“You can't be a great teacher if you stop being a student.”
With the lockdown and the ongoing global pandemic, a lot of private tutors had to change the way they worked. Many of them were unable to go to their students’ homes to teach.
Many tutors are also trying to be safe. The less we mingle, the less we spread the virus. However, students still need to learn and get their education. Parents want their kids to get a good education but they also want their children and family members to be safe.
After missing so much school, a lot of primary, secondary, and university students may be looking for academic support or private tutorials.
As a private tutor, you mightn’t be able to go to a student’s home to teach them, but you can teach them via webcam.
Need some help?
Keep reading, we’ve got some advice for you.
Tip #1: Smile
This might seem obvious but without you there in the room, a smile will go a long way. The screens will only make the distance between you seem larger so to mitigate this, make sure that you smile and act even friendlier than you would in a face-to-face tutorial.
You want your webcam classes to be enjoyable so make sure that your students feel comfortable and that the screen between you doesn't create any unnecessary distance.
Tip #2: Dress Appropriately
Just because you’re not leaving the house, don’t dress like you’re not leaving the house. You don’t want your student to see you in your pyjamas or that dirty old t-shirt you like to wear on lazy Sundays, make yourself presentable.
You don’t need to put your shoes on, but don’t forget to wear trousers or a skirt! You never know when you’re going to have to get up from your desk and we’ve seen far too many Zoom meetings turn into disasters because people weren’t fully dressed.
With so many teachers, students, and employees working online, it can sometimes be a little too easy to get overly comfortable at home. Remember that even if you are in your living room, you should act and dress as if you were in a classroom or at your student's home.
Tip #3: Look at the Camera
When on video calls, we tend to look at the screen as that’s where we can see the person that we’re talking to. However, by looking directly into your camera, it’ll give your student the impression that you’re talking to them like you would in a normal conversation.
Make sure that you’re centred in the frame, too. You don’t want to be too close or too far from the camera. Your student should be able to see your head and shoulders. Sit down in front of your computer and make sure that you’re in the shot before the tutorials begin.
Ideally, you want your camera to be slightly above you as this will make you look better. You don’t want to be looking down at the camera. If you can’t do this, make sure the camera is at least at eye-level.
As we mentioned, many students will be unfamiliar with learning online and it can really help if they feel like you're talking to them. Even if you're looking at your student on the screen, to them, it actually looks like you're not paying attention.
Tip #4: Pay Attention to Lighting
Make sure you’re in a room with big windows and a lot of light. If you can’t do this, you might want to get an LED office lamp. Traditional bulbs tend to be slightly yellow and won’t light you as well as an LED bulb. LED lighting looks more natural on camera, too.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to buy an expensive lamp. We’re not looking for YouTuber-quality. £20 to £30 should do the trick!
In the same way that you would dress appropriately and make yourself presentable if you were teaching a tutorial in person, you should make sure that your virtual presentation is good because it'll not only make the students more likely to listen to you, it'll also make a better impression on new students who may not be sure if they want to keep getting private tutorials from you.
Tip #5: Tidy Up
You don’t have to redecorate but you don’t want the shot to be full of distractions. Ideally, you want a plain background so that you’re the only thing in the shot.
Similarly, make sure that your office or room is clean and tidy so that there’s nothing to draw your student’s attention away from you. If there are a lot of things in your room and you can’t move them, you might want to put a sheet up and work with your back against a wall.
Make sure that when you're teaching, you treat the room you're working in the same way you'd treat a classroom or the student's home. You wouldn't want any unnecessary distractions or mess!
Tip #6: Use an Up-to-date Computer
Start your computer and connect to your videoconferencing software around 15 minutes before the lesson is due to start so that any necessary updates can be installed.
Your computer should also be up-to-date. You don’t want Windows installing updates when you’re supposed to be teaching a tutorial.
While these updates and the notifications may be annoying, they are often designed to fix common errors. With your computer now being the most important tool in your teaching arsenal, you want to make sure that it works effectively all the time.
Tip #7: Improve Your Internet Connection
There’s nothing more annoying or stressful than a spotty internet connection during online tutorials.
To avoid any problems, here are a few things you should do:
- Check your connection speed using SpeedTest.
- Opt for a wired connection over wi-fi when you can. Wired connections are always faster than wi-fi.
Close any apps or programs that you won’t be using.
- Pause or cancel any ongoing downloads.
- Plug your laptop in. When your laptop is powered by the battery, it often attempts to save power by slowing performance. Furthermore, this means you won’t have to charge it between lessons.
If you have family members or housemates, you may want to ask them to avoid doing anything that will affect the quality of your internet connection.
Usually, if you have a high-speed connection, your lessons won't be affected by multiple users in your household being online at the same time, but if bandwidth's at a premium, you may want to request that they refrain from watching streaming services or playing games online during your lessons.
Tip #8: Image Quality
Whether your teaching maths, English, foreign languages, or science, it’s important that your webcam provides quality video. The student needs to see you clearly and pixelated or jumpy video isn’t ideal.
You need decent video equipment. If your webcam doesn’t provide HD quality video, you have a few options:
- Buy an HD webcam for somewhere between £50 and £100.
- Connect your smartphone and use it as a webcam.
- Connect a digital camera as a webcam.
Make sure there’s no glare or reflections. If you’re in a room with windows or mirrors, certain light sources can reflect onto the camera and cause glare. Similarly, glasses can provide the same effect so make sure they’re not reflecting directly into your webcam.
If you watch videos online, you know how offputting it can be when the quality drops. Students feel the same when looking at blocky or pixelated video from their online lessons.
It's quite easy to achieve a clean sharp image if you have a decent camera and set it up correctly.
Tip #9: Sound Quality
Your student needs to be able to hear you clearly without any crackling or background noise. Your voice is your main tool when it comes to teaching.
You can use your computer’s built-in microphone if the quality is good or buy a standalone mic or headset for better sound quality. If you’re teaching a foreign language, the sound quality will be paramount. Headsets are good as they won’t pick up as much background noise.
Don’t go for the cheapest mics, either. While Yeti mics offer good quality audio, they do come at a cost. If you’re somewhere noisy, there’s software like Krisp for Windows and Mac that can filter out background noise or you can buy microphones that include a similar feature.
Tip #10: Whiteboards or Notepads
For certain concepts, there’s nothing better than an illustration to explain what you’re talking about, especially in maths and science. This can also be true for subjects like foreign languages.
You might want to invest in a mini whiteboard and some markers that you can draw or write on and show to your student.
Some of these tips might seem obvious but if you’re offering online tutorials, you should follow them all to the letter and offer the best possible tutorials.