Online tutoring is becoming more and more popular with students of all ages. Five years ago, 18% of Keystone’s lessons were delivered online; now this is 60% and we expect it to increase further. Here we answer typical questions we are asked about the phenomenon.
Why do families choose online tutoring?
The rise is underpinned by the increasing number of families around the world looking for access to the highest quality tutor support, often for students who are competing for top grades and places at UK schools or universities. These students require the best tutors they can find and accessing them online removes any geographical limitations, allowing a tutor with the right expertise to be sourced that cannot be found locally.
Many of these students do have local options but still choose online tutors from Keystone. Why?
- Accessing the best - consistently. Families don’t want to be restricted to someone within a 10-mile radius who may have some knowledge of what they need; they want to be able to access the best tutor for their requirements. Many families travel during the holidays; having an online tutor allows them to continue with the same tutor whether they are at home or abroad. Our tutors go through a rigorous recruitment process and we assess each client’s tutoring requirements carefully to the ensure the best match. Tutoring online means there is never a compromise on quality. We have come to believe strongly that the choice of tutor is always the most important factor in the success of an engagement; the medium should be a secondary consideration.
- Efficiency, comfort and safety. The hassle of travelling to and from lessons? Gone. The need to scribble down everything the tutor has said? Gone. That important piece of scrap paper where the homework was written? Gone. Many students prefer to have tutorials in their own home environment, saving the time and hassle of having to travel between lessons. Students can return from school and feel more relaxed in their own home; once the lesson has finished they can complete any follow up work or have their dinner without the need to travel anywhere. Many online platforms allow for effective information transfer and act as an online record reducing the need for paper notes that are prone to being misplaced.
Whilst parents and students tell us that “the quality of teaching is the same – it is just done differently”, “the online lessons worked really well. I don't know why I was worried!”, “we found the online lessons as effective, if not more so, than our face-to-face lessons”, not all online tutoring is equal, and parents should continue to ask questions about online tutoring to ensure high-quality provision.
How do online lessons actually work?
Online lessons are not that different from offline lessons at all; the tutor is ‘face-to-face’, just on a screen rather than sat next to the student. A video conferencing platform will be used (e.g. Skype or Zoom) so that student and tutor can see and hear each other. An online, interactive whiteboard takes main stage on the screen, (e.g. Conceptboard, Bitpaper or Google Docs). Resources are uploaded onto the whiteboard and both parties can edit and annotate in real time as you would write on a piece of paper. The added benefit of the whiteboard is that the resources and notes that can be referred to, by students and parents, after the lesson.
Do we need any equipment or to download anything?
A strong, stable internet connection is required (wired connection is the most reliable) along with a computer or laptop equipped with a webcam and speakers. For the best audio quality we recommend students use a headset with microphone. A tablet or phone can be used for the video and audio, but a computer with a keyboard and mouse will be needed to use the whiteboard effectively. Your tutor will be in touch in advance of the lesson to get you set up on their preferred online teaching platform. You might need to download an app such as Skype or Zoom, but these also have website versions. The whiteboards are all web-based and your tutor will send you a link that simply needs to be opened in a browser. Before the first lesson it is strongly advisable to trial the video conferencing set-up, maybe with a friend or family member to check the microphone and speakers/headset are working properly.
Is the technology hard to use?
Children are often familiar with online platforms and might, especially after COVID-19, have used something similar at school. Our tutors have lots of experience teaching online and will spend time familiarising your child with the relevant software. It might take them a couple of lessons to get completely used to it, but they usually become experts very quickly!
What happens if the technology doesn’t work?
There may be the odd occasion when technology fails, as cars break down on the way to a lesson or pens run out when writing. That said, these instances are few and far between. Our experienced tutors will propose suggestions to handle this depending on the individual situation. We always recommend having a Plan B with a tutor in case of tech issues; these include being connected on alternative platforms or switching to 4G if the Wi-Fi isn’t working.
Will the student maintain their focus online?
Concerns about distractions are often unfounded as the student and tutor face each other directly on the screen (as opposed to sitting side by side) which, if anything, tends to keep the student even more focused. Most online whiteboards also have editing privileges which the tutor can control and ensure students are paying attention to the right areas at the right time. Introducing a variety of mini tasks is easy to do and keeps children engaged throughout the lesson. Many students say that they find online lessons more engaging given the range of resources at the tutor’s disposal.
What about the relationship between student and tutor?
Many of our tutors say they have some of their best working relationships with students they have never met in person. The reason for this is that students say that they feel more comfortable in raising questions to the tutor through online tutoring, partly because they are in their own home environment which feels more relaxed, and partly because it is less intimidating than asking questions in person.
Is my child too young?
We always take great care to ensure that the tutor we place is experienced with your child’s age group and we do have several online tutors that are very experienced with younger children – one of our experienced 7+ tutor works solely online. Young children often find the technology straightforward and equipping them with computer skills will put them in a strong position when these are required at school. We have tutored children as young as 6 online, but at this age they will need a little more support from an adult in the room with them whilst lessons take place.
What about hand-writing practice?
It is important for children of all ages to produce hand-written tasks and our online tutors are acutely aware of this. During online lessons children can type their responses onto the whiteboard, write by hand using an affordable tablet (such as Wacom), or they can use paper resources that can be held up to the camera or photographed and uploaded to the whitebaord. Longer writing tasks can be set as homework, scanned and then uploaded to the whiteboard. This makes the lesson time more efficient as time isn’t wasted whilst students hand-write answers.
How will we receive feedback if we don’t meet the tutor?
Our tutors are happy to schedule a mutually convenient time to speak to parents after the first lesson and on an ongoing basis to replace the after lesson catch-up. Keystone also has a monthly reporting system used to update parents on an ongoing basis, which is received via email. If there are follow up questions the tutor or client manager can be contacted for further feedback.
You can find out more about online tutoring here.