Should Tutoring Services be Added to our High-Enrolling Distance Education Courses?


distance education, tutoring, administration


Distance learning administrators are always looking for ways to balance increasing demands on instructor time, rising expectations from students and faculty for support services, mounting competition, and escalating costs with quality instruction and interaction. Increasingly, programs are responding to these competing interests by appending ancillary resources to course materials and textbooks and by using computer-mediated communication (CMC) tools, e.g., e-mail, online bulletin and discussion boards, blogs, interactive television, and computer conferencing. Yet there is inconclusive evidence that the CMC tools are successful in helping students better learn the course content (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2003). Additionally, although interaction may be increased when students are required to post on discussion boards, the quality of that interaction is often artificial, mechanical, and "noninteractive" rather than sincere and motivated (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2003; Stevens, 2003). One part of the solution to this larger problem, explored by one large distance education program, was the use of part-time tutors hired from the university's undergraduate student population, to offer additional content and motivational support to students enrolled in large enrolling courses.

A tutoring service, in concept, would only enhance student learning, support, and satisfaction while mitigating demands on faculty time, particularly when it comes to providing more meaningful student-to-instructor/tutor interaction. This intervention should also help students better master course content and complete course assignments. A tutoring service may also provide a scalable and cost-effective solution for courses with already high and growing enrollment numbers by leveraging scarce faculty time. Tutoring services could also minimize student complaints as distance education programs anticipate—rather than react to—student support needs. Another program benefit could be a marketing and competitive one as students shop for those programs with value-added services.

Original Publication Citation

Williams, P., Howell, S., Laws, D., and Metheny, E. (Winter, 2006). Should tutoring services be added to our high-enrolling distance education courses? Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration (OJDLA), 9(4). Retrieved December 15, 2006, from In the June 2007 of Distance Education Report11(9) the editor, Chris Hill, published an interview he conducted with Scott Howell and Peter Williams about this article. [Madison, WI: Magna Publications]

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Magna Publications




David O. McKay School of Education


Instructional Psychology and Technology

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor