Previous experience is the biggest predictor of successful online tutoring, survey suggests

The Bramble study also reveals that barriers to teacher training must be addressed if e-learning is to support positive student outcomes this winter

The biggest predictor of the effectiveness of online teaching is previous experience in digital lesson delivery, a survey by Bramble Technologies has found.

Examining responses from more than 2,000 Bramble users, alongside data drawn from 500,000 hours of tuition delivered via the Bramble platform, the report – titled, Getting the most out of live online tutoring: Insights from half a million hours – explores the accelerated digital transition seen across the education sector, driven by the pandemic-fuelled events that have taken place since March this year.

The 30-page report maps out the e-learning beliefs and attitudes of students, tutors and teachers alike. Its timely publication comes as schools await the autumn launch of the government’s National Tutoring Programme (NTP), which will provide selected students with online catch-up tuition to help plug the learning loss caused by this year’s six-month lockdown.

While 70% of respondents who had never taught online pre-pandemic felt that online delivery is more or as effective as in-person, that number jumped to 100% for tutors who were previously working solely online. This gap points to the crucial role of teacher training, according to report author and Bramble co-founder, Will Chambers.

“If training can help tutors who are new to online delivery become as familiar with the methods and tools as those with more experience, then this will have a knock-on impact on efficacy,” Chambers explained. “It’s an obvious first step and it is encouraging to see many organisations recognising this and providing tutors with specific training and support for online tutoring, but we need continuous and increased focus on this area.”

“Eventually we will be able to give tutors and schools a complete understanding in a student’s learning across a range of subjects and how tutoring can be refined to fill them” – Will Chambers, Bramble

On top of these findings, the report called for more informed discussions on the role of tech in online learning, suggesting that internet connectivity issues have a greater impact than devices in terms of learning effectiveness and student focus.

In fact, internet connection was cited as the biggest challenge facing digital education delivery among survey respondents, with 54% of tutors identifying it as an issue; compared to 32% of students and 30% of parents. Hardware set-up was defined as the biggest challenge for 25% of tutors and 18% of students.

Among the recommendations set out in the report are low-cost steps institutions and families could take to boost internet connectivity – from maximising signal strength through wired ethernet connections to reducing bandwidth demands by closing tabs and applications.

“These measures will provide some compensation for student connectivity which is generally more difficult to improve,” said Chambers.

A notable aspect of Bramble’s report lies in its analysis of the concepts and topics students struggle with most, identified in real-time by the platform’s AI technology. It demonstrates how the wealth of data and insights produced by learning tech could be used to improve the digital learning experience for everyone involved.

“The technology that provides detailed insights like these is only now becoming a reality,” added Chambers. “Eventually we will be able to give tutors and schools a complete understanding of the gaps in a student’s learning across a range of subjects and how tutoring can be refined to fill them. These instant insights should support and enhance the collaboration between schools and tutors and, ultimately, inform curriculum design.”

Bramble also asked users to identify their top three perks of live tutoring online, and results, which were consistent across the majority of respondents, pointed to flexibility, on-demand availability, and helping students feel relaxed and focus as the key benefits.

“The fact that students and educators embraced online tutoring during 2020 speaks volumes for the resilience of students and the willingness of educators to embrace new methods,” said Chambers.

“As well as finding live online tutoring more effective, engaging and flexible they also embraced the possibilities provided by the technology, including using searchable lesson recordings as a powerful tool for learning and safeguarding.

“Inevitably, there are challenges too and there are clear actions that need to be taken around training and technology to further improve the live online teaching experience as we prepare for the launch of the NTP and head towards an unpredictable winter.”

In other news: Deadline for awards dedicated to outstanding women in tech extended


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