Creating Verbal Immediacy - The Use of Immediacy and Avoidance Techniques in Online Tutorials
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Like many writing center directors, I was hesitant to introduce online tutoring. However, because of limited physical space on campus, the internet provides the only room for growth available to us—a problem faced by many writing centers (Carpenter 2). The inevitability of online growth is also supported by the increase of tertiary-level online and blended courses being offered at most post-secondary schools. I was hesitant to begin online tutoring because [of] the “complexities introduced by online tutoring: the increased potential for directive tutoring instead of nondirective tutoring . . . the lack of sustained dialogue in asynchronous tutorials, and technological problems of accessibility and compatibility” (Kastman Breuch 21). In a conscious effort to avoid some of these issues, when the writing lab I direct began providing online tutorials in spring 2010. Our staff chose to use a software product called ShowDocument.com that allows students to upload their drafts and then share an interactive white board with the tutor to annotate the paper being discussed while synchronously chatting. The program does not have an audio or video function, so participants type their messages. We considered using a program such as Skype that would allow the tutor and student to see each other as they speak. However, technology is never completely trustworthy, and the ongoing issues of poor, broken, or failed transmission made Skype and similar programs an unreliable choice. Second, the close confines in which we work make the noise level in our lab high, and students themselves often login to video conferences from their dorms, or apartments, where background distractions can greatly impede the tutorial. Finally, as Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch suggests, we learned that we could not assume that all of our students who use the online service have access to equipment that enables them to use Skype or similar programs (21).