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Online tutoring: effective, convenient and fun  

Simply Learning Tuition founder Nathaniel McCullagh looks at the advantages of online tutoring for children

Posted by Hannah Vickers | March 16, 2017 | Secondary

By Nathaniel McCullagh, founder and managing director of Simply Learning Tuition.

As the Facebook generation comes of age it’s perhaps no surprise that we are seeing a boom in online tutoring. School children who have grown up surrounded by technology are perfectly comfortable in front of a computer screen – if not even happier than when they are sitting face-to-face with a tutor in a room.

Last year, tutors working through Simply Learning Tuition delivered more than 2,000 sessions of online tuition in subjects from English and art history to economics, and maths and science. They have also coached students for common entrance and interview techniques and provided Oxbridge consultations. Online tuition now makes up 10-15% of our business.

For parents, the issues around selecting a tutor to work 1-1 with their child are broadly the same, whether that tutor works on or offline. A good tutor will be brilliant and will do the necessary preparation to ensure the best quality teaching in a style that suits your child’s learning style; whereas a bad tutor will be ineffective at best. 

The key advantage of online tuition is that it allows the perfect match of tutor to student because there are no geographical limits

The key advantage of online tuition is that it allows the perfect match of tutor to student because there are no geographical limits. Families can be much more discriminating and rather than choose someone because they happen to be nearby, can find the very best tutor for their needs, wherever they, or the tutor, are in the world. We currently have tutors based in New York, Dubai and London, working with students in the UK, Russia, and Switzerland. 

It is supremely convenient and accessible – lessons can go ahead anywhere, any time – and it also makes new scenarios possible, for example for group interview practice.

The tutor communicates with the student using Skype or similar, in real time, using webcams and interactive whiteboards. The fact they could be continents apart makes no difference – there are no hiding places as modern technology allows the tutor to watch what the child is doing and writing at all times. It makes for a fun learning environment – which of course makes it more effective - and most students thrive online.

Because the sessions are easily recorded, each lesson is, in effect, permanent and can be referenced by the students and their parents long afterwards. A good tutor will also ping over a report straight afterwards.

From the tutor’s point of view, it takes lots of preparation. We look for tutors who have lots of experience with online, rather than just expecting a regular tutor to become an expert online tutor. For example, as most exams are still taken with old fashioned pen and paper, a good tutor will mirror this online by incorporating pens and drawing boards as part of the technology they use.

Online tuition works because it is not a replacement for a ‘face-to-face’ session, simply a different channel 

There are very few drawbacks. Online tuition works because it is not a replacement for a ‘face-to-face’ session, simply a different channel. Obviously, online tutoring requires a good internet connection and some technology – but most homes have this anyway.

I would also advise parents to take as much care as they would normally when allowing their child online. The child will often be alone with the tutor, so it is essential to check the tutor’s enhanced DBS and references, or get an agency to do it for you. Parents need to be assured of the same level of personal safety and trust as they would with a tutor who is physically present. Always ask for a trial lesson first.

Overall, I believe the advantages of online tuition make it not only competitive with face-to -ace tutoring, but in many case a better option. Its limitations force it to be better, fun, snazzy and cool. I really believe that a genuinely brilliant tutor online is worth exponentially more than an average tutor who is in the same room.

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