In today’s world, learning is an around-the-clock endeavor. That became easier for Virginia Community College System (VCCS) students with the decision to change vendors for online tutoring at its 23 institutions. As of July 1, Brainfuse became the option for Thomas Nelson students for their online tutoring needs.
“We really liked what they had to offer,” said Eve Walker, who works in the College’s Learning Resources Center and is the Tutor Zone coordinator.
Walker said the contract with the previous vendor, Smarthinking, was up at the end of the fiscal year so the VCCS decided to put out bids to tutoring companies. The VCCS gave its member schools the choice of using Brainfuse or Tutor.com.
“It’s up to the individual college to decide what works best for them,” Walker said. “We chose Brainfuse because we really liked what they were offering.”
She said there are a lot of similarities with Brainfuse and Smarthinking, but Brainfuse has added features, one of which is a live help area where students will have nearly 24-7 access to many subjects.
“Some of the subjects are more limited in access and have specific scheduled times tutors are online,” Walker said. “But writing and math, they’re 24-7.”
Another feature of Brainfuse is all the sessions are recorded so students can come back to it later if they are struggling. Or they can watch the session multiple times to make sure they fully understand the concept. The sessions also can be shared with classmates or a study group.
“Other people can benefit from the session you’ve had online,” Walker said. “We didn’t have that option before.”
Another area that is expected to be used a lot by students is the writing lab. And as with other features of Brainfuse, it offers more options. Walker said you can submit any kind of writing assignment. It doesn’t have to be for an English class.
“It could be a history paper or it could be a psychology paper,” Walker said.
When submitting the paper, you can ask the online tutor to check any number of areas, from the correct formatting on citing sources to grammar to your thesis statement to overall organization to sentence structure and more. Smarthinking limited students to checking only two areas.
“With (Brainfuse), you can pick as many as you like,” Walker said. “You just have more flexibility for the tutor to comment on more areas.”
The Brainfuse writing lab also offers live feedback so students won’t be on their own to sort through and interpret comments from the tutor. The student and tutor can discuss the paper together.
Walker noted other benefits to choosing Brainfuse:
- There’s a section called FlashBulb, which is a large library of flashcards in numerous subjects. Students also will be able to create their own flashcards, print them out and convert them to crosswords, quizzes and other games.
- The LEAP section offers diagnostic tests that point out strengths and weaknesses. Based on the results, Brainfuse can customize a study plan for a specific student.
- SkillSurfer offers prep tests. For instance, several of the available prep tests will help students who are trying to get into nursing who are focusing on TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills).
The Language Lab lets students connect with a live tutor for Spanish or French.
- There’s an app that allows students, once they’ve had a session online, to play it back on their phone. Also, if they’re in the middle of a live session, they won’t have to type out an entire paragraph or math problem to send to the tutor. They can simply take a picture on their phone and it will go directly to the tutor. Walker highly recommends students take advantage of this feature, which is free through the Apple Store and Google Play. There are instructions on how to download those on the library webpage.
While most students use online tutoring for writing and math, Brainfuse covers a range of courses – from accounting to economics to biology, chemistry, physics, nursing and more. One thing that isn’t changing is the Peer Tutor program, which is where Thomas Nelson students help their classmates.
“We’re still going to have the same peer tutors on this campus, and at the other campus when the fall semester kicks off,” Walker said. “This is a supplement, and there’s no reason why a student wouldn’t make use of both, in person and online.”
What is nice is Walker will get detailed feedback from Brainfuse on what classes students request the most help. She can then hire more tutors in specific areas, if needed.
“We just have more options, more ways to study, more ways to learn,” Walker said. “Which is nice.”
For more information on Brainfuse and other tutoring resources at Thomas Nelson, visit the library’s website. Walker is also available at (757) 825-2940 or firstname.lastname@example.org to provide assistance.