Inspiring Student Engagement: Why should students eat their vegetables?

One of the questions we get asked by our clients the most is “how do other schools do X, Y, and Z?”

On the client services team, we spend every day working with our partners to share best practices, develop plans for how to inspire student engagement with tutoring services, and make sure they get the most out of their offering. Our clients are clever and creative, but at times, everyone is challenged by the same complex problem: How do you get the students who need the most help to seek it out?

In a recent client webinar event, we focused on this topic by starting with the idea that tutoring often carries a stigma for many students for a variety of reasons. We did not establish any silver bullet solutions to this problem but recommend that clients not approach their communications to students from a one-size-fits-all perspective. During the webinar, we asked big questions and gathered feedback to help clients think about their current approach and ways to talk about tutoring a bit differently.

Sometimes, we take for granted that tutoring is a support that students may not always see as being right for them. For many students, tutoring can be a dirty or a scary word. It’s not something they want to be associated with because they see it as a weakness or something needed only for students who are failing.

In other cases, much like a gym membership or eating your vegetables, some students may know tutoring is good for them, but as a fact of human nature, we don’t always do the things we know we should. With this in mind, it is important to determine the root causes for why some students do not take advantage of tutoring and find strategies to overcome these obstacles through benefit-oriented messaging.

Top Reasons Why Students May Not Use Tutoring:

“I don’t have time.”

For students who say they don’t have time to spend tutoring, we should help them think about the time saved by breaking through challenging material with the help of a tutor. In many cases, students who are frustrated will walk away from difficult work or procrastinate because something is a challenge. If they sit for a 20-30 minute tutoring session, they can often make a breakthrough that will help save them time in the long run as they work through difficult content.

“I don’t need tutoring.”

Even the best writers need an editor. Everyone benefits from an outside opinion and collaboration. Grappling with hard material is best done with positive guidance and reinforcement. Working with a tutor can help students of all levels to persevere and think about the material in a new way. In this way, connecting with a tutor can benefit everyone whether you are a B student looking to get an A or trying to get through a required class outside of your area of expertise. Working with a tutor does not mean you need tutoring, but much like running or exercising, a tutoring session can sharpen your mental muscles and make you stronger and better at working through assignments.

“I am too embarrassed to ask for help.”

We hear from some students who have a fear of asking for help because somehow they are ashamed or embarrassed that they need it. For these types of students, online tutoring could not be a more perfect fit because it is private and painless. Online tutors do not know anything about the students and are committed to creating a safe space in our online classroom for any questions. This format is often very comforting for students who prefer anonymity and the safety net of asking for help without judgment.

“I can’t do math.”

Tutoring can help students even before they begin their coursework. It can help refresh content knowledge and hone skills needed to get up-to-speed, even in the most challenging courses. It’s never too late or too early to start tutoring. In fact, we encourage our clients to build campaigns around engaging students to use tutoring as early in the class as possible, so they don’t only seek tutoring when they fall behind.

As mentioned, there is no silver bullet solution for encouraging students to take advantage of resources, but an important place to start is by tailoring messages to students based on benefits to them, rather than just explaining the features of the service. Avoid using a one-size-fits-all approach to messaging about student resources. Rather, assess the challenges facing your students and develop messages that will help relate the tool to the student based on what their concerns might be. You’ll find that taking a tailored approach lends itself to more compelling messages and better engagement from your students.

For more on this topic, please take a look at our recent webinar.


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