As a teacher, I’ve been skeptical of the role of technology in education, especially when it comes to online tutoring. As a teacher, I used a computer to keep track of grades and create tests and worksheets. However, when it came to delivering the instruction, I believed that nothing could beat the face-to-face experience. I still do! It’s why I focused on creating a comfortable learning environment where my students received the undivided attention of a real, live teacher. This all changed when the recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced me to revisit the idea of offering online tutoring services.
When considering how to pivot my local boutique business to an online tutoring environment, I knew what I needed to avoid. Automated programs that ask you multiple-choice questions are of limited help to students. The questions are good practice, but when students don’t understand how to solve them, they quickly become frustrated. Video tutorials, such as the ones on Khan Academy, can be useful… until you have a question. Programs such as these are designed to save money, but they do so with a significant educational sacrifice. These online programs bring to mind one of my great-grandfather’s favorite sayings, “I’m not rich enough to buy cheap things.”
What to look for in an online tutoring program
Unlike videos and automated programs, online tutoring involves one-on-one lessons with a teacher who takes the time to get to know you. When COVID forced me to adapt my in-person sessions to an online tutoring environment, I was worried that too much would be lost in translation. However, I quickly learned that the right technology can make the online experience just as personal as the original method. Before the pandemic, my tools of the trade were books, worksheets, loose-leaf paper, pens, and calculators. I still use all of those things, but I’ve added some new methods that I’ll continue to use well after this pandemic is over:
- Emailing the planned activities to my student just before our session as attachments.
- A Deco 02 electronic tablet to “write” on the screen when we’re looking at a file or website together.
- An Aver document camera so my student can watch me solve a tricky math problem step-by-step.
- Taking a photo of my notes after each session and texting it to my student.
- Keeping the video and audio going at all times, so I can see any confused expressions or anxious voices, and respond accordingly.
You can check out the photo I posted to see how my desk is now set up for online tutoring services. It includes everything that I used in the past, except for the student’s chair. Also missing is the commute to the tutoring center and any chance to spread the coronavirus.
How much should it cost?
So is online tutoring worth the money? I now believe it’s worth the same amount as the in-person version. If you can find a caring and experienced tutor who has invested in the technology to deliver a quality online experience, you can expect the same results as you would from a local tutoring center. Despite my initial concerns, I can now say that whether I’m helping a student with his college physics homework or coaching a high schooler for the SAT and ACT, I’m satisfied with the service. Given my commitment to quality, that’s a high bar indeed.
Passionate about helping her students achieve their college dreams by being their coach and cheerleader as they prep for the SAT and ACT, Heather Krey is an experienced instructor with teaching certificates in math, physics, chemistry, and English. She knows the best tips and strategies for these tests – and she also understands that students need encouragement and practice to do their best. With dual bachelor’s degrees in industrial engineering and psychology from Lehigh University, she also holds masters of education degrees in mathematics from DeSales University and in teaching from Kutztown University. Heather lives in Allentown, PA, with her husband and three children.