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As I said in a previous post, online learning has distinct advantages and disadvantages. In my opinion, the advantages far outweigh the counter (in more ways than my initial outline) but it’s well worth looking at the disadvantages which are equally as important.

Initially, parents and kids should be confident the tutor teaching them is who they say they are. Checking the credentials of any tutor isn’t easy, let alone when they are sat at a computer on the other side of the world. The web has the power to transcend the boundaries of distance, but the inevitable price is reliability. After all, what do you do when your online tutoring session terminates through some gremlin in the wires? What happens to the payment? If ever there was a surefire way to let the teachable moment slip away it’s through a build up of little frustrations like these.

Then there’s the temptation thing. Plonking a kid in front of a computer, sticking them in an online session and leaving them too it is all well and good, but they’re not stupid; they all know how open a new tab, launch a search engine and sail off into the World Wide Wonder.

What it all comes down to is the effectiveness of learning. Rolling it back to the earliest years of humanity I think it’s generally accepted that visual and verbal hints are the cornerstone of human learning and thus progression. There’s no reason why this should be any different in academia today – kids in classrooms play off every expression, every inflection, every impassioned speech the teacher has to offer. It’s something that simply can’t be matched in an online tutoring session.

But hang on, sometimes there’s big difference. People who enrol in distance learning courses or log on for some extra tuition do so generally under their own steam. They have chosen to do so. In this way you could say that their desire to learn is heightened by their motivation to go the extra mile and instigate learning sessions. The child in the classroom will often feel they are there under duress (god knows I did) and teaching people who feel like they’re being force-fed knowledge is always likely to be more difficult.

Of course kids need the structure of schooling in their lives, but a natural rebellion against the shackles of institution will always have some impact on learning. I guess what I’m saying is that people who choose online tutoring are often already instilled with the teachable moment, the willingness to learn.

But look – most online tutoring websites are there to supplement the clearly superior classroom based lessons. They are there to help you understand, to fill gaps, to give you a leg up on the competition – they are there to be used in which ever way you want. Online tutoring was never meant as a challenge the classroom, more so to pick up the pieces when things don’t go to plan.

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