Is online learning effective?

Over the last two years, Simply Learning Tuition has seen a 20% rise in demand for online learning. Here, we address the questions parents most frequently ask us about online learning, provide insights from experienced online tutors and some pointers to make the most out of online lessons.

Bookings for traditional forms of tutoring, including face-to-face lessons and residential placements remain as popular as ever. However, online learning has been gaining traction over the last few years, with a distinct rise in online tuition websites, tutors who work exclusively online and even schools offering online programmes, such as the Harrow School Online. As the world becomes increasingly connected, the demand for online learning has increased. Unfortunately, for many parents, online learning can be an ineffective teaching resource; an impersonal experience delivered by inexperienced and unprepared tutors who are not used to this method of teaching. It is worth remembering that online is only a channel and if what is at the end of the line isn’t first class, you won’t get a first class experience. All good online tutors should come with the same guarantees and results as face to face lessons and parents find that with the right online tuition, they have access to the best tutors, wherever they are in the world.

1. How does online learning work?

Online tutoring works on the same basis as face-to-face tuition, except the tutor is not physically in the room. Lessons are delivered one to one and will usually take place over a video call, often with screen sharing. The tutor and student can react and communicate with each other in real time. They can look at the same document, watch a tutor explain a problem or corrections and make changes at the same time. Many tutors use an online whiteboard, where a student can watch them illustrate how to answer a particular question, and then the tutor can watch a student try and recreate the method. Tutors can still see when a child’s attention might be wavering and act accordingly. Tutors can share any materials that need to be referenced in the lesson beforehand, or often in real time as they would during a face-to-face lesson.

2. What kind of platforms can be used for online learning?

The majority of online tutors use Skype. It is widespread, trusted and convenient, however there are specialist platforms available for tutors to make use of. Just like teaching face to face, each online specialist has their own methods and will use the best platform to suit how they teach and what they are teaching. Tutors should be happy to provide introductory time to ensure your set up is correct. The tutors we work with use platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and online whiteboards such as “Explain everything”. Google Hangouts incorporates the features of Skype and Zoom, but users can also use the entirety of the Google Suite, including shared documents. All of these sites allow screensharing, along with a text chat where websites and links can be shared.

 “Online tutoring can be a fantastic tuition delivery vehicle, especially when interactive online whiteboards and overhead projector style cameras are used. I also recommend that students record the lesson, so that they can play back any part that may be helpful for them when they are completing their homework. This is an advantage that cannot really be obtained through conventional face to face tutoring. Moreover, online tutoring is a fantastic solution for students who are at boarding school or more remote parts of the country, where face to face options are limited. Finally, online tutoring allows tutors to keep prices as low as possible, since there is no downtime due to travelling, nor are there any travel costs.” Luke, Maths and Science Specialist online tutor

3. What if my child has additional learning needs?

Traditionally it has been accepted that if your child has additional needs such as dyslexia or autism, a tutor in person is the only way to go. This is no longer always the case. Lyndsay Conroy, a specialist online tutor, emphasises – Approximately 60% of my students have additional needs and I am able to meet those needs in different ways without making it awkward for them. I have set my writing font to Open Dyslexic 3 so that my dyslexic students can access the material more easily and can add a colour filter on the screen for students with Irlens Syndrome. I use a whiteboard to write out the steps to a maths solution and can send photos of my step-by-step solution for the student to refer back to. It allows me to support a wide variety of students in unique ways.”


Technology such as Open Dyslexic 3 is a programme which changes the font on a computer in a way that makes it more accessible for students with dyslexia on all websites, on the web chat between tutor and student and on all online resources that the student would use.

For students who cannot attend school due to mental health issues such as agoraphobia, or social anxiety, online learning can be the only way they are able to access tuition whilst they recover.

We have worked with children who have benefitted from home schooling programmes on a purely online basis, being particularly beneficial for students based abroad who would like to access a British curriculum or to prepare for competitive entrance exams.

“I love being able to tutor online and support the students that need me most. I specialise in working with students who cannot access the mainstream system but don’t want to miss out on an education. Being in the safety and comfort of your home is nice for some people but may be a necessity for the child struggling with chemo or the teenager with Juvenile Arthritis. It might be the only way an anxious young person is able to learn or the method that works best around their sports training or travelling. 

 We can type to each other during the call, send diagrams or website links, share screens to look at equation editors or digital textbooks, and collaborate on shared google documents for writing drafts of History essays or English stories.“ Lyndsay, Maths and Science Specialist Online Tutor

4. Can my child concentrate on a screen as well as they can with an in person tutor?

The short answer is, ‘yes’, many children actually concentrate just as well, if not better in some cases, on a screen rather than in a face-to-face lesson. Technology is an accepted part of our society, not just in our personal or work lives but also increasingly within education. From interactive whiteboards to school portals and some schools insisting on laptop or tablet provision, technology will only become a bigger part of accessing education.

Any device comes with the opportunity for distraction; however, your child is not watching an online lecture. Aside from the tutor being able to tell if your child is distracted, online tutoring is too interactive to allow time for the student to scroll through the internet.

‘I have been teaching students online for over a decade and have found it is as, if not more, effective as face-to-face tutorials. Lessons are easy to co-ordinate, efficient and fully supported by a range of e-learning resources. An audio-visual link means that the student and I are able to see each during the session, maintaining a clear line of communication throughout. With the world wide web at our fingertips, we are able to use a variety of resources to support each student’s individual learning goal i.e. reviewing the latest past papers with a GCSE student or watching a grammar video with a primary age international student. Technology is a universal language and I am always amazed at how quickly students engage with online lessons, regardless of age or nationality!’ Beth, Humanities and Entrance Exam Specialist Online Tutor



5. Can it be flexible if my schedule changes?

If anything, online learning can be far more flexible than traditional face to face tuition. Should you go on holiday, and still want your child to have a couple of lessons with your regular tutor, lessons can take place anywhere with a good internet connection! Students with very busy schedules who travel, compete or train regularly across the globe, can access experienced tutors wherever they are in the world.

6. Are online lessons less reliable?

Most homes, libraries and hotels have a high speed, high bandwidth internet connection that easily supports video calls. The tutor that you work with, as an online specialist, will also have a strong internet connection and be well versed in solving any issues that may arise. If you’re using the Google Suite for online tutoring make sure you’re using Google Chrome, as it is designed to use less bandwidth on a Chrome browser than others like Safari or Bing.

7. How can I make sure that I’m getting the right tutor for my child?

While there are some tutors who specialise purely in online learning, the majority of the tutors we represent are highly experienced when it comes to teaching online, with over 40% providing both face to face and online lessons. At Simply Learning Tuition each tutor introduction is made after a detailed consultation with your family. Our tuition consultants each specialise in a particular age range and know each tutor personally, so you can be assured that the tutor we introduce will be perfectly matched to your child. This is the same for an in person or online tutor.

If you are looking for a tutor please do not hesitate to get in touch with us – we would be delighted to hear from you. Click here to make an enquiry.

Please click here to read more about some of the families we have supported with online tutoring.