Literature on online learning suggests that many faculty members are reluctant to participate in online learning activities. Concerns raised include faculty concerns that the experiences may be impersonal and that technology will stand in the way of the learning experience. Despite this resistance, students are more likely to endorse online learning strategies, especially because they provide more flexibility in managing complex schedules. Previous research from the Deaf STEM Community Alliance project found that students were positive about their experiences—the opportunity to communicate online enabled students to seek out tutoring that they would not have been able to get otherwise due to scheduling conflicts. Furthermore, students felt that the synchronous online experience was not different than an in-person tutoring session (Elliot et al., 2013). A case study analysis of some of these online sessions suggested that synchronous online tutoring is more beneficial than in-person sessions for some courses, and less beneficial in others. Specifically, synchronous tutoring can be helpful in situations in which tutoring materials can be incorporated into the tutoring session to foster active learning. (Gehret, Elliot, MacDonald, 2017). One of the key activities of the Deaf STEM Community Alliance has been the opportunity for students to receive synchronous tutoring from NTID tutors and project staff. Through the project, more than 35 students have received this type of tutoring, and there have been more than 170 tutoring sessions to date. The proposed presentation reports on the synthesis of coding of a subset of these sessions, which lasted between 15-120 minutes, with an average length of 60 minutes. The research question guiding the analysis is, “what is happening during synchronous tutoring?” Using conversational data analysis techniques (Sidnell, 2012), the research team coded more than 500 segments of tutoring sessions that were video recorded. The segments come from 29 videos that represented STEM tutoring sessions in Biochemistry, Mathematics and Physics. The coding was largely conducted by student research assistants associated with the project, including native ASL speakers and those who were fluent in ASL. Preliminary data for this project has been presented at the NTID Student Research symposia (REF; REF) and an earlier NTID Scholarship Symposium (Elliot, 20??) and the Lilly Conference on College Teaching and Learning (Elliot, 20??) Tutoring conversations were analyzed for who was speaking (learner, tutor), communication strategies, the nature of the interaction, the types of materials being used, and issues related to technology. The analyses suggest that a) the majority of the communication used ASL, with some SimComm and text chat also used; b) most of the interactions involved hardcopy, paper documents; and, c) tutoring sessions experienced very few technical problems (less than 1% of codes accounted for technical problems). While a primary barrier of online adoption commonly expressed by faculty relates to concerns about technology and technology breakdown, the data from this study do not support that hypothesis. With adequate training and available technical assistance, it is possible to have successful synchronous tutoring sessions that focus on student learning.

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit



Slides for a presentation at the NTID Scholarship Symposium, Rochester, New York, December 2018.

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Office of the Associate Dean for Research (NTID)


RIT – Main Campus