Online tuition can work incredibly well when used to augment face-to-face teaching and especially so with some simple small additions from a parent, even if they don’t know the material. Many parents see it as an affordable alternative to private education. There are many studies comparing online tuition to face-to-face learning and they mostly reach the same conclusion: online is no substitute for face-to-face. What these studies don’t do is ask whether online tuition can augment face-to-face learning and what can be done to get the most benefit.

The question people are asking is not “is face-to-face better than an online tutor?”, it is “is help from an online tutor worth the money?”. The answer appears to be a resounding “yes”.

Pros and cons of online learning

The pros of online learning are easy to see:

  • Convenience of time and location. You can learn exactly when you want.
  • Cost and value You can pick a tutor from the best the world has to offer or the cheapest the world has to offer.
  • Tailoring the content Lessons can be shorter, more frequent and more personal so a tutor can tailor a short segment to an individual pupil.

The cons, on the face of it, are also obvious:

  • Susceptibility to distractions. A shared work environment significantly encourages focus. When a student is on their own they will have a host of distractions available to them and it will not be easy for the tutor to hold their attention.
  • Para-linguistic cues”, body language communication, is lost A shy student experiencing difficult may fidget and twist their fingers yet communicate that they understand the material. It will be very hard for an online tutor to spot this.
  • Hands-on subjects cannot be effectively taught Trying to correctly convey the correct hand position for the movement of a brush stroke is perhaps impossible.

However, with the proper support a child can overcome these difficulties and that support need only take a few minutes each session to build a child’s focus and confidence. Using online tuition on top of face-to-face learning, rather than looking at online tuition as a single resource, is quite a different proposition and allows you to mitigate the negatives of remote learning almost entirely.

My child hasn’t taken to remote learning, what can I do to help?

Remote learning as part of a group of students is very different to one-to-one tuition.

  • Make a learning space Children like predictability. A space dedicated for them to learn in, without toys or screens, will allow them to settle into their routine. It doesn’t even have to be a permanent space: clear the kitchen table, set out the stationary and add a small detail such as a plant or picture to mark the space for learning.
  • Be there with them. Pick an activity that will not distract them (e.g. read a novel, write a shopping list, plan your office work) and work alongside them but be prepared to stop and offer support. Your child will follow your lead.
  • Take frequent breaks Studies show that a child can concentrate for 2-5 minutes per year old they are. A 6 year old can typically hold their concentration from 12 to 18 minutes, a 12 year old can double this. Set a goal your child can achieve within a “contentration period” and when complete take a break. Have a snack, play a game, go outside.
  • Chart your progress Children respond very well to seeing their progress. Use a sticker chart with a sticker per lesson for each day or add a marble to a jar for each book read.

Mix and match

Every child is different. As children progress through their learning they can spent more time learning by themselves. If you find you need to be with your child to prevent them getting distracted then you can gradually increase the work you do alongside them. Start with reading a book and move on to working on your laptop or cooking.

When learning online with a tutor you can set the pace and the material. If your child works best in short bursts arrange short lessons. Work with the tutor to set a lesson plan for the week and help your child chart their progress. Most importantly, take an interest; work with your child and the tutor to make a plan and plot your progress.