Many people believe that hiring a private tutor is something only well-to-do families can afford. Those same people contend that tutoring must be a relatively new phenomenon and that people hire tutors to help their kids learn special skills - maybe singing or playing a musical instrument.

Some of that may be true but the belief that tutoring is accessible only to the rich or tutors only instructing in niche subjects are not.

The practice of tutoring is millennia-old. Even before Plato established his school, tutors travelled the lands of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Mesopotamia, seeking engagements in any household that wanted education for their male children.

Back then, the price of private tuition was room and board, though occasionally, a few coins may have changed hands; especially if the father was a merchant or a tradesman.

For centuries - in fact, clean up to this century, not much changed in tutoring or, for that matter, standard education.

Concerned parents would scan classified adverts to search for a tutor for their child and, once the details were hashed out - what the child needs a tutor's help with, when the tutor should drop by and how much s/he would be paid, learning would ensue.

During the mid-20th Century, the first tutoring agencies opened their doors; the practice underwent a revolution.

Agencies checked tutors' credentials and developed a set of standards for them to follow. Tutors became employees who drew a salary rather than freelancers who set their rates according to the subject matter they teach and their years of expertise. The marked difference: parents brought students to tutoring centres instead of tutors running to each of their clients' homes.

But still, the practice of tutoring remained much the same until technological advances made video chat possible. That's when online tutoring took off.

Research Into the Benefits of Online Tutoring

Freelance tutors have been coaching students online almost since the technology has been available to do it with. When Skype moved to the forefront of video chat apps in 2013, the idea of providing academic help online gained traction.

Because of its relatively short 'existence', there is not much data that details how effective online tutoring is. That is, until American Cherie Mazer, Ed M. conducted the best and most revealing study about the benefits on online tutoring.

Working with a tutoring agency, she polled each student after their session to determine how they felt about learning online, whether they felt they gained a better understanding of their subjects and how effective their tutor was in helping them grasp key concepts.

She restricted her research to only three academic subjects: Maths, English (including English composition) and Science. For the Science component, the distinguished between chemistry (with a separate entry for organic chemistry), earth sciences, biology and physics.

Analysis of the collected data showed 96% of all students surveyed felt the tutoring service helped them better complete their assignments. When asked whether students feel more confident in their ability to complete their assignments, 97% replied that they did.

Ms Mazer's work in studying the tutoring industry and specifically online tutoring is groundbreaking. Nobody had set out such an all-encompassing study of private tutoring online until her and what she found was stunning.

We've just glossed over a few numbers here; you should read all of her findings to get the best picture of what her research revealed.

A satellite training studio
Tele-training studios, from which are broadcast all distance learning lessons, look very similar to this one. Photo credit: surreynews on VisualHunt

The Proof that Online Tutoring Works

You might not need to look over a lot of data about students in the US who benefit from tutoring to know that private tuition, online or in person, can help your child succeed academically. You might be more interested to see proof that your child will succeed even through tuition online.

Would you be surprised to find out that the distance learning concept is centuries old?

In the early 19th Century, long before we had any digital devices to play with, eager students were learning marketable skills via correspondence courses. Shorthand was a popular subject but there were many others to choose from: bookkeeping, business management and even how to operate a beauty salon.

As soon as the technology became available - in mid-1970, businesses started training employees remotely. Not only was it time-saving, it saved those companies a lot of money. They no longer had to pay their staff's travelling expenses or arrange for a teacher and provide resources.

Tele-training soon invaded college and university campuses. In short order, distance learning became an integral part of higher education, allowing those who had no hope of enrolling in such institutions a chance to further their education and, thus, improve their lives.

You might wonder why we're rambling on about long-distance lessons. It's because they make our point: if remote learning services did nothing to further students' education, the concept would have been abandoned centuries ago.

Today, we have a bounty of applications at our disposal that put the virtual learning experience on par with classroom, in-person learning. Educational software is replete with tools for teachers and learners to use: interactive whiteboards, maths and drawing tools, file-sharing capability and more.

And we have tutors adept at putting every online resource to work to engage and teach your child. You can find out more ways that the best tutors make use of digital tools in our related article.

Why Everyone Should Work with an Online Tutor

You might resent your child being labelled a digital native.

Anyone born after 1995 is considered a digital native
Today's students are comfortable navigating in cyberspace Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Digital natives are people who have never known a world without the internet. These 'natives' feel most comfortable navigating the cyber-world; indeed, a substantial part of their social lives are spent interacting online - gaming, chatting and shopping.

If, as the theory goes, students learn when they feel most at ease - and digital natives feel most at ease with their electronic devices, doesn't it stand to reason that students today would benefit from working with a tutor online? More so, even, than working face to face, in the same room?

An experienced online tutor can deliver a lesson more efficiently to a digital native because they are meeting in the student's preferred environment. Furthermore, the tutor, competently using virtual resources, gains their student's trust faster than any face to face instructor who uses no digital tools at all.

Interacting with students in the way they prefer is not the only reason to give online tutoring a go. Others include:

  • diversity: you may need supplemental instruction in many subjects; online tutors are more versatile than those who teach only one subject.
  • a greater talent pool: in-home tutors are limited to your geographical area; online tutors may teach from anywhere in the world.
  • safety: it's never a bad idea to keep some distance between your children and those who, at first, are strangers
  • cost: generally, online tuition costs less than in-person lessons; not travel fees to cover!
  • convenience: you don't have to rush out to your tutoring session, nor do you have to welcome anyone into your home.
  • learning tools: the cyber-world is full of nifty applications that make learning interesting and engaging

Are there other reasons to give remote instruction a chance? Of course! You can check them all out here.

The Downsides of Online Tutoring

"Do you want the good news or the bad news first?" "Give me the bad news first."

We would be remiss if, against all of the proof and the single study indicating that tutoring via the internet is beneficial, we didn't point out that there are pitfalls that plague the practice. The biggest one is the very thing that makes virtual learning possible: technology.

All of our electronic devices run on electricity. Even our battery-powered phones need WIFI to access the internet, to play games or stream videos. WIFI routers need a constant supply of electricity to maintain connection. When the electric grid fails, our routers lose power, causing our connections to drop.

What if a power outage happened mid-lesson?

Assuming that every student, of any age, will sit attentively in front of a computer and receive instruction is another major flaw in the concept. In the classroom, where the teaching is live, done face to face, even the best students' attention drifts.

With no one in the same room to make sure they stay on-task and ensure progress, it's no large stretch to imagine kids opening another browser tab and surfing away. Especially if the subject at hand is one that students don't particularly enjoy learning about, like math or science.

These two are just the tip of the iceberg that constitutes the challenges of online tutoring. Before you consider this method of academic support, you should be aware of them all - and know how to overcome them.

The classroom is no stranger to new technologies
As this dated photo shows, schools embraced digital technology as soon as it was available. Photo credit: jokorn on Visual Hunt

The Advantages of Tuition Online

Technology, the major pitfall of online lessons with a private tutor, is the very thing that makes it so great.

Imagine you want to learn how to cook, do yoga, play a musical instrument or learn how to speak another language.

If you lived in a big city, you might find a tutor for any of those pursuits but if you live in a remote area or smaller township, where would you find a teacher who speaks the language you want to learn?

The diversity of study materials and opportunities available online is one of the main reasons virtual learning is the next big thing in education.

Universities have been hosting Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) for a few years and these classes are heavily attended. We've already discussed the longevity of distance learning, from its humble start via the post to the billion-dollar industry it is today.

Supplemental tuition via the 'net provides the same benefits as those major entities because it makes personalised learning accessible to everyone. Not only can you study the subject you want to learn about but you can select your tutor from a global pool of candidates - usually at a lower cost than face to face lessons.

In a related article, we address all of your questions about how working online with a tutor is more advantageous.

Why Online Tutoring is Booming in the UK

The market for private lessons has been growing at breakneck speed for the past decade.

The coronavirus has amplified the demand for quality online lessons with a tutor but, to understand why the UK is fully on the tutor bandwagon, we have to look at a time when we weren't living under the COVID cloud.

One reason why academic coaches - in-person and via the web were in such high demand was the test burden students carry. SATs, GCSEs and A-Levels; the International Baccalaureate, if parents chose that route for their children... a person's future depends entirely on how well s/he can test.

Today, even though this infernal virus rages on and schools have to manage limiting student population while still tasked with teaching the same amount of material, testing schedules remain the same as they were before the pandemic.

Unfortunately, schools closed for a few months and, even now, if a student has been potentially exposed to someone with COVID, s/he has to self-isolate for a fortnight.

All of that leads to a single conclusion: students are falling ever-farther behind and they are expected to have the same level of knowledge and ability to test in all of the subjects they selected.

Is it any wonder that those who can provide test-prep and academic coaching remotely are in such high demand?

There are other reasons, too: the lower cost compared to in-person tutoring, the convenience of learning at home and all of the tools available online that an in-person tutor might have a hard time duplicating.

Aren't you interested in reading all about them?

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A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.