There's nothing like seeing a friendly face when you need assistance with an assignment.

If you're a student in an online degree program at Saint Leo University, chances are you work during the day. After you get home, you devote some time to dinner, your family and maybe your children's homework before you turn to your own online courses.

What do you do if you encounter difficulty understanding a concept in math or have questions about formatting a psychology paper during those evening hours – or on a weekend?

One thing you can do is turn to the tutors in Saint Leo's Learning Resource Center. Whether you're struggling with a research paper or a math concept, you can reach out during convenient evening and weekend hours when you need assistance – and a friendly face – the most.

A way for online students to feel connected

According to Eric Bryan, the LRC's coordinator of online tutoring services, reaching out to Saint Leo's own tutors at University Campus is a great way for students in online degree programs to feel connected to the university, as well as receive the academic help they need.

And the best part is that tutoring is live, personal and face-to-face taking place via the web conferencing tool Blackboard Collaborate.

Bryan encourages online students to make an appointment to guarantee a tutor will be available at the time that's best for them.

By going to, students can schedule a tutoring session in the online appointment book, TutorTrac using their firstname.lastname as a username and the password saintleo.

More information and guidelines are found on LRC's TutorTrac webpage.

Online tutors: subject matter experts

A staff of 12 tutors is currently available in a number of undergraduate subjects: English, computer science, math, psychology, accounting, economics, philosophy and criminal justice.

Assistance is also available for graduate MBA courses. In addition, English tutors offer assistance at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to revision.

LRC tutors are both Saint Leo students and professionals. The three professional tutors are:

Matthew Craft (Criminal Justice, Philosophy): Saint Leo alumnus and the LRC's weekend manager. His undergraduate degree is in criminal justice and he is currently pursuing a graduate degree in critical incident management.Craig Henry (General Business, Accounting, MBA): former U.S. Army military intelligence officer who earned his MBA online at Saint Leo. Craig has many years of management experience and is currently vice president of operations for a local concrete products manufacturer.Brittany Robinson (English): Worked as a student tutor in the LRC and graduated in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English and recently completed an MFA in creative writing through the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Here are some thoughts from each of them about tutoring – and how they can help you.

Why students hesitate reaching out for help.

Matthew: I see students hesitating to reach out all the time. Sometimes the process of meeting a tutor can be intimidating, other times people just don't have time, or many just don't know that the service is being offered.

Craig: Most say they did not know it was available. I know some procrastinate, because their first appointment is almost always on a Sunday evening, which is the day the assignment is due.

Brittany: There is an unfortunate stigma that still surrounds the idea of tutoring. Many students are under the impression that only students who are failing classes come to see a tutor, which is simply untrue.

Students' most-common questions

Matthew: Some of the most common questions I get are about APA formatting, citations, and research information.

Craig: The subjects I most commonly help students with are accounting (journal entries) or MBA 550.

Brittany: I get a lot of questions about voice and diction as well as about the general mechanics of grammar and punctuation.

Students' greatest challenges

Matthew: Online can be challenging for many as the majority of our online tutees are non-traditional, adult students. There is a gap in technology usage so the software at first can seem menacing. I would suggest logging a first appointment to see how it is and get the feel for the online tutoring software that we use.

Craig: The greatest concern I find in some students is that they wait too long to get help. I think some students do not understand how much work is involved in online classes. After the first session, however, they realize that online tutoring can be a great service to them and they sign up for multiple sessions.

Brittany: Because the ways in which people can communicate long distance are reduced, there's a lot of room for confusion and miscommunication. Students, instructors, and tutors alike should try to be hyper aware of the way they express themselves in the virtual world and use all of the technology available including microphones and webcams.

Why Blackboard Collaborate is great for online tutoring

Matthew: Using Blackboard gives online students a way to get tutoring from their own home. This helps those who may have children or very tight schedules.

Craig: The two biggest advantages to Blackboard are that you can have a conversation with the student and share documents. The sharing tool is the best. With Blackboard, students can share their homework and we can discuss what they are doing and guide them using the homework to understand the concepts.

Brittany: Blackboard Collaborate is user-friendly, and our online tutors are excited to use it.

Most-important tip for success

Matthew: Do not give up! Academic success comes with being thorough. If you do your reading and research, and truly understand the content the professors are going over, you will excel.

Craig: Start assignments early. And if you do not understand something, get tutoring assistance early, because it may take more than one session to get all of your questions answered.

Brittany: Look ahead and know yourself. Remember why you have selected a certain discipline in the first place, and think about where you want this area of study to take you in life. Know how you learn, and you will make the best of your time and feel more grounded.

Have you ever used the LRC's online tutoring services? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

Image Credits: Paul Schlemmer on Shutterstock