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What is virtual tutoring? What are the benefits?

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What is virtual tutoring?

Virtual tutoring takes the traditional tutoring activity of a teacher or subject-matter expert assisting a student in a particular topic area, and puts the interaction online. Basically, where a traditional tutoring session would take place in-person, virtual tutoring happens online. 

That’s it. 

And that’s actually the case with a lot of virtual or online experiences—it’s the in-person experience, just, online. 

Now, technology can enhance that experience, or the virtual distance between people can detract from it, but it’s really a case-by-case basis. 

Virtual vs. In-Person

This phenomenon might be dropping off a bit, but there are still some parents out there who hear or see the words “virtual” or “online” and immediately write off those things. 

It could be due to the thought that anything that isn’t in-person is impersonal, or perhaps that doing anything online is difficult (more technical), or even expensive. 

And, the more traditional that thing now being offered online or virtually is, the more pushback there seems to be. Virtual school? How can that work? Virtual yoga? So you’re basically watching a workout video on your computer? Virtual reality? That just sounds crazy altogether. 

So, as we’ve launched our Virtual Tech Camps, and have expanded our Online Tutoring with additional private coding lessons, I thought it would be useful to run through a few things, like virtual tutoring specifically, to prove out that “virtual” isn’t what many parents think it to be, and can offer a number of positive benefits and outcomes.

How does technology impact tutoring?

Or asked differently, what are the pros and cons of virtual tutoring when compared to traditional tutoring?

Engagement

With in-person tutoring, you should expect for kids to be engaged more or less. Especially if 1-on-1, one characteristic of a good tutor is is that they put in the effort to keep things interesting, and of course, are there to guard against a student getting distracted or sidetracked. 

With virtual tutoring, you might lose a little of that control, but students can still pretty easily be kept on track. Cameras aid with eye contact, so any prolonged looking away or drifting eyes can be pretty easily spotted. 

And in terms of engaging with what’s actually being taught, screen share makes it easy for both students and tutors to be looking at the same thing. Not to mention that annotation features in Zoom and “virtual whiteboard” experiences keeps communication flowing. 

There is also something to be said about learning from the comfort of home versus in a classroom or learning center (more on this below). 

Convenience

This is an area where virtual tutoring gets the edge, and for a couple of reasons.

For an in-person tutoring session to come together, it usually needs to be scheduled in advance. Meaning, the student’s schedule and the tutor’s schedule need to align so they can both then travel to or meet in the same place and at the same time to commence. 

But online, the experience is more or less “on-demand.” Depending on the student, tutor, and virtual tutoring service, things can come together fairly quickly. 

For instance, with online tutor, Yup, a student can be stuck on a math problem and right then and there can request help, get help, and overcome their learning roadblock in a few clicks of an app. Same idea with an online programming tutor; if kids have an interest in learning Python or Scratch, parents can immediately schedule a 1-on-1 session any day of the week, any time of day between 6AM-9PM. 

Many in-person tutors, though, might only be available immediately after school or on the weekend, where of course many students are in the thick of sports, clubs, and other activities they enjoy, making it tough for such time slots to work. 

All things considered, a lot needs to align in order to make in-person tutoring happen—schedules, locations, subject matter, and more. And then, us parents might need to load kids up into the car, and drive them to and from which just adds another pin to this juggling exercise. 

Specialty & Expertise

As touched on above, finding an in-person language tutor should be relatively easy. But as learning concepts expand, and especially beyond those subjects traditionally found in most schools, the opportunities get slimmer and slimmer. 

But with virtual tutoring? Now, from private coding lessons to 3D modeling, your chances of finding an instructor are enhanced greatly. 

Think about it like searching for a rare collectible at your local antique store, or around neighborhood garage sales versus having access to all points of the world and being able to connect with sellers anywhere, anytime through a platform like eBay. 

Environment

When kids meet in-person with tutors, the session might take place at a school, or in a learning center. So, even though this instruction isn’t “school,” it can sure feel that way. 

For students who need extra assistance because they aren’t getting the most of their everyday classroom experience, putting them back into that same type of learning environment may not be doing them any favors. 

With virtual tutoring, instruction can take place anywhere a student is comfortable (without being distracted, obviously). So, now, they might be more engaged knowing they are “safe” at home and away from the anxiety a classroom environment might bring. 

Personalization

Speaking of the classroom environment, some in-person tutoring activity might take place in groups, and with other students. There is certainly a time and place to be learning with other students, but if the grouping doesn’t offer the benefit of socialization, and each kid is working on their own but with one tutor checking-in with them all, it might not be providing for the maximum positive outcome. 

Now, tutoring in groups can still happen online, but that group option is being provided for different reasons. Meaning, in-person group sessions might be more a matter of convenience due to the fact that there might be limited tutors available (and thus if a lot of students need assistance, they need to go about it in a group setting).

On the other hand, when parents opt for a virtual group session, it’s typically with intent, and for the added benefit that group provides. For instance, with Virtual Tech Camps, students learn in small groups of 5, max, but they are there to learn and to be able to socialize; to meet like-minded peers, build relationships, and work together. So, the group in this case is actually seen as an advantage. 

Virtual is a powerful word

In the end, does tutoring help students? I think the answer is clear.

And through the above, you can also hopefully understand that beyond just being "virtual" when all things pretty much need to be virtual given our social distancing measures, there is a lot one can take away from a virtual tutoring session.

Meaning, even when doors open up again, and people can feel safe interacting in-person with others outside of their homes, there isn’t any denying the benefits of convenience, engagement, and specialization that can be achieved online. 

A photo of Ryan

Ryan manages blog content at iD Tech, starting with the company in 2008. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State. Connect on LinkedIn!