The Online Tutor as
Cross-Curricular Double Agent

Original Research Plan

Our original research plan was designed to help us discover "the hallmarks of and reasons for the success of" our busiest and most popular online tutor. Our research methods included a quantitative analysis of the archived logs of all the OWL tutoring session, interviews with three clients who were regular users, interviews with our two busiest tutors, and a rhetorical analysis of the tutoring sessions of our "most successful" tutor, who will be referred to as Laura.

By reviewing the logs of her tutoring, we were able to identify and contact seven of Laura's repeat clients. Three of the clients who had repeatedly worked with Laura agreed to be interviewed about their use of the OWL. In the course of the interviews we asked each respondent several questions about the OWL, e.g., when and why they had used it, and about the quality of the tutors, never asking directly about Laura. From these interviews we learned some of the attributes these users appreciated in an OWL tutor in general, and what they liked about Laura's tutoring in particular.

We also interviewed Laura and another OWL tutor who had logged the second greatest volume of business. We asked both tutors what they recalled about their training, whether they ever felt a conflict between the tutor training and what instructors wanted them to do, whether OWL tutoring was equally appropriate for all kinds and levels of writing students, about their individual methodologies, about advantages and disadvantages of OWL tutoring compared to F2F tutoring, why they kept returning to work as OWL tutors, and what benefits had accrued to them from the experience.

Finally, we did a rhetorical analysis of several of Laura's tutoring sessions, in which we examined the kind of ethos Laura presented online, the sorts of questions she asked, the kinds of corrections and suggestions she made, and the ratio of comments about surface features to comments about more substantive issues in her clients' texts.