Online tutorials are becoming increasingly popular and for good reason. It means that neither student nor tutor has to travel, that lessons can go ahead in bad weather conditions, and that you can get access to a top tutor no matter where you live. You do, of course, need a good internet connection.
However, whilst more students of all ages are booking online tutorials, some lack confidence with online learning and are unsure of what they are supposed to do. So here are 7 guidelines to help you get the very best out of your online tutorial.
Get organised for online tutorials
1) Log onto your computer in good time. You want to get the most out of your session and you don’t want to feel rushed or stressed, so take time to get comfortable and settled in before the session.
2) Understand which software your tutor will be using before the session. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for a demonstration of how it works. Tutors prefer different online tools and they work in slightly different ways. Skype remains very popular and is arguably a good service since the recent upgrades.
However, if you are not a regular user you will need a Skype account or ID to get started and you will also need some time to get used to using the message bar, sharing screen, and sending files, links and images. Other tutors may use different systems; I personally like Zoom but it operates in a slightly different way to Skype. If you are unsure, ask your tutor to show you how it works and what is possible.
3) Have your materials to hand. If you have textbooks, have them next to you. If you have something you want to share with your tutor, have it near you or upload it before the lesson. Whilst you will probably type notes onto your computer during the session, having a notebook and pen with you can also be very helpful.
4) Have some water next to you. You may be talking for an hour (or longer) and it is thirsty work.
5) Experiment with using a headset during online tutorials, especially if you will be somewhere with background noise. Headsets are not that expensive and a good set will enable you to hear your tutor more clearly, whilst the microphone will eliminate some of the ambient noise on the tutor’s end. If you have somewhere quiet to work, a headset isn’t necessary and it is a matter of personal choice.
Work with your Tutor during online tutorials
6) Signpost your tutor verbally during online tutorials. A good tutor will be reading your body language as well as facial expressions to judge if you have understood, if you need more time, if they need to repeat etc. Online this is much harder for the tutor. You can help them by telling them verbally what you are doing. For example, you may want to Google something or find a file to share with them. Rather than just zoning out of the session to focus on your computer screen, you can signpost your tutor by telling them that you are going to go into your files to search or that you are looking for something online.
I had a nasty moment recently when I was explaining a difficult concept using my notes and looked up to find that the student had left! I was looking at an empty room. Luckily, it turned out the student had just gone to get some water, but there was a bad moment when I wondered if I had scared them off!
7) That brings me onto the final point – don’t be worried about asking for a break if you need one. Online tuition is often more intensive than face-to-face and it tends to cover more ground. If you need more time to think, or a moment to write notes, or to get a drink, go to the bathroom etc., don’t be scared to tell your tutor. No one wants you to be uncomfortable or feeling pressurised.
Online tutoring, done well, can be a very positive and rewarding experience for both student and tutor. Use these tips as a guideline to get the most out of your tutorials.
Further help and information
You can find more free help and advice from our top tutors on The Tutor Team blog.
Dr Janet Rose attended the University of Oxford and has been tutoring successfully for 12 years. Her full profile is on The Tutor Team website.
About Dr Rose
Dr Janet Rose is an international tutor who teaches English and History for The Tutor Team. See her profile here
Janet also manages The Tutor Team Facebook page where you can get study tips, educational videos and posts every week.