Students create K-12 tutoring group to help e-learning students

A videoconference Zoom call showing four peopleView print quality image
Tutors from Knowledge Share participate on Zoom calls to discuss plans for responding to students' questions. Photo by Hannah Yi

Hannah Yi wasn't going to sit back.

Disappointed and frustrated with the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shuttering schools, including her own, the IUPUI senior sprang into action.

The history major's original spring break staycation swiftly turned into the birth of Knowledge Share, a K-12 tutoring service provided by eight IUPUI students to help fill a void created by the pandemic.

"Cabin fever and anxiety don't make for a pleasant combination," Yi said. "Rather than keep feeling powerless, I started to think of ways I could help."

The government announced on March 19 that schools would be closed through April, and Yi had the foundation of Knowledge Share built by the next day.

She quickly recruited a group of skilled friends, created a website and Twitter account, and launched the service to students and parents March 23.

"Everyone remembers an experience when someone had a great idea, but it never got off the ground," Yi said. "That was the last thing I wanted. All of us are big believers in education, so we were motivated from the start."

The other IUPUI students part of Knowledge Share includes Dakota Burks, Ian Harmon, Blake Miller, Ellie Dufek, Sydney Heidenreich, Prabhnoor Nagra and Amanda Daily. Yi quickly mobilized her friends to "help play a small role in an issue that is much larger than us."

"She is very passionate about education and is a very driven person," said Burks, a history student in the IU School of Liberal Arts. "I thought this would be a good opportunity to utilize my knowledge base and help where I can."

Recognizing the situation and knowing her strengths, Yi knew she could not help solve the health issues facing the country by ordering ventilators or making N-95 masks. But the daughter of a retired U.S. Army officer was motivated to provide a service that is needed with so many students navigating this new e-learning journey.

"Everyone remembers a time when they couldn't quite grasp a concept in school, and the resulting frustration can be discouraging," Yi said. "We just want to be there as additional resources for students, so their learning process can continue as smoothly as possible, in spite of the changes."

The tutor group features students on dean's lists and who are studying a variety of majors including history, anthropology, psychology, chemistry and education studies. Knowledge Share also has an out-of-state student in the Teach for America program as part of the team. They have been communicating internally using GroupMe and expect the workload to ramp up as more schools return from spring break to their e-learning environments.

The group's goal is to assist students in the learning process -- helping to teach the material, not just giving students an answer.

For students and/or parents to get started, they can email their questions to askknowledgeshare@gmail.com. Questions can be sent at any time, but the tutors' working hours are from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

When a question is sent, the working tutor best qualified to answer it will either respond via email or send an invite for an audio call using a secure Zoom link if the answer needs elaboration. Video chatting will occur if the session could benefit from visual aids or the student wants to show work.

Appropriate parental permission is gained for the audio and video communication, as one of Knowledge Share's top priorities is internet safety.

"I almost feel a responsibility to do this now that I have been given the opportunity," said Harmon, a sophomore Honors College student and history major. "I personally know the inconveniences and difficulties COVID has caused for students, so I can relate to what the K-12 students are going through.

"Also, I enjoy working with children; I am the oldest of three and have always enjoyed helping my siblings with their schoolwork."

Yi and other seniors across campus have attended their final class in person. The native Hoosier regrets that there will be no more Cavanaugh Hall lectures for her from history professors Kevin Robbins, Kevin Cramer and Anita Morgan. She cited the trio as helping inform and educate her reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They are particularly skilled at communicating to students that historical events are not only topics of study but real challenges, uncertainties and victories experienced by living, breathing humans just like us," she said.

"I had always wondered about the human condition in times of crisis and what I would do. I think as all this was unfolding, my mind reverted to what I had learned from those three professors and accepting the emerging reality that overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic would require a communal effort."

After graduating, Yi will join Teach for America as a corps member. But before moving on to the next chapter of her life, she's trying to do her part in this time of crisis.

"COVID-19 is neither a 'you problem,' a 'me problem,' nor a 'their problem,'" she said. "It's our issue to tackle.

"If we all do our own small part, whether it's helping an elderly neighbor get groceries or checking in on friends and family or helping a family, we have to have faith we will get through this, perhaps more united by our common humanity."