Naturally, in the light of what’s happening globally at the moment, there will be a wealth of reasons for tutoring online to go sky-high. People will want to relieve boredom and learn new skills, and then, of course, there’s the issue of home-schooling. Some of our tutors are already moving their businesses online, as tutoring students online gets rid of the waste that comes with spending your day travelling, thus saving time and money.
Not every subject transfers well from face-to-face to online so, when you begin teaching a new student, you'll have to form an emotional connection, and that is less easy when working remotely. Supervision will be difficult, and there'll probably be distractions like windows open on your student’s screen, but this can be dealt with.
There are various approaches:
Persistent: Whiteboard sessions are stored, so that either you or the student can review the lesson afterward (or you can share with another student or tutor).
Real-time: You and the student are looking at the same document, with a minimal network lag time.
Simultaneous: Multiple people can edit the document at the same time.
Sharing software: Both Skype and Google Hangouts are products that work well and provide free one-to-one video or conference calls, voice calls, screen sharing, file sharing and chat. It's worth noting that they are free for unlimited use, though Skype offers a premium plan for group calling. With the launch of Google Hangouts On-Air, it’s possible to schedule a free group session in advance, which will be recorded and made available after the session for students to watch again. For subjects like science and maths, it’s essential to recreate the experience of sitting next to a student, taking them through their journey with their exercise books, and that's possible now we have the iPad and other tablets with networked whiteboarding apps.
Baiboard is great for group sessions, as it can accommodate up to 40 participants on the same board at once. It also offers iPad-to-browser sharing, so that students can participate from anywhere. Flexible canvas allows you to upload any document to be used as the background for the lesson.
BitPaper keeps up with your every pen stroke, making it easy to write smoothly and clearly online. A digital pen is a must for the best use of BitPaper.
Bramble. You can talk, sketch and share resources in real-time, across devices. There’s no delay between tutor and student, so it really feels like you’re in the same room. Bramble sessions are not just recorded, they’re transcribed in real-time. This means they’re instantly available for search and playback as soon as the session ends. Plus it lets students search and play back everything they’ve covered in their tutoring, from spoken words to shared resources.
Groupboard has most of the same features as Idroo and Baiboard, but with a few key limitations. For instance, the free plan has a maximum of five users on one whiteboard, and background images must be image-formatted.
Idroo provides all of the features listed above, with a drag-and-drop interface for adding images to your teaching canvas. It’s also compatible with Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS and Android, so you can make use of it without an iPad. It's of limited use for full lessons, as you can only upload the first two pages.
WizIQ is a is a full-fledged e-learning platform which has an accompanying virtual classroom app. As well as including all the key features mentioned above, it also integrates with Learning Management Systems like Moodle and Blackboard. Ideal for those who are running an online school with a long-term student base.
Scribblar allows you to integrate an online whiteboard directly into your own website, instead of using the whiteboard on Scribblar’s own site. It allows students to refer back to sessions and keep track of work week-to-week.
Zoom offers a full-featured free Basic Plan with unlimited meetings. You can try Zoom for as long as you like, as there's no trial period. Your Basic plan has a 40-minute time limit on meetings with three or more total participants. One person hosts, and all other participants have equal footing. The host can share hosting responsibilities with other participants. Any participant can share their screen.
Many tutors find it useful to record sessions with students, so the student can review the lesson later on. It’s also a great way to self-critique your own teaching methods and make improvements. If you’re planning to develop an online course at some point, screen recording can be used to seed content and lessons. Just think about how many courses you’d already have prepared if you’d recorded every one of your tutoring sessions.
There are a few complementary tools for video recording, e.g.:
For screen recording: Camtasia and Screencast-o-Matic offer easy-to-use screen recording tools for Windows and Mac, which allow you to produce videos easily. Camtasia also offers mobile recording for Mac.
For Video editing: Both Camtasia and the pro version of Screen-o-Matic come with video editing tools built in. But if you’re looking for a stand-alone editing tool, Animoto allows you to add music, photos and text to your videos and is great for producing online course content.
Video hosting: For one-off video hosting, it has to be YouTube (free for unlimited use) — if it’s a lesson that only involves you teaching without mention of the student, you could post the video publicly and let other students benefit from it.
Often tutors will assign students homework or practice questions to help reinforce the information the tutor’s been teaching. To do this, tutors usually use Word Documents and PDFs, but as online tutoring evolves, more tutors are using web products and mobile apps to help with activities like assigning homework.
Extempore: Extempore is for speaking practice between language tutors and students. Extempore allows the student to record their homework answers directly from their mobile device, which makes it easy for tutors to review in real-time.
Squid is a handwritten note-taking application for Android that has two great uses for teachers. Firstly, teachers can import PDF worksheets into Squid, and students can do the work directly on the sheets before exporting and sending them back to the teacher for review. Secondly, tutors can import work that the student has done, mark it and send back so that the student can see their mistakes.
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