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Online Tutoring – Pros and Cons

Posted on: February 6th, 2016 by

Online Tutoring – Pros and Cons

By: Tori O’Brien

The latest trend in academia seems to be online tutoring. With new interactive platforms like Skype, Google Hangouts, online whiteboards, Google Docs, etc. connecting with students via the Internet is easy and convenient. But, is online tutoring worth it? Can it be as good as in person tutoring? Read on to see the positives and drawbacks from both sides of the computer screen.

The Pros


The most prevalent positive for online tutoring is convenience. There is no travel time required for anyone. Your student can log on from home or school complete the session and be down to dinner or off to practice a minute later. For very busy students or parents, this is a great pull for online tutoring. It is also convenient for students that have time management issues because they don’t have to factor in drive time or ready time – they are on the computer and ready; if they forget the session time, the tutor can remind them with a phone call or text and viola a minute later tutor time can begin!

Instant Feedback

Another thing to consider is your students help needs. The online format can be an added bonus if your student needs help with writing (and sometimes reading). With the new programs that allow the coach and student to be working in a document in real time, the efficiency of the tutoring time goes up greatly. The coach can work in the document and the student instantly see edits as they are being made. The coach can point out common mistakes and clarify immediately with the student. He/She can also watch the student’s writing process and more pointedly assess how to help the student as well as directly show your student how to organize his/her ideas for a paper.

Reaching Students

Online tutoring also enables the coaches to reach more students and different types of students. Some students may be in assistant home situations or medical situations where traveling to a center is not an option. Online tutoring allows the coaches to “go to the student” no matter where they are including if the student is out of state! Not all locales have the same type of resources especially regarding students with learning challenges. The online format enables Learning Foundations to engage with the non-typical student while keeping to the our principles of coaching.

The Cons

Not All Companies are Equal

A major drawback of online tutoring is not all online tutoring companies are equal. Some companies do not have extremely high standards for their coaches and do not cater to an individuals needs. They also do not specifically help student’s with learning challenges. Some companies are hired by schools and kids can go into the program after school or during study hall to get help, which is excellent; however, there is no continuity necessarily between tutor and student and no accountability. [Learning Foundations does not have these particular issues because we are not a internet only based company, but we happily can and do accomodate/help students via Internet resources when needed].

No Side-by-Side

Another drawback, is the inability to interact physically with the students. The coach cannot write with the student on a board or play a hands on game with them (and we know games are an excellent learning tool that LF uses constantly). The technology format hinders some of the physical help and interaction tools we use, especially with kinesthetic learners. Some of Learning Foundations signature organizational help, such as cleaning and organizing a backpack effectively or continually, using the Ready, Do, Done method or playing study skills games, must be forgone unless parental during the session is a possibility. It also makes re-direction and focusing by the tutor challenging especially if the student wrestles with ADHD. If the student struggles with motivation, the online format is not ideal for them. The coach cannot completely know what they are paying attention to or remove a distraction physically when tutoring via the Internet.

**{I will note here though that there are ways to get around some of these issues. Since Learning Foundations works directly with and knows each client and is dedicated to figuring out creative ways around technology challenges, the physical interaction issues are minimized. There are online whiteboards and games the coach and student can engage in together, and tools can be created on both sides to enable specific teaching and skills to be included. Where there is a will, there is a way!}**

Internet Reliability

Lastly for today, the Internet connection is not always reliable. Even though the greatest thing is convenience because the session can be done almost anywhere, sometimes the Internet program or weather does not want to cooperate and can prove to kill your session time due to technical difficulties. Connection reliability and speed can really be a hindering factor in your session if they are not good or not working. Without a good connection, the picture may be fuzzy, the sound make be delayed or wonky or the program might not “call” or connect at all! Then, you are stuck trouble shooting during your session time and not as much can be accomplished. Luckily, if these things are paid attention to and considered ahead of time, these glitches can be made sparse, but it is inevitable they will occur and the session can be completely lost or you end up paying trouble shooting rather than academic help.

Questions to ask yourself:

So, some things to consider when trying to decide if online tutoring is right for your student:

How motivated is the student?

What is your proximity to the resources your student needs?

How busy are your schedules or times of availability?

What type of help does your student need?

Are you willing to engage with the sessions or regulate your student if need be?

Is there a reliable computer and connection available?

Online coaching can be just as beneficial and rewarding as in person coaching and worth your time and money depending on the quality of the company you work with and what type of help your student needs. I currently work with a dyslexia student online with whom I previously met in person. The online format has helped me coach her better and recognize her needs more acutely. I also work with another reading/writing student who does not have the types of resources we offer in his hometown. Online coaching has been a huge benefit to these students, and these are just a few of our stories.

So far, Learning Foundations has found online tutoring to be very useful for students who have packed schedules, can’t drive or live far from the center, struggle with executive functioning and are often late to sessions, have dyslexia and need paper writing and editing help, and the list is continuing to grow!

In summary,

Pros: convenient, great for writing students and work, online whiteboard and Google programs make working together simultaneously easy and beneficial!, availability increases.

Cons: if the internet connection is bad, then session can be hindered; kids who are easily distracted may have a hard time focusing; no in person accountability or hands on help possible; games must be online or whiteboard based; manipulative tools can be a challenge to create for the student without parental help.

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