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Virtual Consultation Training

Layla Barati, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


As the demand for online education continues to grow, it is crucial for writing tutors and consultants to be well-prepared and competent in navigating the consultation experience in an online space. This lesson provides a framework for facilitating instruction, discussion, observation, and practice. Tutors will have the opportunity to become familiar with tools and technology used in virtual consultations (e.g., Google Workspace), explore effective communication strategies, adapt in-person strategies to an online setting, and use role-playing and mock consultations for practice and feedback. By implementing virtual consultation training, instructors can ensure that consultants are well-prepared and confident in their ability to deliver effective online consultations and support student learning in virtual environments. 


Writing center space

Synchronous online tutoring

Tutoring session logistics


As the demand for online education continues to grow, it is crucial for writing tutors and consultants to be well-prepared and competent in navigating the online consultation space. The overall goal of this lesson plan, as a result, is to ensure that consultants understand the affordances and challenges of online consulting, as well as the practical skills to navigate online platforms and tools effectively. 

As the title of the lesson plan suggests, this training should be conducted virtually, using the  relevant technology available to and suitable for your center’s needs. This lesson is set across two days, with an additional mock consultation/check-in meeting after the lesson, which should be used to assess consultant preparedness. The recommended number of participants for this lesson is 10 maximum and can be adapted for a minimum of one participant.

For this training plan, consultants should have some prior tutoring experience and be familiar with in-person tutoring strategies. Prior experience will serve as the necessary groundwork for the consultants’ practice and will be transferred into the virtual tutoring space. As a result, it is recommended that this training plan be implemented after the consultants have had a few months to a semester’s worth of tutoring experience. Ideally, consultants will bring with them knowledge on how to provide instruction, cognitive scaffolding, and motivational feedback (Mackiewicz & Thompson, 2014), as well as any diagnostic strategies that inform their abilities to listen, communicate, and adhere to a student or writer’s affective needs, such as in Muriel Harris’ (2015) Teaching One-to-one: The Writing Conference.  A simplified outline of the lesson is as follows:

Day One 

  • Discussion of the affordances and constraints of online tutoring

  • Review of center policies based on an online consultation manual

  • Activity for exploring and generating strategies

  • Assignment of homework video

Day Two 

  • Review and discussion of homework

  • Roleplay with relevant technology

  • Troubleshoot common issues/scenarios

  • Schedule mock consultation meeting time

Overall, our consultants have expressed an eagerness to jump into online tutoring because of the conveniences it affords for their schedules, dis/abilities, and health and safety concerns. While some consultants expressed hesitation about moving into the online tutoring space due to the number of steps involved, the consultants who chose to learn about and practice online tutoring were happy with their decision because of the affordances described above. Our administration has also found that synchronous online tutoring is a valuable service to provide at our center, as our virtual consultations are often fully booked.

Harris, Muriel. (2015). Teaching one-to-one: The writing conference. The WAC Clearinghouse.

Mackiewicz, J., & Thompson, I. (2014). Instruction, cognitive scaffolding, and motivational scaffolding in writing center tutoring. Composition Studies, 42(1), 54–78.


Synchronous online


Hands-on activity

Demo or observation




Lesson Time: More than 2 hours
Prep Time: 30-60 minutes
Occurrence: Session - a training designed to happen once 
Timeline: New tutor orientation - located early in the first term of new tutors' employment
Training Type: Series - a training that occurs over multiple sessions


Novice tutors

Experienced tutors

Undergraduate student tutors

Graduate student tutors

Faculty/professional tutors

Synchronous online tutors

  • Participants will each need a computer equipped with camera, microphone, and speaker
  • Internet access
  • Tools for collaborating synchronously, such as tools for document sharing, a video meeting platform, etc. 
  • Scheduling applications (especially if the center’s platform for scheduling is separate from the platform for video conferencing) 
  • System for generating digital intake sheets 
  • Tool for populating writer intake data and submission records 
  • PowerPoint slides or a digital manual for instructions on how to conduct a virtual consultation and relevant policies/procedures (See Supplementary Materials)
  • Structures and Strategies for Virtual Consultations resource

  • Outline for Developing a Virtual Consultation Manual resource



    Layla Barati, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

    Born and raised in Las Vegas, Layla graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with a BA in English and a minor in creative writing. She used to live in Yamanashi, Japan–home of the beautiful Mt. Fuji–where she helped teach English to high schoolers. With more than six years of writing center experience and two years of teaching English abroad, Layla has enjoyed working one-on-one with a wide range of writers. She is enthusiastic about helping students and writing consultants grow and develop their own skills, styles, and strategies in writing and instruction. In her spare time, she also enjoys playing video games, painting, and crafting things. 


    I would like to acknowledge the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Writing Center. This lesson plan was made through the collective efforts of the Writing Center's administrative staff, past and present, with the intention of supporting the consultants we train and the writers we serve. More specifically, I would like to thank Sara Tajalli, our writing center's former interim director, who created the original lesson plan from which this training was adapted. 

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