SMU students have mixed feelings about using A-LEC

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More than 1,000 SMU students will use the free tutoring center on campus this fall.

The Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center helps a range of undergraduate students study for midterms and finals, and raise their grades and GPAs.

“Early progress reports just came out for freshman so we’ll see them come in because they didn’t do as well as they’d hoped,” said A-LEC Director Sue Bierman. “But we’ll also see presidents scholars because they have sights for grad schools and want to keep their GPA up.”

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ALEC Excel Workshop Photo credit: Meghan Klein

The thousand plus students that walk through the door each semester will collectively visit the center more than 15,000 times, officials said.

Rather than hiring professional tutors, SMU employs 110 current undergraduate students to help their peers. In order to tutor in a subject, a student must have earned an “A-“ or higher in the class they want to tutor. For writing and language tutors, they must also have a teacher recommendation before being hired.

SMU senior Regan Beall said tutoring accounting helps her maintain the skills she’ll need to become an auditor when she graduates.

“What sets tutoring apart from being a TA is getting to work on a variety of different things,” said Beall. “There is a potential to work on a different problem or subject every single day.”

The center has shifted away from booking individual appointments and opted for “drop-in” time slots where specific subject tutors are available.

Director Bierman said the drop-in hours are better because some students only need a few minutes to ask one question and get unstuck on a problem.

Also new is a training system for tutors before they start. Senior Associate Director Adreana Julander said they recently implemented the online training to teach tutors about common things they may experience, how to tutor students with different learning styles or English as their secondary language.

SMU junior Kayley Smith doesn’t use the tutoring center but sees the value in having student-tutors rather than professionals.

“I think it’s a good way for students who are teaching to learn, in addition to helping other people learn as well,” said Smith. “I think it’s definitely a good model.”

First year Hannah Miller has a chemistry tutor in the ALEC that she sees each week. She agrees with Smith and likes the system of having students teach students.

“Its good so far, it’s easier to grasp concepts when it’s coming from a student’s perspective,” said Miller.

ALEC Assistant Director Ann Shattles says despite the center’s popularity, she wants to increase publicity and to see it grow.

“We want to make sure that there isn’t a student that doesn’t know that we’re here,” said Shattles. “They could decide they don’t need the help, that’s okay. But we want to make sure they know they have this as an option.”

But informing students about the ALEC may not be why most of SMU’s approximately 6,400 undergraduates aren’t using it.

Sophomore Maggie Borders said she knew about the ALEC but found that the drop in hours were hard to sync up with her schedule so she opted to pay for an outside tutor.

“It was easier to do that rather than find a time slot ALEC was open and I was free,” said Borders. “I paid for a tutor because it was one person I could count on every time.”

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