Academic Support offers full services virtually


Courtesy of Academic Support Services

Leila Bandar and Shane Stacey

During this time of transition from face-to-face to virtual learning, NVU-Johnson’s academic support team has implemented virtual academic support for students.
Students can find digital applications via the NVU website that will enable them to acquire academic peer and professional coaches.
“Academic Peer and Professional Coaches are allies supporting NVU-Johnson students to meet personal achievement goals,” said Leila Bandar, writing and humanities specialist in Academic Support Services.
“These peer and professional coaches have received specific training from the Writing/Humanities Specialist or the Math/Science Specialist. The training is endorsed by the College Reading and Learning Association, an international tutoring organization (, and is designed to build confidence in both coaches and learners.”
Two types of coaches are available for students, academic peer coaches and professional academic coaches. Peer coaches are undergraduate students who have demonstrated knowledge of an academic skill area such as writing, mathematics, biology or psychology and have met the application criteria, including two faculty references and an interview.
Once hired, peer coaches provide the hours they are available each day Monday through Friday. When students apply for coaching, they will include their schedule to help find them a coach to fit their availability.
Professional academic coaches have a graduate degree or are enrolled in a graduate program and/or have equivalent professional experience.
“When hiring peer and professional coaches, we look for qualities beyond content expertise,” Bandar said. “We look for individuals who are flexible, open-minded, responsive, caring, able to keep track of each learner’s goals and offer structure and resources supportive of professionalism.”
At the beginning of the semester, the academic support team experienced some challenges before transitioning to virtual tutoring sessions.
“It was a little more difficult this fall, because, although we considered it an option last spring, we ultimately dismissed the idea of remote instruction,” said Shane Stacey, math and science specialist. “So, because of what we do and how we deliver it, we weren’t set up in time. We only started taking applications digitally after people went home.”
Although these coaches are still available for personal instruction, virtual tutoring allows students to remain in their dorms if they choose. Stacey believes there is already a need, as the student population has decreased around the campus.
“This support is important, because it may be the only option for some students,” he said. “Also, there aren’t the usual students wandering around, and the quad is fairly empty most days.”
Stacey also thinks the cold, winter months will increase virtual learning needs, because students may choose to stay in their dorms during inclement weather.
“When February rolls around, it could be 20 degrees below outside at times,” he said. “Who wants to schlep from Governors or Senators to Dewey for a one-hour meeting when they can schedule something online?”
To date, one-third of the students on campus use the academic support services’ offerings to their benefit.
“The biggest reason to go to coaching is to build up your confidence to do your own work,” says Johnson student Hilary Devarney.
Although Stacey believes teaching virtually is more difficult for teachers and coaches, it is necessary to ensure students receive the academic help they need in this pandemic environment.
“I am more energized when I am face-to-face with students – virtual learning can be exhausting,” Stacey said. “But virtual learning opened our eyes to meet the needs of students that can’t traditionally access coaching services, whether it’s because they are non-traditional, commuters or have health concerns.”
Drop-in coaching is available during the evenings between 6 and 9 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Drop-in coaching does not require an appointment. Students just need to log into Zoom and use this link
Professional and Peer Coaches are available every night. The link for one-on-one coaching request forms is:
On-campus Academic Support Services are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.