A New Age of Tutoring: How to Adapt to Being an Online Tutor and What Tools to Incorporate

With the surge of COVID-19, there has also been a surge for the demand of online tutoring. Elementary students, middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students are all displaced from their original academic plans and forced to suddenly adapt to a whole new style learning. Students aren’t the only ones who are forced to adapt; tutors and teachers also needed to adapt to a whole new style of teaching. As someone who has tutored both in-person and online this summer, here are some tips on how to make tutoring online effective and what tools you have at your disposal.

  1. Zoom

By now, we’re probably all familiar with Zoom, but there are some highly effective tools that Zoom has that you might not be aware of. One great feature is the whiteboard. It’s accessible and helpful in easily depicting what you mean rather than just saying it. Particularly appealing to students who are visual learners. In addition to the whiteboard, sharing your screen and showing a document or a powerpoint or website is helpful in engaging the student and allowing them to focus on something visually rather than listening to your words and drifting off. When you are sharing your screen, you also have the ability to annotate whatever it is you’re talking about. Again, this helps in making the material engaging and feel more like a classroom setting.

If you’re tutoring a group, breakout rooms are a great way to engage everyone. It’s difficult to make connections and meet people when you’re staring at everyone in gallery view, but with breakout rooms with 1-2 other people, students are able to bring that classroom interaction back. Additionally, not everyone feels comfortable speaking up in front of many people so breakout rooms provide them with the opportunity to share their thoughts and questions. Another way to engage a group is by making a poll. Some students might be hesitant to share their answer and so polls are an accommodating way of gauging where the students are at.

The chat feature is a useful way of communicating if the connection is poor or you’re in a loud setting. In a group setting, the chat feature is helpful in making sure that people aren’t talking over each other if they have something to say.

Lastly, if possible, turn your camera on during the call. COVID-19 has already made many aspects of out lives distant from other people and showing your face on a call is a way to help close that gap.

2. Take Breaks

It’s exhausting sitting in front of a screen for a while doing work. So taking a 1-2 minute quick break to get up, stretch, breathe is necessary not only for your mental health, but also your physical health. Breaks are vital because although Zoom is an incredibly helpful platform in this day and age, Zoom burnout is definitely real. Read about Zoom burnout here and how to deal with it.

During breaks, take time to simply talk to your students about non-school related material. This is valuable in creating that personal connection that we’ve all lost through this pandemic. This helps with making a comfortable and amicable relationship between you and your student as well.

3. Engage Students Differently

There’s nothing more boring than having to sit at your computer for a few hours a day doing the same type of work over and over again. Try to find different types of materials to engage students differently. This will not only help make the session more interactive, but it will help them retain the information better. A simple Google search will bring up a plethora of interactive resources.

4. Set Reasonable Expectations

We’ve probably all had that one professor or teacher or boss who has used this pandemic as an opportunity to give more work out because they think we have the capacity to handle it. We’ve all probably been frustrated by that one professor or teacher or boss for doing this. Prioritizing time to being productive and doing work is important but prioritizing downtime is also equally as important in these times. When assigning work, make sure to ask your student for input. Figure out what works for them and what doesn’t on this online platform. Their input is valuable for their academic life and mental health and in maintaining a comfortable relationship between the two of you.

Set reasonable expectations for yourself– not just your student. For me personally, when I was tutoring in-person, I strived for perfection; I followed a schedule and made sure everything was completed by the end of the session. This pandemic has shown me that perfectionism isn’t necessary in leading a tutoring session. If you also struggle with this, read about how to deal with perfectionism here.

Tutoring online can be stressful and frustrating, but it’s important to remember that this is an incredibly stressful time, and we have to prioritize our mental healths during these times.

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