Some parents can be very sceptical about the benefits of online tuition, compared to face-to-face sessions. At Minerva, we believe it is all about finding the right tutor and the right style of tutoring for the student. We had a chat with Jenny, who does a lot of online tuition, about her student, Ella, who went from getting a D in her biology and chemistry A-level mock exams to As in the real thing.
Jenny has seen some amazing transformations of her students through online tuition, and believes it can be just as effective as face-to-face to tutoring – and in some cases even more so!
One of your online students went from a D to an A in Biology and Chemistry A level – that’s amazing! So online tuition works?
I know, I was so pleased for her! I must say, her success was largely due to her very hard work during the summer holidays, during which we had 2/3 hours of online lessons per week. Tuition alone will not get you from a D to an A! It was an ideal situation for me as a tutor; the student had incredible scientific knowledge, but lacked exam technique, and suffered from the classic problem of ‘waffling’; when a student reads a question on a certain topic and then writes down everything they know on said topic! I had the fairly straightforward task of refining her answering style and coaching her to be more concise. Therefore, online tuition can be a very valuable resource, in certain circumstances. The student mentioned was at the end of year 1 of her science A-levels and so for older students, GCSE onwards, online tuition works well. By the mid to late teens, students tend to be managing their own workload and organising their own schedules, and are obviously very technologically savvy so online tuition is very straight forward.
Do you find online tuition more convenient than home visits?
Online tuition is infinitely more convenient for me. From a tutor’s perspective, your travel time and costs are significantly reduced, allowing you to take on more work, and it reduces the stress of public transport being delayed or, in my case, turning up looking like a drowned rat because I got caught in the rain on my bike! I find that often older students are looking for lessons later in the evening, and this is much easier to accommodate with online sessions.
Is online tuition something you’d like to do more of, or would encourage other tutors and parents to consider?
I would like to do more, I’ve got the hang of it now and have mastered using online whiteboards and sending files/videos/links during lessons to enhance the learning experience. If both tutor and student have strong wi-fi connections, the student is comfortable with technology, and for those based outside central London, I would encourage them to try online tuition. I have done online tuition with 13 year old students, due to geographical location or holidays, but it is more challenging from a tutor and student perspective as their focus isn’t as strong at this age, although can still be very effective short-term.
From a tutor’s perspective, online tuition can be intimidating and feel odd at first just because it is unfamiliar, but overall online tuition is much more efficient than face-to-face. You get paid slightly less, but it’s totally worth it for the savings on time and travel (and cheaper for parents too!)
Do you communicate more between sessions with online students, because you’re already connected online?
Yes, with my older students, we do communicate more. I send practice exam questions between lessons and they send their homework answers. This does happen with some of my face-to-face clients, but definitely not as much. As a result, we spend less time going through homework or marking work, because this happens in between lessons. In this respect, my online students receive more support and advice because we already have that online dialogue, and I can answer questions very quickly. In addition, keeping everything online means I don’t need to remember to print worksheets out etc, which reduces my workload and allows me to focus on planning lessons.
What would you say are the main benefits and the main drawbacks of online tutoring?
Overall the positives associated with online tuition outweigh the drawbacks in my opinion. Preferably, I would like a mix of online and in person tuition with the same student, perhaps meeting up once a month but doing the majority of lessons online. The positives associated with online tuition are the aforementioned logistical benefits, but also the ease with which I can change lessons with students; its much easier to make an online lesson longer in the lead up to exams, than face-to-face lessons, because changing a physical lesson automatically shifts my schedule much more dramatically than an online lesson would. For parents and students, I think this is worth bearing in mind, if you know you’ll want more lessons nearer exams, then online lessons may be for you, or a combination of face-to-face and online lessons. The negatives associated with online lessons are mainly around poor wi-fi connections, very frustrating if you are in the middle of an explanation and the connection fails!
Is it harder getting students to focus when you’re not there in person?
I haven’t found this to be a problem at all, but I think this is reflective of the students I have and their age. All my students are very focused and have a strong work ethic. They seem to be choosing to have tuition themselves, as opposed to their parents imposing tuition upon them. To date, no one has walked off or hung up on me!
Is it harder to connect with students when you’re not there, and haven’t met in person – or do you think kids are so used to screens that it doesn’t make a difference?
I do find it a bit strange that I have never met my online students, or their parents, but yet speak to them so much. I feel very involved in their education and I am very invested in their success, so I would really like to meet some of my online students one day! Online tuition is less personal in several respects. I know the families, siblings and pets of my face-to-face students; I know how they make a cup of tea and the vibe of their household! I do feel more connected to my face-to-face students, and usually end up staying after a lesson for a quick catch up or chat with parents, usually regarding their child’s progress (but sometimes end up talking about other common interests!). This is beneficial for the client, but sometimes difficult to get away as a tutor, and often causes me to be late to my next lesson! That doesn’t happen with online lessons – once the lesson has finished, you disconnect – literally.
Are there any cool things you can do online that you can’t do in person?
I use a lot more resources (videos and website links) and move through practice exam questions a lot quicker during online tuition. I wouldn’t say I do anything particularly “cool” or groundbreaking though. Because of video capability during online tuition, anything I would do in person, I can also do on video so my mitosis play dough routine still works online!
Brilliant, thanks so much Jenny!
We also asked Ella’s mum what she thought, and she had this to say:
The one to one attention from Minerva’s Tutors has been an invaluable boost for my children. The flexibility of online tuition makes it an ideal resource that I would definitely use again. I would absolutely recommend Minerva.
By David Bard
David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about creative writing and everything that’s trending in education.