What are the most common methods for tutoring online? Do most tutors use Skype or some type of video chat, or do they exchange emails with their clients?

Will I need any special software if I hire an online tutor?


Karen Berlin Ishii, One-to-One Test Prep for the ACT and SAT in New York and via Skype

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As a tutor who has been working with students on test prep and homework help for many years, I've found online tutoring to offer a terrific advantage to both tutor and students. I've tried various video chat programs but have found Skype to be the best. Skype is easy, intuitive and free. It's better than Apple iChat because it's not limited to Mac users and it offers three very important teaching tools that iChat does not: easy file sharing, URL sharing, chat window and desktop sharing. Some online test prep companies boast of their fancy digital whiteboards on which they can scrawl clumsy circles or math equations in the handwriting of a three-year old. I've found the best and fastest way is old-school: using a dark magic marker or Sharpie, I write my notes and diagrams nice and big for the student and then hold the page up to the camera. It's simple, fast and does not take up any more bandwidth. That's important because internet connections will vary and nothing cramps an online lesson more than lag and frozen connections.

Adrian Dingle, Author of Crash Course AP Chemistry prep book

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I've been tutoring online for close to ten years now, and things have evolved a huge amount in that time.

Right at the very beginning, I would tutor solely by email. Surprisingly that seemed to work OK, but that was in a different period for the internet and I would be amazed if anyone was doing any serious work in that manner any more.

After that initial phase there were various incarnations of Skype and other video conferencing (e.g., Big Marker) that worked with varying degrees of success, but it wasn't until about 4 years ago that I really nailed things down to a reliable, solid platform that seems to serve all of my own needs and that was solid enough to avoid the constant tech breakdowns.

I use Skype, but generally turn OFF the video function almost immediately each time I meet with a tutee. I then use the 'Share My Screen' function in Skype to project my Mac Book screen to the student. The Mac Book is in turn linked to my iPad using Doceri software, and I can scribble away on my tablet, working problems and pulling in documents and diagrams in a pretty efficient manner. Honestly, it wasn't until the last 4 years that I really got to a point where I felt all of the software had reached a critical mass that I could rely upon. Now it works very well.

All I need the tutee to have is Skype, and they can share work with me via email. If I want truly 2-way experience, Google+ Hangouts are an option too, but I like the Skype/Doceri/iPAd route most of the time.

Joe Simpson, Teachmenow.com

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Hey, I work for a company called teachmenow.com and we provide an open online platform for tutors to teach on. It's completely free for tutors to use and it guarantees you're paid for your time teaching! We also provide it as a white-label solution for tutoring companies if required.

Contact me at joseph@teachmenow.com if you have any questions or need help getting started!

Jessie Voigts, Travel writer, international educator, mom

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It also depends on the subject - for art, or other hands on classes, you will definitely utilize skype or google hangouts for classes. When I teach online, I use google hangouts so that we can do screenshares, use the toolbox and special effects, and record it for future viewing. I use email to communicate with my students, and correspond for the assignments that way, as well.

For the student, using a variety of online methods to interact is not only good for learning the subject matter and interacting with the educator, but also for learning how to work online - this is a valuable skill that will only increase in popularity, given the global marketplace.

Robyn Scott, Educational Consultant, TutorNerds LLC

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Hi, Most online tutoring occurs over Skype but there are many options such as Hangouts or specialized software owned by tutoring companies. You will need to have a built in camera or a webcam to work with your online tutor but that should do it. Most apps used to enhance online tutoring are free or low cost (perhaps 99 cents). Like in person tutors, online tutors generally exchange emails for basic communication like scheduling or self study questions. However, to only tutor through email would be cumbersome. I would recommend doing a few technical things before hiring an online tutor: Check your WiFi speed and make sure that your current internet can handle multiple devices at once, this will ensure that you can use multiple tabs (Skype, Google documents, internet search etc...) all at once. Get a WiFi booster if you live in a large home or in an area with limited internet service. Try a sample Skype call with a friend or relative who lives out of town; check the quality of the call. Also, try a 'meet and greet' session with the tutor, maybe 15 minutes long, to ask any questions and to get the student acclimated to using this technology. I hope that helps!

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