When school was in session and operating under the normal conditions we’ve all grown accustomed to, the mention of “tutoring” would often come with an attached stigma in the minds of many.
Meaning, unfortunately, there seemed to be some sort of shame in recognizing a student’s learning need, and then taking the necessary steps via specialized instruction to improve skill areas where they might not be at the desired levels.
Obviously I understand why some might make the association between “tutoring” and “struggling student,” but that doesn’t mean the logic makes sense.
Just go to the root of the word— “tutor” is defined as a simple noun, as in “a private teacher,” or even expanded as a verb to “teach or guide, usually individually in a special subject or for a particular purpose.”
Nowhere is it mentioned that tutoring is reserved for struggling students or for those who have trouble in school.
Instead, it’s about the key differentiators of “individualized” or one-on-one learning, and within a specific topic area; that is, opposed to classroom-based or large group learning, and across a variety of subjects.
It’s just a different type of learning experience. Not to mention that there are many advanced students who seek tutoring in order to become even more advanced.
Why is this relevant?
I bring it up because as families settle into online learning, a potential benefit is a shift in how we all think of tutoring, and hopefully realizing that it means something different now, and even the traditional associations of the word were misguided.
The reality of the situation is this—kids are now forced to endure new and different learning circumstances. No matter if you think traditional schooling is great or lacking, we all need to make adjustments now in its absence.
So, at the risk of generalizing the current challenge, students simply aren’t being exposed to formal education thanks to COVID-19. Some districts have a firm hold on distance learning processes, and some are struggling, but even for the students of those schools that are knocking it out of the park, it’s still a different learning experience, which means outcomes are probably all over the map.
For instance, are students learning as much now as they would in the classroom? Are they learning more? It’s hard to say.
The point is, more students probably want and need tutoring now more than ever—the “need” group being those who require an experience to stay sharp in traditional subjects of math, science, etc., with the “want” segment being those who are embracing this time to learn something new and different; something they’ve never had a chance to explore.
Which brings us to online tutoring...
The shift to online learning is a big enough leap for families to wrap their heads around, but in their research of opportunities, it’s not only “which online learning class is best for my child,” but also whether or not a “class” is the right way to go in the first place, or should they consider something on a more personal level instead?
What is online tutoring for kids?
Online tutoring for kids is the method of personalized, typically one-on-one instruction between an expert or skilled instructor and a student. (Also see virtual tutoring.)
Nothing too muddy there, right? Just as an in-person tutor and student would meet to dive into subject matter, the interaction is now taking place online through a video conferencing platform.
How does online tutoring differ from an online course?
It might seem like there is an obvious answer here, but where I think many parents might get tripped up is not with what online tutoring actually is and what it offers, but rather with how it compares to the online course, which has a handful of attached definitions.
We’ve already spent a lot of time dissecting those difference between online courses - by looking at free online learning options, and offering parent tips when it comes to choosing - but as a refresher:
An online course can mean a self-paced experience where a student reacts to on-screen prompts and makes their way through structured curriculum.
Or, it could be a student simply watching a recorded online tutorial.
It could also be a combination of the two, or something more active, like a live instructor teaching to a group of students, where questions and answers can flow freely, and curriculum can be tailored in real-time.
Whew—and that’s not even everything!
The point is, there are a number of different forms of online classes for kids and parents to explore, which makes it a little murky when making comparisons.
In terms of an online tutoring experience, though, it most closely identifies with the “live” 2-way, active online learning course described above, but instead of a student being one of a few of within a group, they are on their own, working one-on-one with the instructor—developing skills around individualized instruction, and focusing within a particular subject.
What are the benefits of online tutoring?
There is a long list of online learning benefits, and benefits from online courses, specifically. I can’t speak for every entry, but I do know those who are taking our Virtual Tech Camps right now are being exposed to things like:
- Structured sessions following planned curriculum
- In-person instruction where students can ask questions
- Socialization thanks to small group collaboration
- Personalized instructor feedback
Online tutoring offers many of the same benefits, and where it might not measure up to an online course, it makes up for it thanks to enhanced focus elsewhere. Because again, what makes one experience better than the other really depends on the goals of you and your student.
Tutoring sessions are probably less structured than what you’d find in an online course, but that’s only because a primary goal of tutoring is to offer the most personalized experience you can find. So, there is definitely a planned curriculum, but it’s tailored to a child’s interests and skill level rather than a general topic bucket.
Think of it like buying clothes off the rack versus a customized and tailored option. Sure there are different sizes available, and you have your colors and styles to choose from, but if you need something to a precise measurement and with a unique look and style, you’re going to need to find someone who can create something to your specifications; someone who can listen to feedback, and make adjustments based on what they're seeing.
Online tutoring will almost always involve a live instructor working in real-time with a student. This particular aspect varies tremendously across learning courses, where, as mentioned above, can mean your student is at a screen and pointing and clicking, or at a screen taking in and engaging with live instruction.
So, the benefit for online tutoring in this regard is that your student will almost always be receiving individualized attention.
Why is this important? Because as is often the case with learning something new, kids are going to have questions, and they’re going to face challenges. An online tutor can answer those questions, and then can tailor their teaching from that point forward to address those challenges a student might be experiencing with a particular topic.
While some online courses offer a socialization component that stems from students learning alongside like-minded peers and even collaborating on coursework, online tutoring typically doesn’t offer the same.
And really, it’s not a bad thing.
It all comes down to the goal of the online learning session, which will vary from family to family, student to student, and even throughout the year. Again, the online tutoring session is offered for students to deep dive into a particular topic, and a one-on-one scenario is one key way to maximize that particular piece.
Plus, there is something to be said for students interacting with their instructor as well. Meaning, any online tutor should be well-versed and experienced in the topic they’re teaching. Having your student interact with such knowledge is fruitful, not to mention the value of your student learning to directly converse with different types of authority figures.
And again, this is just comparing online tutoring to an online course that actually offers the rare ability to learn live alongside other students. Many online courses don’t offer this component, which puts online tutoring ahead in terms of socialization (given the mere fact that tutoring offers interaction with at least one other person).
Personalized instructor feedback
I won’t spend too much time here because the ability to receive personalized instructor feedback is what any good online tutoring session hinges on.
I put this last because pretty much any online learning experience - from courses to tutoring sessions - will offer this benefit. And that’s the big draw of learning from home...kids can do so on your time and according to your calendar (and from the comfort of a couch, home desk, etc.).
So, which type of online learning is best?
As you can see, there are benefits and drawbacks to every online learning opportunity, and what makes one better than the others ultimately depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.
For those of you who want to give online tutoring a shot, our Online Private Lessons offer the above benefits, with 60-minute instruction from iD certified instructors, that’s built around relevant curriculum in block-based coding with Scratch, Minecraft mods, Python coding, how to create a game on Roblox, and more.
If you’d rather opt for something more ongoing, and with a bit more socialization, our Virtual Tech Camps offer structured, weeklong sessions in the same exciting curriculum, and from the same inspiring instructors, but in small groups of 5 students max per.
Either way, whether with iD or not, we hope your online learning experience is a valuable one.