Online program offers free homework help, tutoring to all Alabama students
Alabama students are returning to the classroom, and with that comes homework, tests and other assignments. Sometimes, coursework can be challenging, and one state government office offers a free service to help remedy these troubles.
Homework Alabama is an online program offered by the Alabama Public Library Service (APLS). Thanks to support from tutor.com, the program has amassed more than 3,000 tutors, which are available for one-on-one mentoring and homework help. Tutors can be reached seven days a week between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. at night.
“Homework Alabama has got vetted, third party study, test prep and career resources available 24/7,” said Melinda Smith, one of APLS’ reference librarians. There, you can reach out to tutors for things such as help with writing papers, resumes, preparing for the SAT or ACT or you can find a career coach, as well, that can help you do job searches.”
APLS assists all of Alabama’s public libraries, including through grant assistance for state funding. According to APLS, Homework Alabama first began as a passion project within one library in Shelby County in 2004. Due to its popularity among residents, Smith said APLS adopted the program as a statewide service in 2005.
“It’s just skyrocketed, since then, to having tutors available in more than 60 subjects. The sessions are 100% online, and, so, everyone seems to love it. You’ve got the ability to chat and use a whiteboard feature for working out answers together,” she said. “It’s just been extremely successful. Since October 2022, just within the past year, Homework Alabama assisted close to 15,000 students in one-to-one homework sessions. Each month, we run reports. We’ve received positive feedback from students saying tutors are patient, and easy to work with as they break down problems and help students understand them in a new way.”
The program receives its funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services through its Library Services and Technology Act grant program. State funds are also appropriated by the Alabama Legislature to help make Homework Alabama possible.
While homework help is a major foundation of the online program, Homework Alabama does offer other services. The first is its Writing Lab, which offers 24/7 drop-off reviews for term papers and other writing assignments.
“Tutors can get back with you, go over your work with you and go over [specific] things such as grammar, word choice, sentence structure, thesis development, citations, all kinds of things like that. You can get help sort of behind the scenes, and they can get back with you,” Smith said.
Tutors within the Writing Lab usually have a 12 hour turnaround for feedback.
However, it is not just K-12 and college students benefiting from this online program; it’s job seekers too. Homework Alabama’s Career Alabama module helps with everything from resumes and cover letter reviews to job assistance.
“They can help with finding a job, preparing for an interview and applying for online jobs,” Smith said.
Homework Alabama’s tutoring services also offer several courses particularly aimed at adult audiences.
“They have a portion for citizenship test tutoring. There are people who tutor just for that,” Smith said. “They have tutors that are experts in computer literacy. If you need help with Microsoft Excel, Word or PowerPoint, there are tutors specifically for that. There’s even tutors for English as a second language, GED and reading comprehension. Just basically any subject that adults would need, not just children. They’ve got all of this available in the Career Alabama portion.”
Children, teens and adults interested in accessing Homework Alabama should visit APLS’ website for more information. The program is free of charge. Residents must be located within the state to access the program.
“You should not be asked for a username and a password,” Smith said. “If you are asked for a username and password, chances are it could be a geolocation issue. Sometimes, people that are right on the border of Alabama have an issue. In that case, they can contact us at APLS at our reference desk. It doesn’t happen very often, but, every now and then, there’s a geolocation issue. We can assist them as soon as we possibly can, usually within a business day.”
While Homework Alabama can be accessed through any desktop computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet, Alabamians must have reliable access to the internet. Residents who lack reliable internet access at home can visit any public, school or college library with a public access computer to access the program.
No account registration is required for tutoring, homework help or any other services. However, Smith said having a registered account does give users access to additional, helpful features.
“If you do go ahead and sign up to create [an account] for yourself, there’s a locker room [feature], where you can keep [all] recorded sessions with your tutors, any documents they upload, any documents you upload and other work you do or work on together. You can go back and look at the things you’ve done, which can really help you move forward in the future with understanding what you’re doing,” Smith said.
Smith said, based on testimonials from past and present users, Homework Alabama has been an incredibly helpful program.
“It is difficult finding a tutor in your area, who can help in the exact subject you need for a price you can afford,” she said. “It’s difficult to schedule with someone to come into your house or go to an office or school to where they are. It’s just tricky to do that, especially after hours. It’s so beneficial today to be able to hop online, sign on for free [and work] with a tutor one on one, who can just chat with you at whatever time you’re available. We really wanted to make this as easy as possible for students and residents of Alabama to be able to get help at their fingertips.”
Above all else, Smith said this resource allows Alabama’s young learners to develop confidence in their ability to learn and grow.
“It’s boosting confidence in our students,” she said. “There are many students who feel intimidated in the classroom. They are afraid to speak up, raise their hand and ask questions. One of the things we have noticed in our feedback, more than anything else, is that confidence from having the freedom to talk with their tutors. These tutors come in 100% focused, committed to listening and committed to helping. That does wonderful things for your confidence. The students come out believing they can do this, and that’s exciting. It’s empowering. We do believe it’s doing great things for our students.”
There are no cutoff times for accessing Homework Alabama. It is available 24/7, and tutors are available seven days a week between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. Visit www.homeworkalabama.org for more details.