Promote Your On-Demand Tutoring Program for Maximum Student/Family Engagement
By Norberto Perez
The incorporation of a virtual, chat-based tutoring service into our plans for an after-school tutoring program was a natural fit for our students and teachers. Many schools and districts struggle to see the amount of usage they would prefer, but our school district is doing well. Our teachers and students love the flexibility of the tutoring service. And most of all, for students, they love the privacy this type of chat-based program provides when they are feeling uncertain.
Without a doubt, the students’ favorite aspect of on-demand tutoring is the opportunity to ask a question without having to feel shy or embarrassed to ask. Varsity Tutors for Schools’ chat-based format allows students the privacy they need to ask questions, with anonymity, and to feel safe in learning.
While the success of the initiative is the result of a combination of different factors, the promotion was substantial, and the benefits to our students have proven this to be a worthwhile investment of our time and resources. Our students, families and teachers were prepared and well-familiar with the program by the time we decided to kick off the program.
If your school site or district is struggling to engage your students in the on-demand tutoring services you are using, here are a few things to try:
- Clearly Identify Tutoring Sites
Our tutoring program takes place during after-school hours at a series of tutoring hubs strategically located throughout the District. Each of these school sites were clearly identified with a permanent plaque at the front of each building. This way, our families are alerted to the availability of tutoring and the students know they are in the right place as soon as they arrive.
- Engage Teachers in Your Outreach Efforts
Teachers are at the front line in connecting students with needed resources and support. I worked with my teachers to identify the kinds of promotional materials they would want for their classrooms. Some wanted large posters, others wanted a flyer size—I created them all because everyone has agency to build their program, within the parameters. Teachers now actively use the posters to refer struggling students to the tutoring program.
- Know Your Audience
Any reasonable marketing effort begins with understanding your audience and how to deliver your message when and where they are ready to receive it. This line of thinking led me to develop two especially effective tactics, refrigerator magnets and yard signs along the walking paths on campus. We provided teachers with refrigerator magnets they could send home with students. The magnets promote tutoring and have a QR code that allows students to easily log into Varsity Tutors’ On-Demand Tutoring site and get help. What do kids do when they are home alone after school? Go to the fridge to look for something to eat, of course. For busy families who may not have time to read a flyer, the yard signs along the walking paths, in English and Spanish, as well as the magnets ensure they don’t miss the message. District/school websites, a broadcast to familes and District social media also assist, along with local advertising.
- Highlight Student Success
Once we started to see some engagement with the tool, I invited students and teachers who were using the platform to join me for a District Podcast episode to share their experiences with tutoring. This podcast was then shared with our families, via social media, the District’s web page about tutoring, and email communications to engage further and encourage families to utilize the service.
Data Shows Student Engagement Increases Over Time
A review of usage data from start to close of Rialto’s tutoring program reveals consistent increases in the number of students engaging with on-demand tutoring. The best part is to see that the number of requests per student increased as well. This tells us that once students try the service, they keep coming back. While we will look more closely at the impact of this initiative on students’ learning outcomes, we are confident that our on-demand tutoring service has become an important part of our overall tutoring program.
About the author
Norberto Perez is the Agent of Expanded Learning Programs at the award-winning Rialto Unified School District in Southern California. Mr. Perez has successfully launched the District’s after-school tutoring program, which has provided service to students coming out of a pandemic that impacted learning loss.