Adapting Tutoring To The Online World

picture of a boy watching a teacher on a laptop

From blackboard to whiteboard to smartboard. This evolution of teaching materials exemplifies how the way in which we learn is constantly changing. I can still recall the day I got to use the new smartboard in school for the first time as a student, and being filled with feelings of both unfamiliarity and excitement. Fast forward over a decade on from this, and such a transition in the delivery of teaching seems almost negligible.

We are currently living in a world where our learning is solely driven by routers and switches. Online tutoring has always engendered controversy, primarily due to both the lack of rapport that may be established between tutor and tutee and the lack of ease in which teaching may be delivered. The unprecedented lockdown measures and social distancing due to the emergence of the novel coronavirus have forced many students and families to engage with online tutoring, many of whom would otherwise have been reluctant about it. Some speculate that online tutoring may become the norm after coronavirus settles as we have grown accustomed to an increasingly digital world.

I believe we should not welcome online tutoring as a permanent and sole environment in how we deliver tuition, but definitely give it more credit as a reliable extra resource to aid students’ learning. When I was in school, my maths teacher would occasionally get fed up with using the smartboard due to technical difficulties, finally resorting to using the whiteboard again. Although the smartboard saved the use of physical resources and was effectively a more efficient whiteboard, the difficulty of using it brought it back on par with the regular whiteboard. The smartboard was an additional resource for our learning, but not a full replacement.

I reckon the same outlook should be adopted with using online tutoring. For the tutee, more material may be covered in a science lesson, facilitated by typed notes and inserting pre-constructed diagrams, overall making learning more efficient. Such methods promote independent learning, a very useful skill when entering further education. A work set-up in a room at home can mirror the classroom and allow students to enter a study zone, compartmentalising home and study. For the tutor, less time and money is spent commuting to homes, useful for a medical student like me. Online teaching also forces us to sharpen our communication skills even further to give clearer, more precise teaching.

Inevitably, online tutoring will always present drawbacks such as being unable to read how the student is feeling during the lesson and difficulties arising with ensuring concentration. These soft skills are comparable to those required in medicine and underline why it is impossible to completely replace such professions digitally.

If a tutor and tutee already have a well-established relationship from previous physical lessons, rapport poses to be less of a challenge when conducting them online. Parents may now be more willing to have the occasional online lesson that they were previously hesitant to accept if a tutor is unable to be physically present. Students and tutors can now take a more efficient approach to learning, aided by online courses in how to use teaching platforms such as BitPaper and Zoom.

In essence, we cannot completely revert to what life was like prior to coronavirus, but we can learn from this period to reflect on what worked well and how we can incorporate this into the future of teaching – the new smartboard.

Ankita is a science and maths tutor with Newman Tuition. To book a lesson with her, or one of our other excellent tutors, please call us on 020 3198 8006, email us at [email protected], or complete the form on the ‘Contact Us’ page.

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