Math Homework Help Service Offers Hybrid Model Approach for Additional Support

Student employees of the Homework Help service offered via the UO Mathematics Library have offered both virtual and in-person options for UO students looking for additional guidance.

student at chalkboard

Since fall term of 2020, student employees of the Mathematics Library have been offering a hybrid approach to their longstanding Homework Help program. With the University switching to primarily virtual learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Homework Help is now offered via Zoom and in-person on the third floor of Tykeson Hall.

The main purpose of this service is to offer additional support for students who use additional homework guidance.

“When people are working on math and they just need someone to point them in the right direction or confirm that they’re doing something the right way, that’s what we’re here for,” said Science Librarian and Subject Librarian for Computer Science, Physics & Math, Kristin Buxton.

Homework Help provides added value to students’ learning experiences surrounding math, especially in lower-level math courses that typically have 100+ students trying to learn from one professor at a time.

“Having somebody else explain something allows them to understand things in slightly different ways,” said Buxton. “So, if someone didn’t quite follow what their instructor was saying, having somebody else explain the same thing might be helpful.”

Additionally, the student-student relationship, between Homework Helpers and the students they assist, provides unique value to the program.

“I feel like there is less intimidation and less of a barrier to admitting that they need help and what areas they don’t understand to a peer versus asking their professor,” said Buxton.

Though the service was strictly virtual last spring, recently eased COVID-19 restrictions have allowed for Homework Help employees to offer a hybrid model of both virtual and in-person support.

With only a few weeks into the term, traffic has been busier on Zoom; in fact, Homework Help received over 800 Zoom visits during fall term of 2020 alone. However, Buxton and other employees are hopeful that the in-person service will benefit students who learn more effectively with a chalkboard in front of them.

“I think they can both be helpful in their own ways, and there can definitely be tradeoffs,” said Homework Helper, Cameron Cunningham. “For example, working in person is easier for us as Homework Helpers because we can more easily manage the traffic we get. On the other hand, working with people over Zoom can be helpful because we can look at the students’ screens more directly, as well as go through the virtual textbook with them. Overall, there are a lot of different tradeoffs between the two mediums.”

Going forward, Buxton predicts that spring term services will look similar to fall and winter, which have followed the hybrid model of in-person and virtual support. Whether in-person or virtual, the Homework Help service offers beneficial value to students struggling to learn math—a subject most students tend to need additional support with anyway.

“As a Homework Helper, I can help [other students] through what is often a very big challenge to their education,” said Cunningham. “For a variety of reasons, math doesn’t click with a lot of people, so I make it my goal to be someone who can understand that math is hard and it’s hard to get through a math class.”

As if college-level mathematical concepts weren’t difficult enough already to grasp, being forced to learn and practice them via virtual learning can add to that difficulty for some students.

“There were a lot of students who didn’t have a place to go for help [when we switched to online learning],” said Buxton. “In previous times, it was a little easier to wander into the library and find people from your class that were working together. So, our services let them know that there’s someone out there who can help and wants them to do well.”

To access the online Homework Help service, students can go to this online form to log in and get the link to the Zoom meeting. The form must be filled out each time you visit. Online drop-in Homework Help is offered Monday-Thursday 1pm-7pm and Friday 1pm-5pm.

In-person drop-in Homework Help is also available on the third floor of Tykeson Hall Monday-Thursday 3pm-5pm for those who feel comfortable or prefer in-person learning. For additional information on Homework Help services, click here or email kbuxton@uoregon.edu or mathlib@uoregon.edu.

Lastly, if you have an extensive knowledge of university-level mathematical concepts and have an interest in becoming a Homework Helper through the UO Mathematics Library, feel free to email Kristin Buxton at kbuxton@uoregon.edu to get an application or to ask any questions.

- by Kenzie Hudler, Social Media Writing Assistant, UO Libraries