Tutoring these days is a whole different ball game than just five years back. The advent of e-learning tools and platforms sets out to make tutoring a much more practical experience, since one tutor can guide pupils who live at a distance, or monitor a group of students, from the comfort of home.
In many ways, however, being an online tutor poses a whole new set of challenges – mainly in the areas of keeping students motivated and ensuring they are consistent and disciplined enough to complete set tasks, despite not having to see their tutor in person.
We have prepared the following tips on how to become an effective online tutor.
Let students know how much you can help them out
A good online tutor will: respond to doubts and queries within a reasonable period of time (let your students know how quickly you will be responding from the outset), set interesting assignments, guide them through difficult areas and give feedback on work submitted.
Identify what the student wants to learn, and allocate sufficient time online to tutor them. Pre-book lessons, and turn up on time. If you are going to be late, let them know in advance. It’s just common courtesy, after all.
Don’t fall into the trap of communicating by sending messages only, since this can lead to a loss of motivation. Many students require closer support; they need to interact and see and hear their tutor, to be truly inspired or interested in a subject. Slot in regular review sessions, so you can share your impressions on how the student’s learning is shaping up.
Make it personal
Students have different learning styles and interests. Try to get to know your student and cater your tutoring lessons as much as you can to their individual needs. Some students are reflective learners – they like to read through material and process it, before reaching the point where they are ready for analysis or discussion. Others like to learn while doing – these students will much prefer outdoor excursions to learn about Nature, for instance, than simply learning from a textbook. You may wish to give a prospective student a learning style test so you can decide on the particular approach you would like to take with them.
Make learning fun
The best tutors don’t just find a formula and stick to it blindly; rather, they are constantly finding new ways to make the learning experience fun and fresh. Encourage them to make short films or write blog entries about the topics they are studying. Even the most disciplined learners need a change, if they are to stay motivated and look forward to your tutoring sessions.
Encourage critical thinking
Education is not just about learning facts; it should encourage students to share and debate on opinions, analyse ideas at a profound level and even take steps they need to solve particular problems (e.g. the environmental problem). A good tutor will help students pass an exam; a great one will encourage them to be thoughtful about the world.
Accept that each student needs to learn at his/her own pace
Some students will be much more active than hours; these students probably enjoy social interaction or are already highly motivated. Other students will prefer to read up on interesting discussions and reflect on them, rather than participate directly. It is vital that you communicate with quieter students, without pushing them into greater interaction. They may be learning just fine, and feel more comfortable taking a slightly more passive learning stance. Keep track of these students’ progress by setting them regular assignments, to ensure they are staying on top of the game.
Share your own learning experiences with students
Most educators have come across a myriad of helpful learning strategies and techniques. Share any that you have found personally helpful – these might include using mind maps to summarise information; memorising long lists through mnemonics; reading notes out loud, recording them and listening to them; summarising lessons regularly, etc. Even the brightest students may be struggling at school simply because they have not been taught the correct study techniques.
Teach your students how to study, don’t feed them all the content they need to know
Rather than providing them with content they simply need to rote learn, encourage students to do their own research. This is specially vital for students wishing to pursue further education at University, where lecturers expect a great degree of independence from students.
Give due importance to presentation
Students should be aware of how poor, untidy, haphazard presentation can bring their marks down considerably. Encourage them to use online tools to spellcheck, present material in a clear manner and even to use colourful visuals that will add a professional look to an assignment or project.
We hope that you have found this blog post useful. Please feel free to share what you think makes an effective online tutor in the comments below.
In the meantime, why not check out other articles in our Tips for Tutors series.