Ask Engadget: How do I get help while 'schooling from home'?

Follow these best practices when asking professors for help.

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This week's question asks how to get help at home from teachers and professors. Weigh in with your advice in the comments -- and feel free to send your own questions along to!

What are the best ways of approaching a teacher or a tutor about remote extra help sessions?

Getting help on your school work can be tough under normal circumstances and it won't be any easier if you're attending Zoom classes. If you need assistance on an assignment or a general topic you're studying, reach out to your teacher or professor as soon as you think you might need help.

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“I would advise students looking for additional help from their instructors to reach out as early as possible,” Andrew J. McClurg, IT Analyst at Syracuse University’s Online Learning Services center, told Engadget in an email. “The class is a partnership between the two, with both wanting the student outcome to be positive. By contacting instructors when they first realize they need help, students can avoid becoming too overwhelmed with the material as the class progresses.”

McClurg also recommends using the method of contact that your instructor prefers. “As a best practice instructors will have communication policy on how they prefer to be contacted, whether that be email, telephone, or another method,” he says. “Additionally, instructors will state how long they typically take to respond to student communications. The usual timeframe is 24 to 48 hours, if not sooner.” If that information isn’t clear to you on day one of classes, you can always reach out to your professor and ask how they wish to be contacted before you bombard them on all fronts with your questions.

You should also consider using your instructor’s office hours (if they still have them). According to McClurg, office hours have often gone underutilized even when students were physically on campus — but they’re a great time in which you can seek one-on-one help. “Office hours are a great resource for students and instructors to connect .... We have had great success with online office hours using Blackboard Collaborate and Zoom, even before the move to online instruction the past spring.”

And if you end up needing more help than your professor can provide, ask them if they know of any reputable tutors that you can contact. They may be able to direct you to resources your college or university has available to all students, or outside tutoring sources you can consider.

—Valentina Palladino, Commerce Editor

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Ask Engadget: How do I get help while 'schooling from home'?