I’m part of the team at a leading online tutoring company. This article addresses the most glaring problems that tutors struggle with most when it comes to online tutoring.
Before we get into it though, let’s establish some common ground with regards to online tutoring.
What we know about online tutoring
- Online tutoring is growing — fast. More money is pouring into the industry, more tutors are adopting online as an avenue to teach from across the country and around the globe, and more students are using online tutors. “In the US, online tutoring is a $132 million market and is continuing to grow at an annual rate of 6%.”
- Digital natives — people born into a society that’s already adopted digital technology — populate our schools. They want, and we want them, to learn in a way that best allows them to advance their potential as healthy, informed, contributing members of an ever changing contemporary society.
- A plethora of roadblocks is preventing faster adoption rates of online tutoring and even more rapid growth of the industry as a whole than we’re already seeing.
New findings about the online tutoring marketplace
- Only 25% of the tutors had no plans to tutor online, with a whopping 64% already tutoring online and another 11% planning to join before February 2017.
- Of tutors using online tutoring, 82% use it for either less than 25% of their students or for more than 75% of them. In other words, nearly all of these tutors are almost fully onboard with online tutoring or use it simply as a supplement to traditional in-person tutoring. Only 18% of these tutors meet between 25% and 75% of their students online.
Simply put, most tutors using an online platform to teach their lessons are either very hesitant to go fully-online or are almost completely on board with online tutoring.
Coach’s study included conversations and surveys with the tutors. An essential focus of this dialogue was to unpack why tutors weren’t planning to adopt online tutoring and why some of them were tutoring so few of their students online. They also aimed to discover what some of the pain points might be for tutors who had moved almost completely to online.
All of these groups agreed on three problems with online tutoring.
The three biggest problems with online tutoring and how to solve them (in no particular order)
Technical issues Even though video conferencing software and cloud-based applications for collaboration have come a very long way as of late, technical issues still seem to be hindering the online tutoring market.
Those tutors regularly using online tutoring solutions revealed that they solve tech problems by having a technology backup plan, while offline-only tutors cited having an unreliable connection or a lack of access to equipment as their primary technical concerns.
Unfortunately I’d be lying if I told you we didn’t see technical errors from time to time at Skooli. However, the few technical errors we do encounter are easily addressed. By ensuring your browser is up to date and you’ve given the right permissions to access your microphone and camera, you’ll be up and running in most online classrooms no problem. At Skooli, we find that Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are the easiest browsers to use, while Safari, Edge, and Internet Explorer are a little trickier to navigate.
Lack of a personal connection with the student With only one-quarter of the tutors surveyed by Coach using a digital whiteboard and most relying on video chat software like Skype and Google Hangouts, it is understandable that a lack of personal connection with the student is viewed as a con across the board.
In truth though, this problem is rooted in the fact that the majority of online tutors fail to use a platform with a suite of tools that allows them to build personal connections with their students. The following features can be found as part of the stack of an online tutoring system that would certainly allow for a proper personal connection:
- High-quality realtime audio and video between tutor and student for face-to-face conversation (low-quality connections can definitely prevent an online tutoring session from reaching that personal level)
- Interactive whiteboard (this is where the magic that really lets the student and tutor feel connected through progress and collaboration happens)
- An easy-to-use forum for communication between sessions (the tutor can build rapport for a constantly strengthening personal connection with student)
- A scheduling system that makes it painless for the student and tutor to find a time that works (lets them focus on learning the material instead of messaging back and forth about when to schedule the next session)
Marketing In order to make money tutoring online, you need to have students to tutor. No students, no moola.
And since tutors are tutors, not marketers, finding students can be a challenge or even the reason for not taking the leap to tutoring online. Participants in Coach’s study cited finding students to be “tough” and some weren’t even sure where to begin when it came to marketing to students.
Fortunately for those tutors, they don’t have to become marketers. Instead, they can simply focus on helping students get better grades by letting someone else, like me, do their marketing for them. Here’s what I do for tutors to completely eliminate “marketing” from their online tutoring job description:
- Exchange calls, emails, messages, Facebook posts, DMs, tweets, and carrier pigeon notes with students to learn more about their education goals and set them up with the right tutor for them
- Harness the power of a website that reaches thousands and thousands of students every week to connect students with tutors
- Collect information from tutors about their teaching style and expertise to display it to students in the best way possible
- Provide tutors with ratings and reviews from their students
- Pay for advertising to reach new students and schools who could benefit from personalized learning
- Onboard tutors so that they have the right toolkit to make money online
- Anything I can possibly do to connect a tutor with a student in the online classroom, so that the student can perform better at school and so that the tutor can share their knowledge and collect a payout
The best way for tutors to find students is to tutor on an established online tutoring platform that handles the “finding students” aspect of the job for them.
Despite living in a tech-forward world that allows us all to be interconnected entrepreneurs, jumping into the online tutoring pool with both feet can be an overwhelming task — largely due to problems potential and current online tutors are pointing out. Both tutors with online tutoring experience and those without recognize the same three hurdles preventing the industry from developing any faster: technical issues, lack of personal connection with a student, and marketing.
However, all of these problems can be curbed if the tutor wants to work to solve them. With the right device, browser, internet connection, and online tutoring platform in place, a tutor can say goodbye to technical issues, can create personal connections with students, and can allow the online tutoring platform to handle finding new students for them.
Keen to try out a new online tutoring option? Try Skooli’s Online Classroom demo.