When you think of distance learning, you might imagine watching a pre-recorded lecture or joining a crowded Zoom meeting with your peers. A one-on-one online tutoring experience may not immediately come to mind. Like all things in the higher education space, though, tutoring is increasingly held via distance education, and there are many benefits to be had. Some of these advantages are the same ones long associated with online education, including financial savings and added flexibility. To reap the rewards of online tutoring, though, you’ll first have to find the right online tutor. In this article, we’ll discuss strategies for doing just that.
Types of Online Tutoring: Private Tutor Versus Tutoring Service
Before we take a deep dive into how to find a tutor, we first need to address the different options you have when looking for tutoring online. While there may be hundreds if not thousands of variations, there are essentially two basic types of online tutoring: private tutoring and tutoring services. Let’s look at each of these tutoring options individually.
Online Private Tutors
A private tutor is likely what you think of when you imagine a traditional tutoring scenario. In this scenario, you may meet up with an individual tutor at the library, or he or she may come to your house. In any case, it’s a one-on-one session. The online version of hiring a private tutor is similar, but the meeting occurs online. Most online tutoring sessions with a private tutor will occur via webcam using a video conferencing software such as Zoom. These online sessions often occur once weekly but could be scheduled more or less frequently depending on the individual circumstances.
Online Tutoring Services
Another option for online tutoring is a third-party tutoring company or service. Typically, these platforms act as liaisons between the tutor and the student, but there may be some caveats. For example, with an online tutoring service, you may or may not be assigned to the same tutor for each session. This could be a drawback, especially if your progress with one tutor isn’t communicated to the next, or if your learning is somewhat dependent upon your trust in the tutor, for example.
On the other hand, tutoring services can have advantages over private online tutors. Specifically, these online learning platforms can afford to invest in some of the bells and whistles characteristic of distance learning technology such as digital whiteboards and collaborative note-taking spaces just to name a couple. These tools can help bridge the interaction gap that sometimes exists with online instruction.
Featured Online Tutoring Services
If you’re like most distance learners, you want the most detailed and up-to-date information available about your choices when it comes to finding an online tutoring service. We get it! That’s why our editors have vetted some of the most popular companies out there that offer online tutoring right now. Here are the specs on four of the biggest players in the space in 2021:
Wyzant has been matching students with tutors since 2005. Today, this online tutoring platform specializes in both in-person and online tutoring in more than 300 different academic subjects. Tutoring is also available at nearly every level of learning, including middle school, high school, college, and adult learning. Figuring out how to find a tutor on Wyzant is fairly simple. The platform walks you through a straightforward process of deciding what you want to learn, where and when you can study, and how much you want to spend. Then, you can peruse tutor profiles and qualifications to find the right tutor online or in person.
Cost: $20-200+ per hour
Founded in 2007, Varsity Tutors is one of the most reputable online tutoring services currently available. This online learning platform offers convenient tutoring services for students at every stage of their academic careers, including college. Hundreds of academic and test-prep categories are featured on the Varsity Tutors website, and students can choose from flexible online tutoring options that take into account their current level of learning as well as the amount of help they need in a particular subject. Students who can’t afford one-on-one online tutoring can opt for more affordable services, including small and large group tutoring.
Cost: $73-95 per hour
One of the newer options for college students looking for online tutoring services, Skooli offers personalized online tutoring in a variety of different academic subjects. One standout feature of this particular online learning platform is the required credentials for tutors. In order to tutor college students, Skooli requires that tutors hold a graduate degree in their respective fields. Moreover, students can search for a tutor online that uses instructional techniques aligned with their specific learning styles. Finally, the site provides a robust online classroom with plenty of digital tools for students and tutors to use during their sessions.
Cost: $0.65 – 0.82 per minute
An up-and-coming online tutoring service, Wize (formerly Wizedemy) is an all-inclusive learning platform. In addition to tutoring, the company offers expert video tutorials, study guides, class notes, and more. A big draw of this particular online tutoring site is the high standards it sets for tutors. To qualify for work on the site, Wize tutors must have teaching credentials and undergo a competitive audition process, of which only 2% successfully complete. Once you find a tutor online through Wize, you’ll meet in the Wize study room, which features an interactive whiteboard, saved sessions, and access to instant support from the Wize team. One potential downside of the service is the price variation. Since each tutor charges his or her own specific rate, it’s hard to predict exactly what online tutoring services will cost.
When to Hire an Online Tutor
Before deciding on a private online tutor versus an online tutoring service, take a moment to assess your needs. Many students waste money on hiring a tutor online when they really don’t need one. So, the question becomes: When is it necessary to hire an online tutor? Maybe you’re thinking that the answer should be obvious. You know you need an online tutor when your grades start to slip, right? Not so fast! Before you resort to online tutoring, there are some other factors you need to consider. That’s because poor grades can be an indicator of a lot of potential problems—not just a failure to grasp course concepts. For example, if you’re a chronic procrastinator or you simply don’t devote enough time to your studies, then no amount of online tutoring will improve your grades. On the other hand, if you’re taking your classes seriously and doing everything you can to keep your scores up, but you’re still coming up short, then you may be a good candidate for online tutoring. With an online tutor, you can get the individualized attention and instruction that you need to succeed. A private tutor (or online tutoring service) can help you uncover gaps in learning or other weaknesses that could be derailing your success.
Strategies for Hiring an Online Tutor
If you’ve taken some time to think things over, and you’ve come to the conclusion that you do indeed need online tutoring, then it’s time to begin the process of selecting a tutor online. This is an important decision and not one that should be taken lightly. After all, you’re essentially placing your grades and overall academic success in the hands of someone else. It better be someone you can trust! With this in mind, let’s discuss some of the best strategies for choosing an online tutor.
Let’s start at the top. A tutor’s academic record is perhaps the most important factor in the hiring process. After all, you’re going to want proof that the candidate has the education and skills necessary to be a good online tutor, specifically in the subject matter you need assistance with. Most online tutors are more than forthcoming with this information. In fact, if the tutor doesn’t advertise his or her stellar academic background, this should be viewed as a red flag.
Exactly what level of academic training should you look for? It depends on your goals as a student as well as your budget. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want your tutor to have completed at least the level of education you’re currently seeking. For example, if you’re working on your bachelor’s degree in business, you don’t want someone who just started college to tutor you. Look for someone who has recently graduated from your program or even better, an MBA student. Of course, the more formal training the online tutor has, the better your instruction will be. On the other hand, you should be prepared to pay more, too.
Knowing the subject matter is one thing, but being able to teach it to someone else is another thing altogether. That’s why experience—not just academics—matters when hiring someone for online tutoring. Teaching is an art, and some of the smartest people on the planet lack the ability to impart knowledge on someone else. You may have witnessed this phenomenon as a student in high school or even college. No matter how many letters a person has behind their name or what their IQ is, if they don’t possess the ability to teach, it’s nearly impossible to learn from them. That’s why when you’re figuring out how to find a tutor online, you’ll want to put experience at the top of your list. If you can get a referral or review from someone who has used the tutor in the past, that’s even better.
When evaluating experience, keep in mind that an online tutor needs experience not just in tutoring, but in online tutoring specifically. While there’s plenty of overlap, online tutoring differs from traditional tutoring in some important ways, including those related to technology. An online tutor will need to have a system in place to accommodate distance learning and know how to operate it efficiently. If you end up hiring a tutor without experience tutoring online, you may spend more time dealing with tech problems than with actual instruction. This mistake could potentially cost you precious time and money.
Knowledge of Instructional Strategies
To tutor online and do so effectively, a good tutor needs to have a working knowledge of instructional strategies, including how to accommodate certain types of learners. This is something you’ll want to include on your “how to find a tutor” checklist, particularly if you have a unique learning style or specific learning needs. To discover what instructional strategies an online tutor utilizes, ask pointed questions such as:
- How do you present new material to students?
- Do you have techniques for making learning meaningful?
- How do you help your students master particularly challenging material?
- Do you have certain mnemonic devices or other strategies for remembering random facts/dates?
- How do you accommodate different learning styles?
- What do you do if a student is struggling considerably with a topic?
Tutoring online can present some obstacles in using particular types of instructional strategies, so be sure to ask your prospective online tutor how he or she handles these specific challenges.
Personality—It’s Not Just a Plus!
Personality might not be top of mind when you first start thinking about how to find a tutor, but it’s not something you want to overlook. If you have ever had a past teacher or coach that you didn’t get along with, then you know firsthand how difficult it can be to learn from someone you don’t particularly like. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with your online tutor! However, it is important that the tutor you choose has a personality that is compatible with (or at the very least, doesn’t clash with) your own. Otherwise, your online tutoring sessions could become problematic. Think back to the teacher or coach you didn’t care for in school. Now ask yourself whether you liked the subject or sport he or she taught. The answer is likely, “no.” We tend to associate people with the activities that surround them—it’s just human nature. If you want to grow to like the subject you’re studying, you’ll probably want to choose a likable tutor for that subject.
It should go without saying, but a tutor’s availability is one of the most important hiring factors. Of course, scheduling has always been a key component of how to find a tutor, but it’s arguably even more important when finding an online tutor. That’s because one of the key advantages of online tutoring is convenience. Don’t rob yourself of this benefit! Instead, find a tutor online who can accommodate your busy schedule. When considering your tutoring schedule, think beyond basic availability. Instead, figure out the times when you’re most attuned to learning, whether that be first thing in the morning, mid-day, or late at night. Everyone is different, so the ideal instructional time for you may not be the same as your classmates. That’s perfectly fine, so long as you can find a tutor who can be available during your peak study hours. Since you’re not limited to tutors in your specific area when you opt for online tutoring, finding a tutor with an open slot shouldn’t be too big a problem.
One often overlooked aspect of finding an online tutor who is effective is the planning factor. Ideally, tutors should draft lesson plans for their online tutoring sessions just as instructors do. Although they need not be formal documents, these plans should reflect the tutor’s intentions for each session as well as a long-term goal for the student. Moreover, a tutor’s plan should include a way of assessing the learner’s progress, so that he or she knows whether to remediate or move on to more advanced concepts. When you’re looking for a tutor online, be sure to ask candidates about their methods of planning for individual tutoring sessions. If they tell you that they “wing it,” you’ll want to continue your search.
Once you successfully solve the problem of how to find a tutor, you can start taking advantage of all of the benefits of online tutoring, including heightened convenience and flexibility as well as academic improvements. While finding a tutor online can be a hassle, it’s important to take your time with the process so that your overall online tutoring experience is ensured to be a good one. As a final note, it’s important to keep in mind that online tutoring is a partnership between you and the tutor. Though you certainly want to find a good tutor, be forewarned that even the best tutor cannot improve your skills and grades for you. You will also have to put in the time and effort in order to get the most from your online tutoring sessions.