Maximising the benefit of online learning technology for tutoring

Simply ‘relocating’ tutoring to a digital environment is a missed opportunity

The rush to move traditional face-to-face services and activities online last March was dramatic. From GP and healthcare appointments through to music, dance and even football training sessions, our everyday lives were suddenly conducted via Zoom or a similar platform.

Tutoring companies were among those businesses who were very quick to shift to online provision, relocating their traditional delivery to a virtual world. Many tutoring models were already using basic online functionality before COVID hit – predominantly for administrative tasks such as bookings. When ‘in-person’ lessons were unable to take place, conferencing technology was added in to replicate the offline user experience.

Moving a traditional analogue model online may have met an immediate need for tutoring companies and their customers, but the expansive opportunities and potential that exist in intuitive, purpose-built online tutoring platforms is so often overlooked.

‘The best elements of digital and human learning’

In 2013, I set out to develop a tutoring model designed specifically for online delivery, integrating the best elements of digital and human learning.

At the heart of this technology is the desire to support what teachers already do successfully in the classroom by providing access to affordable, high-quality and easily scalable intervention that can target multiple pupils across multiple schools. This can’t be done by simply replicating traditional offline experiences.

The value of a purpose-built online tutoring platform relates to two key elements: access and personalisation. The very nature of virtual business removes barriers of location and, in the case of online tutoring, means that every student can access a tutor from anywhere, but also that the tutor themselves can work from any location.

This has enabled us to tap into a global network of academic talent as opposed to being limited to a domestic market, thus giving us the capacity to make one-to-one tutoring accessible to far more children from different backgrounds. Closing the social attainment gap is key to our mission, and utilising technology to open up an international supply chain is central to this goal.

“The value of a purpose-built online tutoring platform relates to two key elements: access and personalisation”

‘Tailored and appropriate content’

In terms of personalisation, a good online learning platform will provide a unique insight into what each child needs, enabling the development of tailored and appropriate content, with progress tracking and reporting. Integrating these features with a one-to-one teaching model can then ensure that human interaction is completely personalised to the needs of an individual child, which is crucial to effective learning. At the heart of any tutoring model – traditional or otherwise – is the need for effective safeguarding, which a bespoke online platform can offer via constant performance management of tutors and the monitoring of their sessions.

A good tutoring platform should help teachers support their pupils, offering the benefit of individual tuition within the whole class environment. This isn’t something that can be achieved when traditional one-to-one learning is simply migrated ‘online’. Our experience of working with schools and individual teachers over the past few years has demonstrated the growing need for tutoring solutions that be scaled up to support lots of pupils in an affordable way – again, something that can’t be achieved through traditional models.

Reinforcing teachers with edtech

Rather than dis-empowering teaching professionals, edtech solutions can do the opposite, giving teachers the ability to effectively target learning gaps as they arise in class. Teachers know their pupils well and are best placed to identify where additional support is required. With assistance from the right learning platform, teaching strategies can be reinforced and teachers can focus on student support.

With demand for tutoring rising rapidly, there’s an increasingly limited supply of people to deliver traditional one-to-one lessons. We therefore need to look for smarter, more intuitive and progressive edtech solutions, accessible to children from all backgrounds, rather than simply transferring old models onto new, inappropriate platforms.

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