How to Get the Most Out of an Online Tutoring Session: 14 Proven Strategies

Though distance learning has been around for decades, online tutoring services are still a relatively new concept. When the coronavirus temporarily closed the doors of traditional classrooms in early 2020, it was the first time many students had participated in any kind of formal remote learning. If you’re used to in-person instruction, learning online can be a bit of an adjustment. And even if you’ve participated in an online class, a one-on-one tutoring session can present unique challenges. In this article, we’ll present some strategies for getting the most from an online tutoring session.

Evaluate Tutoring Websites

As online tutoring services are becoming more popular and more accessible, the number of tutoring services students have to choose from is growing. That means you can be a bit more particular about which tutoring service you use. That’s the good news. The downside is that the search to find a tutor can be a bit complicated. There are numerous factors to consider, including the tutor’s experience, expertise, and fee. When working with a third-party tutoring website, there are additional concerns including the legitimacy of the company as well as the security of payments, for instance. To find the best tutoring websites, do some research on the company in question to find online reviews, including any outstanding complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Use Interactive Tools

Speaking of online tutoring services, many of them like Skooli and Wize, for instance, offer digital classrooms where you will go to meet your tutor for your session. If you take advantage of the virtual tools in this provided space such as digital whiteboards, online chat features, and note-taking tools, you can really elevate your tutoring experience. Not sure how to use these features? Check the “Help” or “FAQ” section of the tutoring websites for assistance. Alternatively, you can ask your tutor online for a quick demonstration prior to your tutoring session.

Find a Tutor Suited for You

Most of the online tutoring services geared towards college students let you choose your own tutor. Often, after selecting the subject that you need help in, as well as the specific days of the week you’re available to attend tutoring sessions, these tutoring websites will offer you a catalog of tutor profiles to peruse. We recommend you devote at least an hour, maybe two, to look through all of your viable options. That’s because the specific tutor you chose will impact your tutoring experience and potential success with tutoring more than any other factor.

Find a Quiet Area

Having a dedicated tutoring area is important, whether you’re learning traditionally or online. With online tutoring, having a quiet place to study might be even more crucial. That’s because many types of distance learning technologies such as videoconferencing software rely on a quiet environment. If there’s noise in the background like a television blaring or even conversation, it could impact the sound quality, and if you can’t hear, you can’t learn.

While having a quiet environment is important to the success of your online tutoring session, it’s equally important that you not be interrupted during your session. If you have a roommate or there are other people in the house, you’ll want to put them on notice that you are not to be disturbed.

Clear the Clutter

You may think cleaning is unnecessary prior to a virtual meeting. After all, no one is actually visiting your house, right? While that may be true, it’s still important that you take a minute to clear the clutter, even if it’s just on your own desk. Why? In this case, cleaning prior to your tutoring session isn’t a courtesy for your tutor; it’s a step towards clearing your mind for the upcoming session. Studies have shown that eliminating physical clutter can decrease mental clutter as well, helping you focus better and experience less stress and anxiety going into your tutoring session. It’s a simple task that can reap huge rewards, so don’t skip it.

Be Prepared

Even if you’re paying for online tutoring services, you can’t expect your tutor to do all the heavy lifting. It’s crucial that you come into your tutoring session as prepared as possible. The more prepared you are, in fact, the better results you’ll get with online tutoring. What does preparation for online tutoring look like? First of all, bring all necessary materials to the session. Even if you have access to a digital classroom, an old-school notebook and pen or pencil might come in handy, so stage these nearby. Any subject-specific materials should also be within arm’s reach such as a course syllabus, class notes, study guides, or textbooks. The more learning materials you have specific to the class or task you’re working on, the better. If your online tutor is open to it, you may even consider sending course materials to the tutor for review prior to the session. That way, you won’t be the only one who’s prepared! If you already have specific questions about the subject matter (or even how the tutoring process will work), go ahead and jot those down on your notepad prior to the session so that you don’t forget to ask them once the tutoring begins.

Arrive Early

Despite the fact that your tutoring session is held online, you can (and should) still arrive early to class. In other words, don’t wait until the last minute to log into your digital classroom. Instead, give yourself a five or ten-minute jump on the session in order to assimilate yourself to the virtual environment and to ensure that all of the necessary hardware and software is operating correctly. This tactic will help you get the most out of your online tutoring session by guaranteeing that you don’t waste precious learning time battling technical difficulties. The assurance of knowing that you’re ready for the session can also help alleviate any anxieties you may be experiencing prior to go-time.

Eliminate Distractions (External and Otherwise)

Online tutoring may be more convenient, and some might argue it’s more effective as well, but it’s not exempt from common obstacles to learning such as distractions, for instance. Before your online tutoring session even starts, you’ll want to make your physical environment as distraction-free as possible. This means turning off the television, quieting your phone, and even closing any unnecessary tabs on your PC, particularly those for social media sites. Remember, too, that not all distractions are external; you could be carrying some around with you. For example, if you get hungry during your tutoring session, you may be unable to focus on learning new equations. The same is true if you suddenly have to use the bathroom. Take care of all of these necessities beforehand so that your session will go as smoothly as possible. In essence, set yourself up for success by ensuring that you can focus completely on the task at hand—your online tutoring session!

Know Your Unique Learning Style

Have you ever taken notice of how you learn best? If not, then it’s time to take inventory. Whether your specific learning style depends on visual or auditory cues (among others) is something your online tutor will want to know. In fact, some online tutoring websites such as Skooli will find a tutor for you based on your unique learning style. If you don’t know what that learning style is, though, you’ll waste time at best, and at worst, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to benefit from personalized instruction from your tutor. To discover your learning style, think back to classes you’ve taken in the past and try to identify some of the instructional techniques that seemed to benefit you the most. If you can’t remember or just want more confirmation, you might consider taking an online learning style questionnaire such as VARK.

Be Honest About How Much Help You Need

It can be hard to admit you need help, and in some cases, coming clean about how much help you actually need can be intimidating. It’s important that you are entirely honest with your tutor about where you are academically, though. If there’s remediation that needs to be done, your tutor will need to know this before introducing new material. Moreover, some online tutoring websites will ask how much tutoring you think you need in order to find a tutor that is suitable for your skill level and schedule. If you’re not honest with yourself and your tutor, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by wasting your own time and money. Are you still feeling insecure about your academic status? Be assured that if your tutor has any experience at all, he or she has tutored students of all levels, including those with learning gaps.

Focus on Your Learning

If you’re using online tutoring services, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be interacting with someone new during your online tutoring session. This can be awkward at best, and at worst, intimidating. It’s important, though, that you focus on your learning during online tutoring. Don’t treat this as a social situation. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to learn something from someone else, which is exactly what it is, of course! If you’re typically shy, challenge yourself to speak up during the tutoring session, especially if you have questions about the subject matter being discussed.

Take a Break

Taking a break might be the last thing you think of when you imagine strategies for getting the most of your online tutoring session, but it works. That’s because our brains tend to settle into a slump when we’re physically inactive for a long period of time. If you find that you’re feeling a little dull, ask your tutor for a break. It doesn’t have to be a long one—just a minute or two to get up and stretch your legs is often enough to refresh your body and mind. You don’t even have to exit your digital classroom; just step away from the screen for a moment and you can return to the session with more clarity and minimal disruption.

Ask for Homework

Some tutors assign practice questions for completion in between sessions, and others don’t. If you find a tutor who doesn’t give out homework, don’t consider yourself lucky. In fact, you’ll want to ask for the extra practice if your tutor doesn’t offer it up. This is one way to get the most out of your online tutoring sessions without paying more. Although it may be a pain to have to do extra work on top of your already busy academic schedule, you’ll find that completing these supplementary exercises will help cement your learning and keep you fresh on the material ahead of your next session. That is to say, it will be worth it!

Revisit the Material After the Session

Your tutoring experience doesn’t have to end when your tutor logs off, and there’s evidence to suggest that it shouldn’t. One of the best ways to ensure that you don’t immediately forget what you learned during your tutoring session is to review the material after the session is over and then again a day or two later. To ensure you have something to review, it’s a good idea to take notes during the session. Alternatively, some online tutoring websites provide resources such as saved sessions and online note-taking tools that can help with your review practice. Be sure to take advantage of these and reserve some extra time on your calendar for the purposes of review.

Already found a tutor online or thinking about subscribing to an online tutoring website or service? Use the tips above to get the most bang for your buck and come out of your tutoring session better prepared than ever for your college classes!

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Bambi Majumdar
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Melissa Anderson
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