The debate surrounding the effectiveness of online tutoring compared to in-person tutoring has grown in relevance as technology continues to advance. As more people seek effective and convenient educational methods, it’s essential to evaluate and contrast the merits of both approaches. If you are looking for a tutor for your child, which method to choose may be an important decision that affect your child’s learning outcome. In this article, we will analyze the effectiveness, pros, and cons of online and in-person tutoring. We’ll consider multiple factors that may affect the learning outcome for your child.
Effectiveness of Online and In-Person Tutoring: What does the research say?
In recent years, several studies have been conducted to measure the effectiveness of online tutoring compared to traditional in-person instruction. One study found that in some area of math, online tutoring could produce learning outcomes equivalent to in-person tutoring, but in other areas, face-to-face tutoring produced better learning outcomes. Another review of research on face-to-face and online math tutoring revealed that students participating in online tutoring show better learning outcome than those receiving in-person tutoring. Online tutoring can be just as effective as traditional in-person tutoring methods, if implemented correctly.
Pros and Cons of Online Tutoring
Online tutoring offers several benefits when compared to traditional in-person tutoring, including flexibility, accessibility, and increased learning resources. However, it also presents drawbacks, such as technological limitations and decreased interpersonal interaction. Let’s explore the pros and cons in more detail.
- Flexibility: Online tutoring provides flexibility in terms of scheduling sessions and the pace of learning. Students and tutors can coordinate to set up times that work best for both parties and change the date and time relatively easily, making it easier to accommodate busy schedules.
- Accessibility: With online tutoring, the learning experience is no longer limited by geographic location. Students can access tutors from various regions, ensuring that they receive the best education possible, even if local options are limited. This aspect is particularly beneficial for students in rural or remote areas, where accessing specialized tutors might be problematic.
- Bigger Pool of Tutors: Because the distance is not a concern when it comes to online tutoring, a student has access to far more number of tutors, some of whom might be too far to travel to the student’s house but are very qualified to tutor the student.
- Digital Learning Resources: Online tutoring often comes with access to a wide range of digital resources, such as videos, interactive modules, and e-books. These resources can enhance the learning experience and provide opportunities for further study and practice beyond the tutoring sessions.
- Time Saved: Some students are very busy, especially when they are in the final few years of high school. If tutoring takes place in a library, café, or the tutor’s home, you and your child have to travel to the tutoring location, then travel back. Sometimes, traveling takes more time than tutoring itself. If you opt for online tutoring, your child will be able to use the travel time to do something productive.
- Security: Your child doesn’t have to leave your home, nor do you have to invite someone to your home. This may be a safer option for you and your child if you are worried about letting someone into your home or letting your child go to someone’s home.
- Technological Limitations: Online tutoring relies on strong internet connections and efficient devices. Inadequate technical support can hinder the learning experience and make teaching and communication difficult. Also, sometimes, internet or WIFI becomes unavailable due to storm or heavy rain. When this happens, tutoring session may abruptly come to a halt.
- Decreased Interpersonal Interaction: As online tutoring is conducted through a screen, there may be limited non-verbal communication and reduced personal connection. For example, body language is a strong communication tool. It supplements your verbal communication. This may be important for the learning process of younger children. Also, it may be more difficult to share notes or let your child’s tutor look at what your child is writing on paper.
- Harder To Collaborate: Some online collaboration tools are pretty difficult to use and are laggy. Many children find that writing on digital whiteboards using a mouse or a stylus pen is more difficult than writing on paper. It is somewhat harder to share notes in real time in a virtual tutoring session than in face-to-face tutoring session, although with practice, it becomes easier.
- Less Focus and/or Lower Motivation: Some children (although not all) prefer face-to-face tutoring and find online tutoring harder to focus. Also, some children get distracted easily by having easy access to Facebook, YouTube, etc, and online tutors usually have a hard time knowing whether your child is paying attention or doing something else.
Pros and Cons of In-Person Tutoring
In-person tutoring also has its unique set of advantages and drawbacks. The personal connection and immediate feedback associated with traditional methods can be highly advantageous, while constraints on location and scheduling may pose challenges. A lot of the pros and cons are the “flip side” of the pros and cons of online tutoring.
- Personal Connection: In-person tutoring allows for stronger interpersonal interactions between tutor and student, facilitating a more personal connection. This rapport can contribute to a positive learning environment, increasing the students’ motivation and engagement in their studies.
- Immediate Feedback: Direct face-to-face communication provides real-time feedback for both parties. Tutors can observe students’ reactions and body language, allowing for better assessment of understanding and addressing misconceptions on the spot.
- Physical Manipulatives: A tutor can use physical manipulatives with your child in an in-person tutoring session. Physical manipulatives are very useful for learning, particularly at lower grades.
- Location Constraints: In-person tutoring services are dependent on geographic proximity. Limited local options may force students to settle for less than optimal tutoring services or travel long distances to receive the desired educational support.
- Scheduling Challenges: Coordinating schedules can be more difficult with in-person tutoring, as both student and tutor must factor in travel time and potential location restrictions. This aspect may limit flexibility in scheduling sessions that work best for both parties.
- May Be More Expensive: If a tutor has to go to your house or to a library or café, he or she may charge a higher hourly rate due to the travel time. Online tutoring is often more cost effective.
Which Tutoring Method to Choose Depends on Your Circumstances
Whether you should choose online tutoring or in-person tutoring depends on your and your child’s circumstances. As described previously, each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and if implemented correctly, online tutoring can be as effective as in-person tutoring. Let’s take a look at the kind of questions you have to ask yourself in order to make the best decision for your child.
1. Can you find qualified tutors within your local area?
If not, you may have to find online tutors. This is particularly true if you live in a rural area.
2. What is the difference in cost between an online tutor and an in-person tutor?
If both kinds of tutors are available, weigh the hourly cost between both kinds of tutoring. Online tutoring generally has a lower cost compared to in-person tutoring.
3. Do you have the time to travel to a library, a café, or your child’s tutor’s home? How much does the travel time take?
If the tutor is 30 minutes away from you, it will take a minimum 1 hour to travel back and forth. Do you and your child have the time to do this? Or, is this time better spent on something else? If your child learns better with an in-person session, the travel time might be worth it.
4. Is the tutor experienced in online tutoring?
Doing online tutoring is not an easy task. Online conference software (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.) must be chosen carefully because each software is different. Your online tutor has to be comfortable tutoring online and knows how to write notes and share them with your child. He or she has to have a way to check your child’s work online, and should also know how to use digital resources. Prior successful experience is a must, and not all tutors are skilled in teaching online.
5. Does your child prefer in-person tutoring or online tutoring?
Some children can’t focus in an online environment. Some children prefer in-person interaction. You can let your child do a trial online lesson to see if he or she is comfortable with online tutoring.
6. Do you have stable internet and fast enough computer?
Today’s online conference software consumes a lot of memory and requires relatively fast computers. If you have a slow computer, online session may become very laggy and not productive. Also, if you have a bad WIFI connection, online tutoring may also become very laggy.
7. Does your online tutor have stable internet and fast enough computer?
Your tutor should have good internet and fast computer so he or she can provide a good tutoring session online.
8. Are you concerned about your child’s safety during in-person tutoring?
In general, there is nothing to worry about if you checked your tutor’s references and credentials. But, some parents worry about letting their children go to the tutor’s house or letting a tutor come into their house.
Ask yourself these 8 questions to decide whether you should get an online tutor or an in-person tutor for your child. Carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each point. Do one or two trial lessons to see if the chosen method suits your child before committing long-term.
The effectiveness of online and in-person tutoring ultimately depends on the students’ learning preferences and individual needs. While there is evidence supporting the effectiveness of online tutoring, some students may still prefer the benefits offered by in-person models. It is crucial to consider personal preferences and circumstances when choosing between these options. Online tutoring and in-person tutoring each have their own advantages and disadvantages, so as a parent, you’ll want to carefully weigh them before making a decision.
Richard Zhang, M.Ed., is an educator and a software developer with a Masters degree in education from University of Toronto and an immense passion for education and learning. Until the pandemic, Richard owned an award-winning learning centre in Toronto. For 15 years, he has taught and mentored hundreds of elementary, middle school, and high school students succeed in academics. He is also an app developer specializing in web and mobile application in educational and business sectors.