Online tutoring is one of the best ways to provide support to students. All students have their areas for improvement and subjects that they struggle with, even if they’re at the top of their class. For many years, the norm for tutoring is to go to a tutoring center or hire a specialist to help a student with a subject they are having difficulty with. The tutor and student meet as a specific venue to have one-on-one instruction. 

It did not take long for online tutoring to take off. Like in-person tutoring sessions, online tutoring can be done one-on-one or in groups. In addition, these sessions are designed to provide students support, whether through homework help, enrichment exercises, or even study skills tutorials. 

Related reading: Reading Online vs. Offline: Which One is Better for Studying?

Online Tutoring 

Online tutoring enhances the learning experience by providing support to students who need it. Each student has a unique set of strengths and areas for improvement. Having tutorial sessions can help students further develop their talent while improving their weaknesses. 

Learning in a classroom setting is the norm, but young learners are becoming more used to doing everything online. Like online classes, online tutoring can happen asynchronously and synchronously. Asynchronous tutoring involves receiving work, which they do on their own time, while synchronous tutoring involves live instruction. Both tutor and student are online at the same time. In both cases, students work with a “human” teacher and have the goal of helping students improve in specific subject areas. 

How Online Tutoring Works 

Online tutoring starts with a student signing up for classes that they need additional help with. Typically, it’s a subject where they have the lowest scores. For example, if it’s science, the student has to identify which science class (chemistry, biology, physics, etc.) they need help with. Students can sign up on tutoring websites and find tutors through that portal.  

There are different types of tutoring: homework help, skills training, second language (ESL), etc. These can occur within the school year (as one of a student’s after-school activities) or throughout a summer break. The tutorials that take place during the school year are often focused on academic assistance, while summer tutorials are enrichment classes like reading and arithmetic skills.

The benefit of joining these summer programs is that the skills and knowledge stay fresh and keep the brain active. During long breaks, because students hardly pick up a book, they forget some of the things that they learned during the previous school year. Each subject area requires specialized instruction. Hire tutors that are subject experts. 

Whether in-person or online, tutoring sessions are to provide assistance where the students need it. Young students today have gotten used to learning and consuming information online. Young students have no problems navigating new websites, apps, and games. 

The challenge for tutors is to design activities that can keep students engaged as tutorial sessions happen online. It’s tempting to deploy the same tutoring strategies that tutors use in in-person sessions and do the exact same thing on an online platform. The challenge here is to be able to determine the needs of a student and come up with materials that are relevant and useful for them. 

Benefits of Online Tutoring 

Online tutoring has been around for many years, but it has become even more popular recently. Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, students had to stay at home and do classes online. As such, tutorial sessions also had to be done online. Here are some benefits of pursuing online tutoring sessions vs. traditional face-to-face sessions: 

  • Accessible. Students are not limited to meeting with tutors that are nearby. Some students have needs that may require them to seek specialists. Depending on where a student lives or goes to school, going to a tutorial session might require them to contend with geographical limitations.  
  • Flexible. Tutors can take advantage of different apps and websites when developing lessons for students. Doing tutoring sessions online opens many opportunities to get creative about designing lessons and producing learning materials. 
  • Convenient. Students have more control over their schedules. There is no need to waste time in traffic and that extra liter of class to shuttle between the home, school, and tutoring venue. 
  • Differentiation. Tutors can provide differentiated instruction that caters to the needs of the student. While efficient for schools and teachers, learning in a classroom setting can be challenging for some students. For example, a student who has reading comprehension concerns might not keep up with a class discussion about an assigned text. A tutor can provide enrichment classes to enhance a student’s reading comprehension skills and at the same time help the student catch up with the assigned reading. 
  • Personalized instruction. Tutors are equipped to teach students in a way that is tailor-fit to the students’ learning style. A kinesthetic learner might struggle to keep up with long lectures in school. A tutor will find a new way to teach the same lesson so that the kinesthetic learner can process and understand the information. 
  • Efficient. Doing anything on an online platform is more efficient because it can be done anywhere. Whether a student is in a different country than the tutor is inconsequential as long as they talk about the same subject matter following a schedule they agree on. They can also share resources just as quickly, whether through email or a specific learning platform. There is no need to print and ship out reading materials. 
  • Innovative. Teachers and students can explore various online platforms. Tutors and students can choose any resource and medium through which they can learn.

Some Challenges 

Although online tutoring offers many benefits to students and parents, it does come with some challenges. For example, some students benefit most from in-person sessions, while others benefit from it being online—thus having access to online sessions no matter where they are in the world.

In addition, there are students who prefer receiving instruction in person to immediately make clarifications and raise any concerns. In contrast, others prefer to receive instructions and work independently in the meantime. 

Students have to have a stable internet connection, a decent gadget, and a quiet location with online classes at the most basic level. These three elements seem simple enough, but it’s not easy. Unfortunately, not all students who need tutorials can have access to these basic requirements. Below are a few other challenges that students and teachers may encounter: 

  • Students’ attention span. It’s so easy for students to get distracted during online classes and tutoring sessions. Tutors have to devise a plan on how to engage the student’s attention throughout the duration of the online class. 
  • Self-management skills. Students have to be able to have the skill to help themselves focus and listen to their tutors well during each session. Like any online class, it’s up to the student and parents to create a learning environment that is conducive to learning. Moreover, students have to have the self-discipline to accomplish tasks assigned to them during tutorial sessions and balance that with keeping up with school work. 
  • Following through. Online tutoring sessions are personalized and differentiated. However, students have to be able to use the skills and knowledge taught in these sessions to enhance their learning experience in school. Learning in online tutoring does not stop once you switch off your laptop. 
  • Access to technology. Advances in technology have allowed services like online tutoring to thrive. However, not everyone has access to the same quality of internet connection and gadgets for students to be able to make the most out of a tutoring session. 
  • Giving useful feedback. In the best-case scenario, a tutor can form a team with teachers and parents to provide services to a child. However, the main concern is to give and share feedback with other members of the team. Likewise, this feedback has to be relevant and valuable. Not only will the tutor work with the student, but they will also be working with other professionals. 

Final Thoughts 

Schools do their best to deliver the best type of education for all students, and students do their best to keep up with the requirements to get good grades and have a good grade point average. Schools come up with the appropriate curriculum, but sometimes, students struggle, especially since subjects become more complex as they move up a grade level. Another complicating factor is the have varying learning styles and levels of academic achievement. 

Tutoring is an integral part of education. Even the most intelligent kids in the class can benefit from online tutoring to address their struggle areas or need the most help.

The trick is to find the tutor that is best equipped to address a student’s concerns. Then, students can enjoy the same benefits as face-to-face tutoring. Maximize each learning session by focusing and following through with the work at home. 

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Patricia Alfonso

Patricia Alfonso is an educator and researcher who earned her master's degree in guidance and counseling from Ateneo de Manila. She specializes in developing school counseling programs for schools.

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