High-tech tutor


HANCOCK COUNTY — With a few mouse clicks, patrons of Hancock County Public Library now have access to thousands of tutors trained to assist anyone from grade school students needing homework help to college graduates beginning their job search.

The library now offers the Brainfuse HelpNow live tutoring program through its website 2 to 11 p.m. seven days a week to library patrons, said assistant director Barb Roark. The tutoring program partners tutors with people in real time, showing them how to solve math problems, make flashcards or prepare for standardized tests, she said.

“If you’re writing a paper, they can make suggestions on wording or grammar, or if you’re an adult working on a resume, they can make suggestions for that, too,” Roark said. “There’s about a 48-hour turnaround on resumes, but it’s free for the patron.”

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The public library system signed a three-year $15,000 contract with the tutoring website, Brainfuse HelpNow, to offer tutoring and assistance resources to patrons in a large age range during hours that traditional tutors might not be available, said director Dave Gray.

Brainfuse HelpNow offers homework help in math, science, reading/writing, social studies and more. Test prep is also available for the PSAT/SAT, ACT and other standardized tests.

The site also features a foreign language center specializing in Spanish; adult learning center with GED certificate preparation; assistance in resume and cover letter writing, U.S. citizenship test preparation and Microsoft Office help, according to the Brainfuse HelpNow website.

Between 1,700 and 2,500 tutors are available daily to patrons, depending on the season, said Francesco Lecciso, co-founder of Brainfuse. The company started with face-to-face tutoring in New York City in 1990, Lecciso said, but the company moved to online shortly after, employing tutors across the country. The majority of people who use Brainfuse HelpNow log in from home through a library website, though the site also partners with a few hundred higher education institutions, Lecciso said.

Patrons can log in to the Brainfuse website at the library or at home through the hcplibrary.org website using their library card, Roark said. The library chose the hours of 2 to 11 p.m. daily to accommodate students getting out of school as well as adults with non-traditional schedules or who want to log tutoring hours after their children go to bed.

The benefits for adults extend beyond what traditional tutoring program offer, said Roark, who is especially impressed by the service’s help with employment.

“The individuals can help show you where to begin your job search,” she said. “They do nationwide and local job searches, and they will show you the ones in your area. This type of assistance may make job searching easier for people who maybe aren’t so computer-savvy.”

Offering job-search help came as a natural progression for the company, Lecciso said. The company has worked with some of its students from elementary school through college and decided to keep helping those students when they started requesting help polishing their resumes.

“You can give someone really good writing assistance, but ultimately, the type of writing required for a resume is rarely taught in school,” Lecciso said. “A lot of people don’t have a lot of experience telling their own story in a way that is going to effectively convey who they are and what they are going to do for an organization. A lot of people struggle with the line between bragging and highlighting your skills. We felt there was a real need to help them out.”

LBrainfuse fit the library’s needs better than other tutoring services the library has used, Gray said.

“It’s not just helpful for one age range,” Gray said. “Depending on their need, there are items like practice tests; it’s not strictly tutoring. There are a lot more resources associated with it. I’m glad we are able to offer it to our community.”

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The Hancock County Public Library this month began offering the live online tutoring service Brainfuse HelpNow through the library’s website, hcplibrary.org.

Brainfuse HelpNow offers homework help in math, science, reading/writing, social studies and more. There’s also test prep for exams including the PSAT/SAT and ACT. Other features include a 24-hour writing lab; a foreign language center specializing in Spanish; and an adult learning center with GED certificate preparation. For those who are job-seeking, the program offers live helping with resumes and cover letter writing.

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The Hancock County Public Library now offers a live online tutoring program through its website. Here’s how to get to Brainfuse HelpNow:

  • In your browser address, enter hcplibrary.org.
  • On the library website, click on “online resources.”
  • Find Brainfuse HelpNow under the “Learning and DIY” or “Just for Kids” categories.
  • Click on the link.
  • Type in the bar code number on the back of your library card.
  • Under the categories of “expert help,” “study,” or “collaborate,” pick how you want to proceed.