I have been asked many times by tutors for advice on setting up their own online tutoring business, and getting the technology right. This blog post provides a simple Do It Yourself Guide For Tutors setting out the choices and options available.
Tutors tend to only want to spend money when they really have to, so the majority of tools suggested in this blog post are either free of charge or start this way for low usage. Where services come with fees I have summarised these.
So how do you get started?
Starting with the basics, online tutoring connect students with tutors via the internet. Sessions are carried out in real time, and there are a variety of tools available to support the teaching and learning experience.
You need a computer linked to the internet, and a good broadband connection. Modern computers come with microphones and webcam, but you are advised to invest in a microphone headset (usually costing around £10) as the quality of the sound will be much better for both tutor and student.
What about Skype?
Everybody is familiar with Skype, which provides video free of charge. I am amazed that more people do not use Google Talk (one-to-one chat) and Google Hangouts (group chat), more of which later. The problem is that video in itself is not enough for effective online tutoring - you need a whiteboard where you can share formulae and charts. Just so you are aware, lessons are not recorded. You can try and work around this in Skype by using add-ons to record audio, e.g. Call Note, but recording video is a problem.
What about a Skype with a whiteboard?
Similar to a classroom whiteboard you can show images and draw maths equations. Good ones will allow two way interaction between the tutor and the student.
How do I share documents?
It’s not unusual to be sharing presentations during an online tutoring lesson. So you will want to check out Google Docs which provides spreadsheets and documents in real-time during the session.
The beauty of Google Docs is that it allows tutors and students to share the same document at the same time, as they are talking online about a problem.
A good place to start is Google Hangouts. It allows not only multi-party video, instant messaging and screen sharing but third party applications such as Slideshare, Google Docs, Cacoo (sharing diagrams) and Symphonica (collaborative task manager). You can also broadcast it on Google Plus and Youtube.
For those not preferring to mix and match in this way and having deeper pockets should consider video conferencing. These provide good quality video, voice and file sharing. Some also include session recording. Take a look at Webex (costing £15 per month) or Gotomeeting (£29 per month), which allow you to tutor larger numbers of students at the same time. Wiziq ($19 per month) focuses clearly on education and includes voice, video and an online classroom.
Getting paid in advance of sessions is important, as it can be hard to track down a student online once the session has been completed. The most popular way of getting payment is via Paypal where you can create an invoice and request money, but be aware that you will be charged between 1.4% and 3.4% plus 20p per transaction.
A bank transfer would be a cheaper option for you, but this means sharing your account details with people you may hardly know.
Remember that your earnings will be taxable.
Finding business online is not as simple as putting up an ad in the newsagents window. You can advertise direct on Google, via Google Adwords. You could also offer it as a service to existing clients, who knows some may prefer it particularly if they are looking for extra support during the holiday period. Alternatively there is always the option to post an add on websites like Gumtree.
What if this is all too difficult?
Searching the internet for the term online tutoring will give you a list of online tutoring agencies like Tutorhub that will address all of the above issues for you. Whilst there is unlikely to any up-front charge, they will receive commission from each online tutoring lesson they host.
Another good reason to use them is because they have deeper pockets than tutors, so can maintain better results on search engines than you are likely to. They give students choice and customer service so that they speak to someone independent if it goes wrong.
To round up, there are lots of technology options available to tutors. Alot depends on how serious you are about entering online tutoring. You can start with a relatively small outlay – just a headset. You can also use Skype and the Google products free of charge. The biggest question you must ask yourself is how you are going to attract new business, I have suggested some ways and maybe you can think of more.
I hope that you have found this blog post useful. If you have any other services you would like to share please feel free to add them as comments.
Best of luck!