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Online Tuition: A Parents' Guide

Henry Fagg, Director of Thetutorpages.com, explains how it works.

As a parent, you want the best for your child, and that can sometimes mean paying for private tuition. But what if you can’t find a tutor locally, or you think that face-to-face sessions might not fit in with your family’s busy lifestyle?

Online private tuition is fast becoming a solution for many parents seeking a private tutor. This short article by Henry Fagg, Director of Thetutorpages.com explains what it is, how it works, which age groups and subjects it is suitable for, and what some of the pros and cons are. It also suggests where you can go for further information.

WHAT IS ONLINE TUITION?

Put simply, online tuition is live tuition over the internet with a real tutor (not a robot, pre-recorded videos, or set of online quizzes!). According to a Tutor Pages survey on online tuition, around 80% of UK tutors are using Skype for online tuition. This is because it has free audio and video functionality, and many families are already familiar and comfortable with the software.

HOW DOES ONLINE TUITION WORK?

In addition to Skype, some tutors will recommend using a headset microphone and speakers to help students focus more effectively. Tutors will also sometimes use an ‘online whiteboard’, particularly for science subjects. Such screen-sharing applications are useful for sharing text, graphs, images and other notes with student in real time.

Regarding payments, independent tutors tend to use either bank transfer (BACS) or Paypal. Alternatively, payments will sometimes be handled by online tuition companies through a bespoke online tutoring platform (such as Tutorhub).

WHICH AGE GROUPS & SUBJECTS IS IT SUITABLE FOR?

Online tuition has been used for almost any age group, subject and level. However, it tends to be most successful for secondary age children and adults. Tutors tend to think that maths, sciences, foreign languages and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) are the most suitable subjects for online tuition. Musical instrument and singing teachers tend to be the most sceptical over the benefits of online tuition.

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS?

The major benefits of online tuition compared to face-to-face tuition are the convenience of not having to travel and being able to study from any location, including abroad. Parents also have access to a wider choice of tutors than those in their local area. Scheduling tends to be more flexible too, with students often being able to study for shorter periods if they wish. Prices can be lower too, with tutors not have to factor in any travel time or expenses.
On the downside, tutors mention that it’s more difficult to establish rapport, partly because it is hard to judge non-verbal feedback online (for example, facial expressions, posture and tone of voice). It can also be difficult for tutors to see what the student is doing, and internet speed can also present problems.

SHOULD MY CHILD TRY ONLINE TUITION?

If you have any doubts about whether online tuition might work, it’s best to discuss it with the tutor first. There’s no harm in giving a trial lesson a go. In fact, some tutors even believe that they can achieve better results with students online compared with face-to-face.

To contact online tutors directly, or to read The Tutor Pages report into online tuition, visit www.thetutorpages.com/online-tuition.

May 2015