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Back To Basics: A Student Tutor Matching Program

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

FPD5 -- Placement & Early Success

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.265.1 - 11.265.10



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Paper Authors


Mukul Shirvaikar University of Texas-Tyler

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MUKUL SHIRVAIKAR received the Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1993. He is currently an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Texas at Tyler. He has also held positions at Texas Instruments and the University of West Florida. His research interests include real-time imaging, embedded systems and pattern recognition.

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Ron Pieper University of Texas-Tyler

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RON PIEPER received the Ph.D. degree from the University of Iowa. Dr. Pieper worked in industry as a semiconductor process engineer prior to completing his Ph.D. He has over 13 years of academic experience and is a registered professional engineer (PE) in the state of Virginia. His research interests include semiconductor devices and circuits, engineering optics, fiber optics and image processing.

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David Beams University of Texas-Tyler

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DAVID M. BEAMS is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Texas at Tyler. He received his BS and MS degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in and the Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has had over 16 years of industrial experience in addition to his 8 years with UT-Tyler. He is a licensed professional engineer in Wisconsin and Texas and holds or shares four patents.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Back to Basics: A Student-Tutor Matching Program


The College of Engineering and Computer Science of the University of Texas at Tyler recognizes the value of peer-to-peer learning and has in recent years established an engineering “learning community” by reserving sections of freshman and sophomore courses like Calculus, Chemistry and English specifically for engineering students. The goal was that ad hoc alliances and support networks that promote peer-to-peer learning would form within the learning community. However, the learning community approach has well-known limitations. The very best students are typically self-motivated to study and are not consistently involved in the community. The remaining students, including those who most need help, can become “the blind leading the blind.” It is our belief, however, that structured peer-to-peer mentoring can make up the deficiencies learning community. A formalized system for getting more-advanced students in our programs to tutor students in their lower level pre-engineering courses would be very attractive.

Such a structured peer-to-peer mentoring and tutoring program, known as the "Back-to-Basics (B2B) Tutoring Program," was launched in fall, 2005 at the University of Texas at Tyler with financial support of the Texas Workforce Development Commission (TWDC). The goal of the focused tutoring program was to provide support for engineering students in the basic areas of sciences, math and programming to help them survive the first two years of the program. The initiative under which B2B was funded by TWDC envisaged increasing the graduation rate of electrical engineers, but students in other engineering disciplines are welcome to use the services of B2B tutors as well.

This paper describes the structure and assessment methods of the B2B tutoring and mentoring program and gives preliminary results.


The challenge of engineering education in the United States in the 21st century will be to produce sufficient numbers of qualified engineers from our higher-level educational institutions. This is necessary to keep the nation at the forefront of the technological innovation. In recent years, many engineering schools, including first-tier institutions, have observed a general downturn in enrollment. The student retention rate for the first and second years of engineering programs has been falling. Engineering students must be ready for university-level classes in math, physics, chemistry and computer programming. In an all-too-large percentage of cases, these students are not well prepared in high school for the four-year university programs on which they embark. The problems of recruiting and retaining students adequately prepared for engineering coursework are particularly acute in the region served by the University of Texas at Tyler. The proportion of the population holding baccalaureate degrees in East Texas is below both state and national averages. Based on experience at UT-Tyler, 50% of our entering students eventually drop out due to issues with the above-mentioned courses.

Shirvaikar, M., & Pieper, R., & Beams, D. (2006, June), Back To Basics: A Student Tutor Matching Program Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--630

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