Online tutoring has become increasingly popular with K-12 students in recent years. Many kids meet with private tutors through Skype, iChat, or Google Hangouts when it's just not possible to meet in-person. And some kids subscribe to websites dedicated to online tutoring. And there are countless web-based services popping up these days with new learning portals and content delivery platforms.
Whether you're a seasoned online tutee or you're thinking about giving it your first try, here are five simple tips to help you get the most out of your online tutoring experience.
5. Power up and log in at least five minutes early. In my experience, students tend to wait until the last possible second to load a website, log in, and access the learning interface (or open Skype, iChat, etc.). Procrastination like this leaves no room for what could go wrong: your wifi password has been reset and you don't know the new one; your operating system demands that you install new software; the website asks you to download a new add-in; your laptop is almost out of juice and you can't find the power adapter. With a little extra time, you can take care of these sorts of problems and start your tutoring session with a greater sense of calm and focus.
4. Speaking of focus, dedicate yours to your tutoring session. By this, I mean that you should log out of Facebook or Instagram, turn off your cell phone, stop downloading or uploading large files, and clear your computer's desktop of any unrelated, eye-catching clutter. The most effective learning spaces in a school are clean, organized, well-lit, and otherwise conducive to learning. By tuning in to nothing but your tutoring session and eliminating distractions, you'll set yourself up for a better online learning experience.
3. Find a quiet, undisturbed location where you won't be interrupted. Nothing can kill the rhythm and focus of a good online tutoring session quite like a dog jumping up onto your lap and knocking a glass of water all over your keyboard. Shut the door and put a sign on it alerting others not to disturb your tutoring time, turn down the music, and--especially if you live in a noisy city like I do--shut the window. If that's not possible, consider using a headset to enhance your listening and speaking capabilities.
2. Don't be passive. If your tutor is lecturing or reading through dull information with you and you find it hard to stay engaged, speak up. Ask him or her to give you an exercise or activity that will force you to process new or difficult information more actively. For example, if you're utilizing a learning interface that has a whiteboard or notepad feature, do some of the writing yourself. Or keep a small dry-erase board or even a notebook and pencil handy so that you can take notes (or graph functions, etc.) and show them to your tutor for affirmation throughout the session.
1. Reset your brain and body as necessary. Sitting at a desk or table through an entire hour-plus online tutoring session can be taxing. Tell your tutor you'd like to take a brief (1-2 minute) stretch break every twenty minutes. When the time comes, get up and have a drink of water or a handful of trail mix, then do a lap around your apartment or house, or even do some jumping jacks. Trust me, a simple exercise break like this will not only re-energize your body and brain, it will also help to maximize your focus for the remainder of your online tutoring experience.
About the author: Scott C. Wilson is the CEO and Founder of Tutor Tango, an online tutoring service for students in grades 7-12. He's also taught and tutored Latin and English in the New York City private school world for over 10 years.