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Houston Community College recipient of Innovator Award

AskOnline recognizes HCC for its robust online environment that supports academic achievement

Houston Community College’s award winning tutoring service, HCC AskOnline has received another recognition for its innovative academic support to enhance student engagement, retention and success. Internet software provider AskOnline awarded its Innovator Award to HCC AskOnline Tutoring. This award recognizes programs and institutions that are expanding the boundaries of the AskOnline technologies by creating innovative academic support to enhance student engagement, retention and success.

HCC AskOnline Tutoring is a picture of a steady upward trajectory. When first implemented in 2006, it took 11 days for HCC to receive 100 student papers for tutoring. Today, the system handles on average 100 submissions a day in multiple subject areas. These requests are usually answered within half a day, and almost always within 24 hours.

One of the principal architects of this ambitious program is Deborah Hardwick, who has managed HCC AskOnline Tutoring since its introduction. Today, HCC AskOnline Tutoring supports about 10,000 students per semester, employs 50 tutors, and covers 20 subject areas.

When asked to identify the key factors that contribute to the success of the program, Hardwick is quick to point out, “the strength of my tutors, the robust AskOnline platform, and the effects of ongoing marketing.”

Hardwick’s program is at full capacity in part due to the aggressive marketing and positive chatter surrounding HCC AskOnline Tutoring. Her 50 tutors serve as constant ambassadors and have a consistent presence at major student gatherings and events. Promotional flyers can be seen all over campus and faculty routinely sing praises for the program; they often award extra credit to students engaged with tutors.

All of the HCC AskOnline Tutoring tutors are faculty, or faculty-eligible, and Hardwick has a strategy for recruitment and retention that has resulted in minimal tutor turnover, as well as the development of faculty “bench-strength” eager to be activated. She has a “read-only” access that allows 3000 faculty and counselors campus-wide to follow the progress of specific students and see what resource materials are available. In effect, she is making them quiet partners of the program.

HCC has invested heavily in its tutors. Every semester Hardwick convenes a “Boot Camp” that brings tutors together to exchange experiences, offers feedback, and helps these valuable colleagues stay connected to each other and the HCC AskOnline Tutoring program. A separate Tutor Training website provides a rich resource for information and teaching guides, including special insights for working with ESL students.

In addition to providing the essential platform for HCC, AskOnline has evolved its technology in parallel with the growth of Hardwick’s program.

As Jessie Bourneuf, President of AskOnline states “HCC has stretched our technology with practices we hadn’t thought of, especially as the demands of its program have evolved. It has been a privilege to be on the cutting edge of academic support together with this thought leader, and HCC AskOnline Tutoring has clearly made it possible for us to keep improving our technological know-how.”

HCC AskOnline Tutoring has won a Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Star Award, Bellwether National Finalist Award and Greater Houston Partnership Star Award in recognition of the outstanding success of its program. For more information about HCC AskOnline Tutoring, please visit


Diane Sanders


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