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A new friend online

Libraries offer free online tutoring program, Live Homework Help

Brent Boyer

Having trouble with that complicated math problem? Don’t know how to apply a physics formula? Is there no one to help you before that homework assignment is due?

Routt County students have a new friend in a free online program offered through a network of state libraries, including Bud Werner Memorial Library. The program, called Live Homework Help, pairs a network of qualified online tutors with students who need help with a pesky homework problem or other academic-related school questions.

“Students think this is a bonanza,” said Alysa Selby, Bud Werner Memorial Library’s reference and adult services librarian. “They can get on the Internet and ask a reliable resource for information on how to get help with their homework.”

Live Homework Help is an offshoot of AskColorado, a free online virtual reference program that kicked off in 2003. AskColorado is a service geared toward people who need assistance with a variety of straightforward reference-related questions, and Live Homework Help is designed specifically for helping students with their schoolwork.

After logging on to the service, students are asked to type their homework problem or questions to the tutor. Using special white boards connected to their computers, the tutors work through the problems step-by-step with the student. The emphasis of Live Homework Help is on helping the students understand the concepts behind their homework problems.

“We don’t want to simply be doing their homework for them,” Selby said. “It’s there to tutor someone through the steps.”

Tutors are provided through a Colorado State Library contract with Tutor.com. The Live Homework Help service is for students in grades four through 12, as well as college students taking lower division courses. The tutors can provide homework assistance in math, science, English and social studies. Available seven days a week from 3 to 10 p.m., Live Homework Help requires a one-time free program download. The service also is available in Spanish from 3 to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays.

“This service is something we’re excited about and thrilled to offer,” Selby said.

Bud Werner Memorial Library was a founding member of the AskColorado service, and Routt County residents have responded by using the service at an impressive rate considering the county’s relatively small population, Selby said. More than 23,000 “calls” were made to the AskColorado service during its first year of operation, including about 300 from Routt County.

Of those calls, nearly 70 percent were schoolwork-related questions. Adding Live Homework Help to the AskColorado service was a decision made, in part, because of the high volume of school-related questions, Selby said.

“We really want to be sure we’re serving that population, because they’re the primary users,” she said.

Since Live Homework Help went online early this fall, the service has received nearly 3,000 calls. A majority of those calls came from seventh- and eighth-graders.

Bud Werner Memorial Library contributes $600 a year to help fund the AskColorado and Live Homework Help services. Libraries across the state also provide funding and staff time to keep the service operational.

“For $600, Routt County is getting librarians 24-7,” Selby said. “It’s really a cost-effective way to serve our county.”

Unlike Live Homework Help, the AskColorado service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“This actually helps our library, because you’re getting qualified, professional librarians to help you during our off-hours,” Selby said. “It’s a huge boon to a rural library to participate in this project.”

Selby asks future Live Homework Help and AskColorado users to remember one thing when using the services: patience.

“You’re talking to a live human being, not a computer, so give them a chance to answer the question,” Selby said. “They’re trying as fast as they can.”

AskColorado and Live Homework Help can be accessed via Bud Werner Memorial Library’s online reference resources Web page at http://www.steamboatlibrary. org/referenceframeset.htm or by logging on to http://www.askcolorado. org.

— To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com


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