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Is Online Learning Effective?

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

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 learning 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. Parents find that with the right online tuition, they have access to the best tutors, wherever they are in the world.

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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 private 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.

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

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 setup 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.

Educational technology is not a new concept. Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, young children have had access to computer based educational resources such as Fisher-price laptops, games and educational television shows. For those who grew up in the early 2000s, computer games such as Bear and Penguins First Maths & Literacy Adventure, Math Blaster or the Disney Learning Series will have likely been part of your learning on the family computer.

 “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. Can younger children benefit from online home schooling? 

Online home schooling, as a replacement for traditional schooling, is continuing to grow in popularity. Over the years we have worked closely with the families of actors, dancers and sports stars who need the flexibility and certitude of online tuition in order to continue to be able to train and perform at an athletic and professional level, whilst being firm in the knowledge that their education is in safe hands. We do not provide a rigid programme that students simply muddle through, but instead organise a fully bespoke and tailored one-to-one programme that meets their requirements precisely.

Over the last five years, children’s engagement in educational technology has increased dramatically and a large part of your child’s education at school is already helped by technology. Interactive whiteboards and tablets are widely used to support the teacher, homework tasks often include online games and quizzes and some schools even require students to have access to their own laptop during lessons. The majority of schools have their own online platform that is used to distribute work, give feedback and to interact with parents and students.

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“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. 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, an in-person tutor 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.

“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 with Simply Learning Tuition

5. 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.

6. Does online learning work?

Before we ask whether or not online teaching works, we need to understand what the benchmark is. How accurate is our nostalgia of wonderful classroom teaching? A US Education Department study somewhat inconclusively showed that online learning could be more effective in some cases but in others it was less effective. It seems that just like a classroom setting, results depend on the abilities of the teacher. 

Writing for The Conversation, Eric Fredersen, Professor at the Warner School of Education, University of Rochester suggests that one reason for the improvement is a longer timeframe – with resources delivered online, chat messages and in some cases whole lessons recorded and accurate teaching materials to hand following the lesson, students have a longer time period to analyse the correct material. This can often yield better results than relying on their hastily written notes. 

Online, all student contributions are measured equally. In contrast, in a classroom setting, the loudest or most confident student tends to win out. As many of us will have discovered since the pandemic, and having to use software such as Zoom for the first time, there is a short time delay and a lack of spontaneity when talking in a group. However, the upside of this is that it builds in time to listen and to cultivate better responses.

‘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 coordinate, 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

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7. How to make online teaching work for younger children

Naturally, the amount of time younger students can be occupied for without supervision from a parent or guardian, varies from child to child. For this reason, teachers tend to pass schoolwork directly to parents for them to go through with the child. For parents who work from home and are unable to devote this time with their child to help we recommend you consider hiring a private tutor to work one to one with your child.

Working with a private tutor online is highly effective. It is a more direct and personal method than your child working through online games or resources independently. Experienced online tutors have access to resources that allow them to engage with students directly in a much more personalised and tailored way. At Simply Learning Tuition, the Mathematics tutors we work with even find that students complete more questions using their online whiteboard, than they would face to face. 

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Online tutors interact directly with your child, providing encouragement, challenges, rewards and answering any questions they might have, in real time. There is always the same person on the other side of the screen whom your child is answerable to, just as they would be in a face-to-face lesson. The use of screen sharing allows a tutor to guide and monitor their students on educational sites and ensure they are on task. For example, popular resources include websites with quizzes tailored specifically to your child based on their age and the subject they’re working on. These challenges are fantastic for improving children’s work under timed exam conditions.

Our 10+ years of experience have proven that online learning is also not a barrier to younger students. Indeed many of the tutors we work with spend up to 20% of their teaching time with under 7’s.

8. 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.

9. 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.

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10. Can younger children use online tuition to prepare for entrance exams?

Simply Learning Tuition have been preparing international students for relocation and entrance exams online for over 6 years, for students aged 4 and upward. We currently work with more than 40 families based in Singapore and Hong Kong whose children, of age 5 and upwards, have consistently been receiving online tuition for over three years. In fact, we work with a number of tutors who work exclusively online, supporting families all around the world, as well as in London. These families want to work with one-to-one tutors who are experienced, vetted, engaging and familiar with the British education system and exam boards.

11. 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.

  • "Thanks to Andrea’s tutoring of our daughter – she received news this morning that she has been accepted into Surbiton High, her no.1 choice of school. This wouldn’t have been possible without Andrea’s assistance. Thanks again for connecting us."

    Mr C, LA & London, International, in person & online tuition

  • "My son loves his online tutoring and looks forward to every lesson. His tutor, William, is excellent. Very professional, calm and understanding. I would highly recommend Simply Learning Tuition."

    Parent of age 7 child tutored online

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.

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