Tutoring center now open for online video sessions

UH Hilo has adapted peer tutoring sessions—which offer students help in writing, science, and math—to fit with the “new normal” of virtual instruction with Zoom.

By Emily Burkhart.

Tutoring services at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo have shifted gears this fall by transitioning to an online format to help keep students safe during the pandemic. These changes, though trying, have proved an opportunity for the UH Hilo community to showcase resiliency and commitment to reaching its educational goals despite the challenges brought by the coronavirus.

Services of Kilohana: The Academic Success Center are physically located throughout campus during normal times. But the center has adapted its tutoring sessions—which offer assistance in writing, science, and math—to fit with the “new normal” of virtual instruction through use of Zoom, the now ubiquitous online video communications platform.

Students can check the Kilohana website for the fall 2020 tutor schedules and other helpful links. To request tutoring, students are asked to email justasc@hawaii.edu and in the subject line note the course alpha and number so the appropriate Kilohana student staff on duty can respond. Additional information about Kilohana’s operations during the pandemic are here.

Corin Kim
Corin Kim
Karla Hayashi
Karla Hayashi

The center’s primary mission—to offer peer support so students become confident, independent, and self-motivated learners who will eventually be able to do their own work without a tutor at their side—has been closely examined to determine best practices for transitioning to online learning. Karla Hayashi, director of the center, alongside Corin Kim, academic support specialist, are the management team behind the transition.

“Kudos to Corin for doing all of the set up and management of the Kilohana Zoom platform,” says Hayashi, recognizing the team effort. “Now that the platform is set, we will take it one day at a time.”

Hayashi also recognizes the unique challenges this semester brings, and the possibility of shifting gears should the center find it necessary. “We will make adjustments and accommodations along the way to ensure we are being responsive and adaptive,” she says.

There is ample communication between students, staff, and professors to support each other in these beginning stages of the new platform. Hayashi and Kim have made clear to both student employees and students using the tutorial services that the center is fully committed to responding to everyone’s needs “as we go on this journey together.”

Braden Savage
Braden Savage

Braden Savage, an English major and veteran writing tutor at Kilohana, shares his thoughts on the first few weeks of online tutoring.

“Surprisingly, online tutoring this semester feels sort of close to tutoring in the actual Kilohana center,” says Savage. “We all sit down in a Zoom room and wait for tutees to filter in and out. When a tutee enters, they are brought into a breakout room with one of the tutors, similar to how the tutee might walk over to their own table to have their quiet study space in the physical center.”

In addition to offering tutoring through walk-ins or appointments with tutor staff in the Kilohana Zoom room, some tutors are collaborating with students during class visits. Another strategy of the center is to employ the Breakout Room function on Zoom for tutors and tutees to work together during these visits.

Savage touches on some of the unknowns about conducting these sessions with students online rather than in person.

“Maybe [students will] be more receptive to sharing their work over Zoom, maybe they’ll be more tentative,” he explains. “A lot of the questions we have can’t really be answered until you encounter the situation and say afterwards that oh, right, that’s how it went.”

These sorts of “aha” moments are what is driving collaborative strategy between tutors, students, professors, and the center’s directors to make timely responses based on the results of these early weeks.

The staff at the center are committed to adapting as necessary to best meet the challenges students face as the semester progresses. The flexibility this engenders bonds the staff more closely as they navigate this new style together both at Kilohana and in the larger UH Hilo community.

The director’s direction reflects Kilohana’s mission of supporting students through all learning journeys.

“I think as long as we remain focused on delivering Kilohana resources and assistance to the best of our campus infrastructure and our individual and collective ability, I am confident we can provide students with the help they want and need,” says Hayashi.


Story by Emily Burkhart, a senior double majoring in English, and Gender and Women’s Studies, at UH Hilo. She is a writing tutor at Kilohana: The Academic Success Center.

Share this story