Commentary

How a Little Can Go a Long Way

Nowadays, it's incredibly easy to do things online. When I say "things," I mean personal business like paying bills, finding the address to your doctor's office, looking up phone numbers for small businesses, and even getting feedback from reviews that others post on a particular place. The internet never stops amazing people today with its rapid technological advances, proving that we are becoming more connected to each other every day.

But I'm concerned about my place of employment.

I work as a writing tutor in a place called the Learning Center. The Learning Center has four desks that provide free tutoring services for students at my college. We are typically old school here. The other day, I was speaking with a co-worker about budget cuts and such. She told me that administration has considered "shutting us down," as there are two writing desks available on campus: our writing desk, and the Writing Center.

As far as I know, both desks provide the same services. We help students brainstorm, check punctuation, wordiness, structure, subject verb agreement, citations, etc. We look at research papers, cover letters, resumes, creative writing, literary reviews, speeches, graduate applications, and anything else that has to do with writing. The main difference between our desks is the use of online services.

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I don't mean to say the our desk doesn't reference the internet, because we do that all the time. Just last week we had a client ask if she could make an appointment online, but we don't do that. Then, she asked if she could have her paper checked over Google documents, but we don't do that either. I could see her eyes gently fall to the floor, and I thought that we may have just lost a client. After our session, I asked her if she knew what desk she was at, because new students often mix the two up, but she knew. She thought that all the writing desks had those services; something needs to happen at the Learning Center.

There is no personal competition between the writing desks. In fact, the graduate assistant in charge of our desk is good friends with the coordinator of the Writing Center. Because of budget issues, and hyped-up threats of shutting one of the writing desks down, administration has created a survival situation. Currently, both writing desks have the same goals, but there is an added pressure on myself and my co-workers to be excellent marketers. Our clientele records support our reputation, but we need to find better ways to operate.

Adopting an online service where students can make appointments, review their papers from home, I.M. chat with tutors, and receive any necessary information could make a big difference in the way students interact with university resources. For our desk, adopting some of the similar online services as the Writing Center could force the university to keep both desks in business, and maybe even attract a larger clientele. It doesn't take much to implement internet resources, and our university has the means.

I guess I just don't understand why the Learning Center hasn't made a change, especially now.

"Now" means a couple things. The time we live in "now," and what is about to happen to the Learning Center. Next semester, the Learning Center building will be under construction, meaning that all the desks will no longer be in one place, but dispersed throughout campus. I have never even been to the building our desk will be relocated to, and it will be inconvenient for new students to find the other desks as well. Aside from the location, it's crucial to start utilizing the internet in productive ways to keep up with the time we live in "now," and survive through future changes. If students don't collectively know about us, then how can we keep clients, let alone direct them to us. We need to practice connectivity and embrace change, otherwise our values might be overlooked by the sense that our services are obsolete.

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