Touting online tutoring

Vince Vitrano, Stephanie Graham

Touting online tutoring

CREATED Dec. 6, 2013

When college senior Rafael Garcia was behind in accounting, with an exam fast approaching, help was only a few clicks away.

"I'm more of a last minute studier.  I started using online tutoring because I realized I, like, needed help and all the tutors were taken in school," Rafael says.

Experts say thanks to technological advancement, online tutoring programs, like the one Rafael uses, are taking off.

Chris Dede is a professor for the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  He says, "Screen sharing programs are now commonplace, webcams are now commonplace, and so it's possible for a tutor to get pretty much the same view of what a student is doing, as is possible face to face."

Webcams, virtual whiteboards, faster broadband connections, and the ability to upload and share assignments, have given rise to a host of options for struggling students of all ages.

Katharine Hixson is an educational consultant.  She adds, "Via screen-sharing technology your tutor can pull up a specific platform that your child can then see on the other end of that device. It allows for real-time working through a mathematical problem, or they can pull up an essay and the child can see as the tutor goes through word-by-word or line-by-line."

Some companies offer instant help for students when they're stuck.  Alison Johnston Rue co-founded InstaEDU, which launched last year.  She says on-demand assistance is in high demand.  "No matter what time it is, 24/7, with online tutoring you can log onto your computer and connect with a tutor almost instantly.  We've seen our usage grow 50% month over month all through the year."

For people like Raphael, convenience is key.

"It's like a much more accessible tool that I have. Compared to before where I would actually have to like figure out like the hours that tutors were available at school, or somebody I knew in the class could help me out," he says.

Education experts say some schoolkids might actually be more comfortable, and feel less judged in the virtual tutoring environment, and technology is a vital teaching tool.  Hixson notes, "The way that kids communicate has changed.  So they now expect technology to be utilized in every form of their learning process, which includes tutoring."

Each company has its own criteria for tutor qualifications, and experts say there are no industry-wide standards when it comes to tutoring.  Hixson adds, "Which is a concern for some parents and people in the community. However, by doing reference checks, looking at tutors resumes and going with a reputable company, you should be able to by-pass any of those concerns."

Rafael plans to log on whenever he comes across a confusing concept.  As for that accounting test?

"I got a high B actually, so I was very pleased with that," Rafael beams.

Another benefit experts point to when it comes to online tutoring, is the ablity to track your progress and watch recorded sessions if you ever need a little extra review.

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