Guest Post: My Digital Teacher – Online Tutoring

5th September 2017
Online Tutoring Teach all about IT Holly Billinghurst

For those of us of a certain age, the idea of a digital teacher may conjure up images of electric dreams – in fact, more and more learners are switching on from home, not to play games, but to spend quality learning time with online tutors.

Imagine opening your laptop and talking to a subject specialist who may be the other side of the world, but is there to help you study. It may sound futuristic, but this is already a daily reality for a growing number of students. My own online students log on from anywhere from the UK to the US, to Dubai.

In 2016, The Guardian reported that 40% of children in London, and 25% across the UK will access a private tutor. It is no longer something for the elite, or purely to pass exams.

The rise of online tutoring extends access to learning to a whole range of students:

Students who are home educated often access tutors for their subject knowledge when parental guidance is not enough. Not always for an exam subject, but short term tutoring to facilitate their independent research. There is nothing more satisfying than tutoring someone who is learning for the pure love of the subject.

With schools narrowing curriculums through financial constraints and pressure from Progress 8 measures, students wishing to study specific subjects may be taught directly by a tutor if their chosen subject is no longer offered. In my own subject, there was a sharp rise in schools offering Computer Science after ICT was removed, followed by the withdrawal of computing when results fell or computing teachers could not be recruited (we’re in short supply). This did not remove the will to learn from students and for those who still wanted to study Computer Science, an iGCSE with a private tutor became a real alternative.

Students who are unable to access a structured school environment through ill health or disability are able to access one to one help allowing them to continue with education around their health needs and at times suitable to them. These students are particularly close to my heart – as a disabled teacher, I am all too aware of access issues in the classroom and the physical toll that set hours take. My tutees who study through ill health may appear on the surface unreliable & sometimes unfocused, but these are some of the toughest and most determined young people I have had the pleasure of working with.

Finally, the most common student accessing tuition are those who require extra help. Parents may have received a shock from a progress report or parents evening and source a tutor to improve their child’s grades. There is any number of reasons why the student is not achieving, but more often than not, an intervention with one to one support (for both knowledge and confidence) allows the student to learn their way instead of fitting a classroom mould.

But why online? Surely face to face has more impact?

The primary benefit to the parent will be to their wallet – without travel time & cost to factor in, an online tutor will often be cheaper and in many cases charge only for the lesson length instead of block booking hours. For younger students needing 20 – 40 minutes, this works wonderfully.

For students, this is familiar territory. Their digital lives start early and conversations via webcam put them at ease and with a number of sites saving recordings of each lesson, students feel safer and have instant revision to access.

On becoming an online tutor, I was astounded at the plethora of tools I could use with my students to enhance their learning – collaborative whiteboards where we work through theory together, screen sharing tools for practical work, online documents where I can feedback on written work in real time. These are the tools that make online tuition so powerful and allow students to learn in their own unique way.

So, from a teacher’s perspective, I love that I can add to my classroom experience by teaching one to one; and it is the student who benefits most from online tutoring – where else can you have a bank of subject specialists at your fingertips without leaving home?

Holly is a Computer Science and ICT Master Teacher working as both a classroom teacher and an online private tutor.

Online Tutoring Teach all about IT Holly Billinghurst

After working in education and youth offending, she re-trained as a software developer and worked out there in the real world, but found her journey led her back to working with young people and the call of teaching finally got too loud to ignore any longer.

She now spends her days watching young people develop a passion for the subject that she loves and thoroughly enjoys seeing them surpass all expectations at KS3, GCSE, and A Level Computer Science. In 2012, her first book ‘Java for GCSE’ was published via Amazon. Her worldwide personal online tuition can now be booked for tuition, revision, or teacher CPD at via Facebook and twitter @TeachAllAboutIT

Main Photo by Juliette Leufke on Unsplash

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1 Comment

  • Reply Burlington Tutoring 5th February 2018 at 23:53

    Great post.

    I personally think that both online and face-to-face are effective ways of teaching and helping students with their courses. Some students prefer online while the others prefer face-to-face. Its parent’s job to find out which method works best for their child before hiring a tutor.

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