“Distance has the same effect on the mind as on the eye.” - Samuel Johnson

While there have been government schemes to help people during the pandemic, I think it’s fair to say that most of would rather just have a stable income. The more cases there are, the more restrictive measures get put in place, and the less private tutors can teach face-to-face.

We don’t know how long this pandemic is going to go on for, but due to the weeks and months that school and university pupils missed during the spring and summer, there are plenty who will be looking for private tutorials to help them catch up.

However, before you can start helping these students with online tutorials, you need the right gear.

The Equipment Needed for Teaching Private Tutorials Online During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Computers

Even though the lockdown is over, the virus is still about and there’s been a surge in cases as students have returned to school and employees have returned to work.

What kind of computer do you need for online tutorials?
Generally, almost any computer that runs well will be adequate for online tutorials but that will change depending on what you're teaching. (Source: StartupStockPhotos)

Even with the right measures in place, it’s recommended that you limit the number of people that you have contact with. Online private tutorials via webcam are a great way for private tutors to keep working without having to meet up with their students. You can also teach more students! However, you need to make sure that you have the right equipment.

Let's start with your computer. You can’t really teach online private tutorials with a smartphone or a tablet. Firstly, you need to be able to position your device or camera so that the student can see you clearly.

On a computer, you can also share your screen and give the student exercises to do directly online. Having a physical keyboard is also essential as you don’t want part of your screen to be wasted by an on-screen keyboard. A private tutorial isn’t a lecture where the teacher talks and the students take notes. It’s more like a seminar where the students and the teacher interact.

It doesn’t matter whether you use a laptop or a desktop, the important thing is that your machine works well. Mac or PC, it’s up to you.

  • Regularly update your machine.
  • Start your machine up ahead of time.
  • Check everything you’re going to use works.

Find out more about tutoring online during the pandemic.

A Good Internet Connection is Essential for Online Academic Support

When it comes to things to check before an online tutorial, your internet connection is top of the list. Be it English, foreign languages, maths, or science, you can’t teach effectively with a choppy connection that drops out regularly.

How fast does your internet connection need to be for online tutorials?
A stable broadband connection will be necessary for online tutorials. There's nothing worse than calls cutting out. (Source: JESHOOTS-com)

A video call requires a stable connection and a decent amount of bandwidth for high-quality video and it’s useless if your student can only hear every other word you’re saying. Technical issues can end up wasting a lot of your time. You don’t want the student to get frustrated with technical issues. For one, their parents won’t want to keep paying for lessons if there are always technical problems.

If you can get a fibre optic connection, that’s ideal. That way, you can guarantee that your connection is faster and stable. ADSL should be enough for a video call but it’s not recommended.

To check the speed of your internet connection, head over to Speedtest. You just need to click on the big “Go” button and you can check how fast your connection is. Skype recommends that you have 1.5Mbits/s for a high-quality video call.

To improve the speed of your connection, use the wired connection on your router rather than the wi-fi if you can. If your connection is bad, you might want to consider changing your internet service provider (ISP). You can also head to the library or coworking spaces for better internet connections. A lot of these places have private rooms you can use so that you don’t bother anyone else.

Find out exactly what you'll need to start tutoring online.

Teaching Online Tutorials During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Webcams

Even if you think your student will be happy enough with decent audio, you should really make sure the video quality is good.

Do you need a webcam for online tutorials?
In some cases, you may need to invest in a quality webcam. (Source: MarcWinter)

Don’t make the distance feel even greater. You have to be able to communicate effectively. As a lot of our communication is non-verbal, it’s difficult to fully understand what your student is trying to say or how they’re feeling if you can’t see them clearly.

Similarly, with a decent webcam, your student will be able to clearly see anything you write down on a mini whiteboard or a sheet of paper to show them. A lot of computers come with a built-in webcam.

In many cases, you can do better. Don’t hesitate to buy a standalone webcam for better image quality. However, if you have a digital camera, you might be able to use that as a webcam. The quality is usually great.

Check that the camera is properly configured, too. Sometimes a bad setup can result in a drop in image quality.

Find out how to adapt to online tutoring.

Equipment for Teaching Online Tutorials During the Global Pandemic: The Microphone

We can’t talk about webcams without also talking about microphones. Online tutorials are a dialogue during which the private tutor will teach and give advice as well as ask the student questions.

Do you need a mic for online tutorials?
Most computers or webcams will have a built-in microphone and generally, you won't need a high-end one. (Source: Didgeman)

Your student will need to be able to hear you clearly as if you were in the room with them. Most computer microphones will do the job but don’t forget to check that it’s working correctly and that it doesn’t cut out or crackle. If it doesn’t work, you may need to fix or replace it.

The biggest problem with online tutorials is that your student may talk at the same time as you. Generally, computer microphones aren’t great when everyone’s talking at the same time. You might want to invest in a headset so that the mic only pics up what you’re saying and not the audio from your speakers, for example.

Check out our tips for those new to online tutoring.

Platforms for Teaching Online Tutorials

Some tutoring platforms offer their own video conferencing software or platforms. If you’re doing it yourself, though, you’ll need to pick the right program.

Now that you know that your webcam and mic are functioning correctly, you’ll want to download some videoconferencing software.

You and your student will need the same ones. You’ll have to tell them which one you’ll be using so they can download it, too.

There are a few to choose from:

  • Skype: This originally-Swedish videoconferencing software is arguably the world’s most popular. You can make video calls with 2 or more participants, share your screen, and even use the chat. You can download the program or use the online version. However, there are a few complaints about Skype dropping out, poor image quality, and the lack of functionality.
  • Google Hangouts: To use these, you just need a Google account. You can invite your student through Google Calendar, helping you to manage your schedule. They’ll receive an invitation at the scheduled time. You can have HD audio and video on the call, share a presentation, share your screen, type messages in the chat, etc.

Don’t hesitate to use Facetime, WhatsApp, or Zoom.

Make Sure that Your Student’s Equipment Also Works

Your student also needs to make sure that they have the right equipment. They’ll need a working computer, webcam, microphone, and internet connection so that they can download the same program as you.

Before the very first class, you’ll want to test that everything works well. Don’t hesitate to connect 5 to 10 minutes before the tutorial to check everything’s working fine.

So many students missed a lot of lessons during the lockdown and while they may have been learning online or in a virtual classroom, there's no doubt that their education suffered as a result of the situation.

Now that the kids are back at school and the teachers are back to work, we're starting to see how much they've fallen behind or whether or not they need help from a private tutor or teacher.

While you mightn't be able to teach as you did before, you might find that there are new resources you would have never thought of using in the past that are actually better and adapting to the situation has made you a better tutor.

While the situation mightn't be great for tutors and teachers, there are certainly opportunities out there if you know how to take them and transitioning to online tutorials could be a great way to keep your current students or even find new ones.

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.