Making The Transition To Online Tutoring: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Looking to move your tutoring sessions online? Jess, one of our top English tutors, recently did just that. Here she reveals her first impressions of online tuition — the positive and the negative!


As the coronavirus crisis continues, home learning has quickly become the only means to support children with their education. Tutors are therefore turning to online tutoring as a means to continue to share their subject knowledge and expertise with students and parents alike.


This is a huge adjustment and a learning curve that must be approached very quickly and confidently, especially for tutors for whom online tutoring is unfamiliar territory. As a tutor myself, I can certainly attest to this. Below are some of my thoughts on the benefits and the challenges involved, my first-hand experience of switching from face-to-face to online lessons and my tips on how to make the transition as smooth as possible.


The Benefits


Eliminating the risk-factor: Though it may sound obvious, online tutoring guarantees that there is no travel or contact involved, so there is no need to worry about the risk of spreading or catching the Coronavirus.


It’s challenging, but in a good way! Starting to teach online has pushed me out of my comfort zone in such a way that has caused me to put even more thought and consideration into the planning of my lessons. It has forced me to consider new and exciting ways of incorporating technology into my lessons so as to ensure they are engaging and stimulating for my students. Working from home has given me the time to think carefully about how best to structure my lessons in new and interesting ways.


Flexibility: Not having to travel to students’ homes means that you can be more flexible with scheduling lessons. Now that the schools are closed, there is an increased availability to offer lessons during school hours. This may help to provide some semblance of normality for students in these uncertain times. It’s also not such a huge inconvenience if clients wish to cancel or re-schedule lessons at the last minute, as working from home means you can be more flexible with times.


It’s efficient and effective: As a tutor, you are still able to bring the resources, expertise, subject knowledge etc. you would if you were visiting a student’s home, even if you are delivering the lesson in a different way.


The Challenges


The learning curve: Whilst many tutors already have plenty of experience tutoring online, for others, myself included, making the switch is a big adjustment. As well as familiarising yourself with the technology required for online teaching, there are other considerations to make, such as how you will explain certain things, clarify illustrate concepts etc. without physically being able to guide a student through a work sheet / activity. It is important to bear in mind that there may be bumps along the way, and that’s ok!


Rapport-building: All tutors will know that building a good teacher-student relationship is vital to effective teaching. With existing students, who I would usually teach face-to-face but have now switched to online lessons, this is not so difficult, as we already know each other and have a level of familiarity which is quite transferable to the screen. This has posed more of a challenge for new students, and students with whom I have only had a few face-to-face lessons. The bottom line is that building a rapport with a student only through online teaching is more difficult than seeing them in person, though not impossible. It may just take more time.


Internet connection: With so many people working from home, internet service providers are under more pressure than ever. It is important to allow for the possibility that your internet connection may slow down or stop completely during a lesson, and not to panic if it does. I have personally found that it is a good idea to have a chat with your student and / or a parent about what to do if this happens. My advice would be to tell the student to continue working on the question / task they are doing (if they are able to do so) whilst I try to resolve the issue. If this has caused significant disruption, I would suggest adding the lost minutes to the end of the lesson, as it’s not fair for them to have missed out.


5 Top Tips for Tutors Making The Switch


1: Familiarise yourself with the programmes that will enable you to teach effectively online: Skype, Zoom, etc. If you’re feeling apprehensive about teaching via these platforms, or struggling to get the hang of something, ask a friend or family member if they are willing to let you practice a mini-lesson with them.


2: Stay in regular contact with your existing students/parents, making them aware that you will do everything you can to make the transition from face-to-face to online tutoring as smooth as possible. Also assure them that it’s really not that different! You are still the same tutor with the same skill set and subject-knowledge, you will just be offering these skills in a slightly different way.


3: Look into plenty of teaching resource websites. Many of them are currently offering free access or free trials (even on their premium resources), to help students get through these challenging times.


4: Think carefully about the age of the student you are teaching and how to go about making the online lessons as engaging as possible for them. For example, if you are teaching a primary-aged student, try to incorporate educational games that will hold their interest and make the lesson as fun as possible.


5: If a student or parent is particularly apprehensive about trying online lessons, consider offering a discount for the first online lesson. This is effectively a trial to see if they would be happy to continue with online lessons. This is a prime opportunity to show students and parents that online tutoring is highly efficient and effective, and will most likely put their minds at ease about the whole thing. Discuss the first online lesson with them afterwards and respond to any queries or concerns they may have.


Blog Post Crafted by Jess


Jess graduated from the University of Kent in 2016 with a degree in English Literature and Philosophy. She has worked as an academic mentor in two schools, firstly to support gifted and talented children, and secondly as a study skills mentor for A Level students. She has tutored children across London, primarily in GCSE English and also in preparation for 7+ and 11+ entrance exams. Her hobbies include reading, baking and drinking too much coffee. Jess loves to travel, and dreams of going to New York one day. In particular, she would love to indulge her love of books with a visit to the New York Public Library.

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