Enter the magic of Skype and the wonder of Google Docs, and my concerns abated. Thanks to Skype, I could view a student’s facial expressions to see how the student was responding to our work together. With Google Docs, I could see what kind of revisions a student was making to an essay during our tutorial session even if we were states, or even oceans, away.
Still, I wondered: could online tutoring at times be better than a face-to-face session? Having worked as an online tutor for several years, the answer is yes. Here are five bonuses:
1. No travel time and no traffic
Most of my face-to-face students rely on their parents for transportation, and both are often held captive by suburban traffic. Online tutoring eliminates precious travel time for students and parents.
2. Freedom for students to choose their most comfortable workspace
My office is a great space to hold tutorials: it’s quiet and has a nice view. For some students, however, the freedom to choose a familiar, comfortable and convenient workspace (their home, a coffee shop, even during a free period at school) may improve their ability to make the most of our time together.
3. Time zones and distances shrink
I have helped students as far away as New York, Texas, California and Singapore without leaving home. My work with them in these far-flung places would not have been possible otherwise. Although time zones can be tricky with regard to scheduling, they can be managed with forethought and planning.
4. Expanded learning opportunities for students
Earlier in this academic year, I provided college essay support to a student across the country whose parents were educated in India. The student’s parents were unfamiliar with the American college application process. I was happy to educate the student and his family about the purpose of the college essay and provide the student with the writing support he sought to create an authentic and compelling personal statement.
5. Expanded cultural opportunities both students and tutors
I view my work with online students as an opportunity for both of us to meet people far from home. Of course, we don’t spend much time talking about weather, sports teams or local landmarks, but the experience of meeting people beyond our local community allows both of us to widen our social experiences and perspectives, one person at a time.
Jane Hirschhorn is the owner of JBH Tutoring. She feels lucky to be working with students around the corner and across several time zones.