You’ve decided to move forward with a tutor, and online tutoring services are just a click away from changing your C’s to A’s. You do have many tutoring choices available other than tutoring online. There’s home tutoring, peer tutoring, group tutoring or tutoring centres. There are even a few places that offer limited, free tutoring or free online tutoring.

However, the great benefit of finding an online tutor is two-fold: it’s cheaper given the number of tutors vying for your business, and it’s convenient. You can have a lesson from the comfort of your own home, all you need is a computer and an internet connection. To make an appointment check out the many online tutoring sites like Superprof.

Maybe you're interested in becoming a tutor and want to know how to get started. After a quick search on Google, up pops the all-mighty Wiki-How on How to Become a Tutor. It’s the most straightforward and comprehensive list of what you need to do and the skills you require to move forward.

It’s a great part-time or full-time job, whether you are a currently enrolled student (peer tutors), a subject matter expert or a teacher. And there are no office hours; you decide the timing of all the lessons with your student.

Let’s say for the moment, you are looking for online tutors or you want to become a tutor, how do you create that virtual classroom?

You need equipment first and foremost. Then you need the tools to make it an enjoyable and useful communication tool.

Let’s review what that entails.

Equipment – Computers, Microphones & Cameras

Virtual learning requires the right equipment and a fast internet connection. The best tutors will do the rest.
Virtual learning requires the right equipment and a fast internet connection. The best tutors will do the rest. Source: Free-Photos

Computers

The first step is to make sure that your computer, microphone, and camera are high quality enough to make the one-on-one tutoring experience worthwhile. Given the amazingly fast rate of obsolescence in computer equipment, most people have a computer that is less than five years old.

You need a computer fast enough to process the video feed quickly, a camera that is high-definition or close to it, and a good quality microphone to pick up your voice well.

You also want one that doesn’t take more than 5 minutes to boot up!

For tutoring sessions in many subjects, you can use a laptop or a desktop. There’s no real difference. Also, either a PC or a Mac will work equally as well. The PC’s may have a few more video conferencing compatible software packages, but the major ones are available for both Mac and PC.

The next step is booking your math tutoring session, language tutoring, or social studies supplemental instruction.

Here are a few pro tips:

  1. Sit down and start your computer 15 minutes before your lesson. This will allow you to get set up and mentally ready for your time with your tutor.
  2. Log on your computer early as that will allow it to perform any updates necessary before your lesson starts.
To get the academic support you need, get tutored by appointment with a certified tutor who can give you individualized attention.
To get the academic support you need, get tutored by appointment with a certified tutor who can give you individualised attention. Source: Fotocitizen

Microphones

Whether you are getting homework help, test prep, test taking, time management training, or exam review your tutor, and you need to be able to hear each well. A high-quality microphone will ensure that you are communicating at peak performance.

Most computers and laptops have a built-in microphone. Test it with a friend by Skype to make sure it works properly. If not, you can get an external microphone for under $20 on Amazon. As well, you may consider a headset/earphone to make sure you can hear each other clearly.

Student success via online tutoring services is possible when your equipment is working correctly.
Student success via online tutoring services is possible when your equipment is working correctly. Source: Aksa2011

Cameras

Most laptops and computer monitors come with a built-in camera, but you may want to invest in a better quality one. Another option is if you have a digital camera, you can plug it into your computer and use it as a webcam.

Whatever choice you make, ensure that you configure your camera to its ideal setting so that you can see and hear each other optimally.

The All-Important Internet Connection

Video calls use quite a bit of internet bandwidth, so your connection and speed are essential. When an internet connection is poor during your calculus, trigonometry or anatomy and physiology tutorial (for example) the screen will freeze, or the audio will drop out entirely and it will be near impossible to understand what you and your tutor are saying.

The best internet connection is fibre optic cable, but if that is not available in your area ADSL is good enough for online tutorials if the connection is stable.

To check to see if your internet connection is stable enough and its speed, try using Speedtest. It will give you the upload and download speed as well as the “ping.”

Skype needs at least 1.5Mbits/s for a video call to be considered high quality. If you can’t get this speed with your Wi-Fi connection, try plugging directly into your router with an ethernet cable. Doing this will significantly increase your connection speed.

If all else fails, and you aren’t happy with your internet speed. You may want to change internet providers. Until then, you can always go to the library or an internet café and use one of their booths to conduct your tutoring program.

Video Conferencing Software Options for Online Tutoring

Now that you have your equipment purchased and the settings on the optimal levels, you’re ready to install video conferencing software to be able to see and hear your tutor. This is how the best online private tutors work.

There are lots of software options available.

bEx, GoToMeeting, HighFive, HipChat, Workplace by Facebook, Zoho Cliq, Lifesize, GoToWebinar, Pidgeonhole Live, and Roundtree. Everyone has an opinion on what they consider to be the “best videoconferencing software,” but whichever one you and your tutor choose, they all work very similarly.

The most popular are Skype and Google Hangout.

You can also try Anymeeting, Zoom Video Communications, Cisco WeMost of these platforms are free (or at least the most popular ones), but in some cases, there is a fee for purchase. You can discuss with your tutor what the benefits are of each software package. In some cases, the paid-for options have many more bells and whistles which make the lesson that much more enjoyable.

Another item to consider is a chat software that will allow you and your tutor to talk to each other while you are doing your lesson. This can come in several different ways. Many videoconferencing packages have a chat function embedded in the software. This is useful if you don’t want to interrupt someone while they are talking but want to ask a question, mid-stream, so you don’t forget it.

There’s also Google Doc’s which has a comments section that you can use to write notes to each other within the text. Or you could try WhatsApp and use that as your chat software.

Screen sharing is also an essential part of the collaboration process between students and private tutors. It will assist students immensely and help them get the academic success they desire in many subjects.

It’s the perfect tool for writing assignments with your writing tutor. The support services of an online writing tutor need screen sharing to see how your academic performance is progressing. Tutoring students online provides a shadow education

A particularly good one is on Google Docs, which has screen sharing and a chat/text function. Add that to the Google Hangout video conferencing software and it’s a one-stop-shop.

So, download what you need and study for your math tutor session, review study skills, get homework help, do test preparation, or exam review.

Online Classes in Music – What You Need

When you find tutors online who teach music, you’ll need a few extra pieces of equipment for a successful private tutoring session.
When you find tutors online who teach music, you’ll need a few extra pieces of equipment for a successful private tutoring session. Source: Didgeman

During a music tutorial, your teacher will be demonstrating the correct technique and will be watching to see that you are using that same technique. To do this, you may need to buy a second web camera and a second mic so that your tutor can focus on your hands and hear the notes you’re are playing up close.

Another good idea is to get a headset so you can hear everything your tutor is saying while you play your instrument.

Last Pieces of Advice Before You Start Your Online Tutorial

So, you’re ready to go. You have finished doing the following:

  • I bought your equipment or checked your existing computer, camera & microphone.
  • Tested your internet connection and speed and made sure you have a fast-enough connection to make video conferencing effective.
  • Set up your equipment in a quiet room.
  • Optimised it for hearing and seeing your tutor and you.
  • Downloaded the video conferencing software package your tutor recommended so your computer is like a virtual whiteboard.
  • Tested the video conferencing software so you’re comfortable using it.
  • When your individualised tutoring session is about to start, log on to your computer 15 minutes early, so all the updates and software downloads are done.
  • Close all the windows on your browser before you start the tutoring session, so you don’t use up valuable internet speed bandwidth or get distracted by social media or email notifications.
  • Have fun!

Individual tutoring online, in all subjects, will give you the academic skills you need, or training in any subject you can think of, at a cheaper rate than any tutoring centre in the world. It’s academic advising at it’s most convenient.

As social distancing has become a new reality around the world, we are becoming increasingly reliant on digital technologies to help us to stay connected during this period of confinement. The same goes for online learning. Many people have turned to online tutoring  in order to be able to continue learning despite school closures. Taking online classes is one of the best ways to ensure that our learning and education can continue.

If you would like to learn more about the online tutoring world, check out article on how to get the most out of your online tutoring session.

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Carrie

I am a Freelance Writer from Toronto with two teenage boys who keep me laughing and perpetually learning.