tutorials using synchronous chat programs (type or voice chat) and collaboration platforms, such as gtalk and google documents. Tutors were asked to record their thoughts and impressions in a reflective journal entry after each writing tutorial and 25 reflections were subsequently analyzed. The data revealed that the tutors appreciated some of the aspects of on-line tutorials, such as the ability to focus on the text, share websites and collaborate on texts, but the tutors also found tutoring on-line more challenging than tutoring face-to-face because of the absence of non-verbal cues and diminished tutee participation. This presentation discusses the issues raised through this study and suggests the possibility of developing tutor training models that are designed to access the potential of on-line collaboration platforms. The study suggests the distinctive nature and function of on-line tutorials and the futility of comparing this style with traditional, face-to-face tutorial sessions.