As internet services become increasingly available, families look to technology to solve problems and to make life more efficient. Many of us use Nest to regulate our thermostat, track our bills with Mint, and coordinate family schedules with Cozi. But should this internet use extend to online tutoring? How do parents navigate the growing number of online tutoring companies that promise to fill academic needs without the student ever having to leave home?
There are many factors to consider when finding a tutor for your child. First ask yourself the question: “What are the goals I would like to see my child achieve through a tutoring relationship?” If your answer is more than homework help or specific topic reinforcement, you may find online tutoring will not fulfill your needs. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a quick fix. You may be trading off a chance for your child to grow academically in exchange for just covering the basic facts for a better grade.
When tutoring is productive, it is not just teaching basic knowledge. It becomes a mentoring relationship that fosters greater learning which leads to enrichment rather than rote memorization. Great teachers and tutors are effective because of the time they take to build relationships with the student that foster a trust between teacher and student. Trust takes time to build and occurs when people meet in person, not in an online chat. There are other less tangible reasons that in person tutoring beats out online tutoring. A good tutor will evaluate the student’s nonverbal cues such as body language or facial expression to know when a student isn’t “getting it.” These unique personal cues are lost during an online experience. Quality and consistency are other factors to consider when choosing an online versus an in person tutoring service. Many online companies do not offer the ability to exclusively book with the same tutor. In addition, Princeton Review and many other online companies do not require their tutors have a teaching background or hold an advanced degree. With smaller companies and services, how do you know who is on the other end interacting with your child? Better to invest in a local credentialed tutor who has the experience and knowledge to adapt instruction to the specific needs of your unique child. Bluestone tutors are vetted, background checked, and trained before they ever meet with a single client.
Considering an online service because it’s convenient? Many Bluestone centers are open until 10pm during the week and have hours all day Saturday and Sunday to accommodate the full schedules of our clients. The in-center experience elicits motivation and attention that students can find difficult to muster at home in their room on their laptops. The teaching environment is incredibly important to student focus and retention. Online tutoring lacks the essential engagement that the mind needs for optimal learning. Convenience may not be the best characteristic of effective learning. If schedules or hectic commutes just can’t be conquered, there may still be an efficient way to get that in person value with a hybrid approach. Tutors can meet initially in person and then use Skype once trust has been built.
This last strategy is a great one for students at boarding schools or families traveling to a Bluestone center from farther distances.
Bottom line: websites and apps can be great for reinforcement and practice, but by
no means should they be a student’s primary source of academic support.
― Bluestone Insights is an ongoing series by Bluestone Educational Network.
Bluestone is a national network of independent educators sharing resources and
talent to deliver high quality tutoring and test preparation programs.