A Report on the Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Tutoring

by Kelly Walsh on June 27, 2012

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A top notch tutoring organization offers insights into the benefits and drawbacks of this emerging approach to the age old practice of tutoring.

Guest post by Nathaniel McCullagh.

Simply Learning Tuition is a leading source of private tutors for students in London and the UK. Their tutors and qualified teachers are selected from leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.

Over the last twelve months, we have received an increasing number of requests for online private tutoring. Before investing significantly in a dedicated online tuition platform we commissioned research to measure the effectiveness of online tutoring and identify the main strengths and weaknesses of online as a tuition platform.

The results showed some clear strengths and weaknesses of online as a tutoring platform. We will use this information in the development of our dedicated online system and will report back on progress.

The following data came from a survey of 200 tutors approximately 20 clients who have received online tutoring.

IT specifications

The tutors’ preferred platform is Skype – with shared screen and whiteboard. It is free, convenient and user friendly for both students and tutors. Although Skype recommend a minimum connection speed of 300kbs, several tutors found that connections were not working effectively even at this level. Additionally, one tutor experienced feedback through their Skype headset, which was not rectified by removing the headset. We suspect this was a hardware issue.

The advantages of online tutoring are easily summarized

  • Tuition is provided by the same highly qualified and vetted tutors as regular one-to-one tuition but there are no geographic limitations and tutors do not spend valuable time travelling to their client.
  • Children are increasingly using online learning within schools and university – becoming familiar with this style of learning is useful training for the future.
  • Online tutoring can be provided at a lower cost than face-to-face tuition.
  • Several tutors travel widely in their academic careers – this causes gaps in regular face-to-face tuitions, which online sessions can overcome. This allows strong relationships to be maintained between student and tutor.

- Tutorsclass.com: Enhance your E-Learning experience with our Online Tutoring Platform -

Their research highlighted several potential limitations with online tutoring

  • Unless both student and tutor have writing tablets, it is impossible to convey information by ‘scribbling and doodling’.
  • Students require some IT knowledge, this means it is not always suitable for younger children.
  • Students must have a strong internet connection and be able to download Skype.
  • Online tutoring does not work so well for questions that require long or detailed answers or calculations that are normally done on paper.
  • If the student needs significant motivation, or is disorganized and often fails to turn up for tutorials, the tutor is unable to ‘bring them to the table’. Parents will need to check that their children are online when they should be!
  • With online tuition, parents don’t meet their children’s tutors face to face; the relationship between parent and tutor is therefore diminished. This, for many parents is an important part of the tuition process
  • Online tutoring leaves less room for, ‘tutor intuition’. Unless the tutor can see how the student is working out questions as they go along, it is hard to see what they are thinking. This raises the possibility that the student has got the correct answer, but is using the wrong calculations. Even watching how a student moves their pen over their paper can help the tutor understand how they are working.
  • Graphical explanations can be difficult – it is much more time consuming to create a graph in e.g. Excel than to sketch one on paper.
  • Students and tutors do not like talking to people they cannot see – even if it is on a computer screen.

The results of our survey helped us to create a best practice model for online tuition, which Simply Learning Tuition will incorporate into a dedicated online tuition platform:

  • Tutors should ask students to email partially completed work or question sheets to their tutors in advance.
  • The tutor will in turn email a copy of their notes to the tutee in advance of the tutorial.
  • If possible, tutors will focus on questions that can be answered orally. Until writing tablets become commonplace, tutors will aim for there to be no requirement for the student to show workings out or sketches to the tutor.  The Skype text facility allows short sections of text for e.g. grammar exercises to be written out.
  • All tutors will use webcams so that the student can see who they are talking to. This remains optional for the student.
  • Students will book an optional short chat with parents at the beginning or end of each tutorial.

The future of online tutoring

Tutors and parents were excited about the future of online tuition for several reasons:

  • Touch screen technology should allow both student and tutor to make hand-written notes in real time.
  • With the increasing use of smart phones and ipads/tablets it is likely that online tuition will become more ‘portable’, further enhancing it’s usefulness.

If you have any questions about the results of this survey, please do not hesitate to contact Nathaniel or Katie at Simply Learning Tuition (Studio F7 Battersea Studios, 80 Silverthorne Road, London, SW8 3HE, United Kingdom,  +44 (0) 207 350 1981).

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Understanding Tutoring Options And Finding A Great Tutor
Adaptive Learning, An Idea With Powerful Potential
12 Great Resources To Help Keep Student’s Math Skills Sharp Over The Summer

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer, and an adjunct faculty member, at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Class Workshop in a Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

AiDLo January 4, 2014 at 3:03 am

This is very informative and student/parents should choose offline/or online tutor after analyze this advantages and limitation.

John Click October 14, 2013 at 6:59 am

Online tutoring may require a different service, depending on the student’s needs… For example, sometimes a Web conference will be what’s needed. Other times, remote support will be required. I teach through RHUB’s service b/c Web meetings and remote support, etc., are all bundled within one device.

Statistics assignment help December 19, 2012 at 8:13 am

Your informational post is great resource to lots of peoples , because its having the useful knowledge. so i would like to thank for creating this interesting blog.

Online Tutoring November 7, 2012 at 2:59 am

I came across your blog. It is Quite informative. I would like tell some more advantages here that Online Tutoring assist you a lot when you have fallen sick or injured and can’t move outdoors then it is very helping. Time and energy also can be saved which you waste moving place to place to get traditional (offline) tuition.

doug June 28, 2012 at 5:06 am

I found this interesting reading but I am concerned about the use of Skype. If you charge for your services, and I expect you would do, then you are probably in breach of the terms and conditions of Skype, even the commercial version.
If true, you could be inadvertently exposing your tutors and learners in a breach of terms.
Although students and tutors may prefer Skype, because it is free and readily available, it does have limitations which might be overcome by a dedicated virtual classroom service.

business June 27, 2012 at 6:14 am

All learners deserve to feel special, no matter what their abilities. Through online tutoring learners can be helped to appreciate their own strengths, at the same time as they receive assistance with any areas of learning where they display weaknesses. Without that feeling of self-worth, young learners may have little motivation to engage, yet alone perform well in their academic studies. Any parent seeking online tutors or private tuition should bear in mind that it is not only an investment in a learner’s grades but also a way to aid children’s personal development.

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