“I don’t think that literature, good literature, has anything to fear from technology. The very opposite. The more technology the more people will be interested in what the human mind can produce without the help of electronics.” - Isaac Bashevis Singer
During the lockdowns and restrictions of 2020, more and more people looked for online lessons. People started getting used to learning remotely.
So what do you need to ensure that online tutorials are effective?
Here’s what you need to get started.
Equipment for Online Tutorials: A Computer
During lockdowns, online teaching has become essential for many students. That said, people were teaching online long before the pandemic. Online tutorials are useful as people don’t need to travel across town to teach lessons and can teach people all over the world. Of course, you do need the right equipment.
Having a computer might seem obvious. It’s better to have a decent and reliable computer that doesn’t freeze or lag during your lessons. Some computers won’t have the necessary memory to run several programs or apps at the same time.
Your computer might be full of programs and files. You might want to clean up your hard disk before you get started.
Nowadays, a computer isn’t the only device you can use for online tutorials. You can also use a smartphone or a tablet.
Like computers, some tablets are well suited to online tutorials and often come with an integrated webcam. You just need to install the right videoconferencing software and you’re ready to go.
It’s worthwhile turning your computer or laptop on before you’re due to start your lessons in case it takes a while to start up.
A Good Internet Connection
How can you teach online without an internet connection?
With fibre internet connections becoming more common across the UK, some of us already have very good connections. Make sure that you have a good reliable connection before you start teaching online.
If you are having connectivity issues during your online lessons, consider using the 4G on your phone. Some phones can share their internet connection with other devices and act as a WiFi router. Be aware that this will use the data in your contract and run up the bill if you’re not careful or don’t have the right contract.
The advantage of online tutorials is that they can take place anywhere. Students can have their lessons in their garden, a library, or a café if they want.
In any case, make sure that all parties have access to a decent internet connection before they start. While it’s quite rare, some places might limit how long you can use their internet connection for.
In some public places, you’ll want to invest in a headset as not everyone will want to hear the content of your lessons. Similarly, a headset is a good way to cut out the distractions from the outside world.
A microphone won’t be essential if the lesson isn’t live. Many MOOCs pre-record the lessons so you won’t be able to talk to the tutor or teacher directly. On the other hand, if you’re participating in a live session, a microphone will allow you to talk to the tutor.
Most computers, tablets, and smartphones will all have a microphone built-in. However, it might be worthwhile investing in a better one. You can buy a headset with a microphone. In this case, place the microphone by your mouth for it to be at its best.
Before your lesson, test your microphone to make sure you don’t waste the tutor’s time.
Cameras for Online Tutorials
Much like a microphone, you’ll need a camera if you want your online tutor to be able to see you. While you won’t need one for the aforementioned pre-recorded lessons, for live online tutorials via videoconferencing software, your tutor might need to be able to see you. In some cases, the tutor will need to be able to see you so that they can correct what you’re doing.
A camera can also make a lesson feel more alive. Just listening to a tutor’s voice might be quite boring, but lessons can become more interactive with a camera.
Most laptops, tablets, and phones now have a camera. Desktop computers won’t always come with a built-in webcam. You can always buy a small webcam to plug into the computer.
You can find decent webcams for upwards of £30.
Videoconferencing Software for Speaking to Your Tutor
Once you’ve got all the hardware, you’ll need some software to be able to speak with your tutor. There are a few different apps and programs you can use to make video calls or videoconference with your tutor. Some are free and others aren’t and they each have their pros and cons.
Skype was initially a Swedish program that has long been used by professionals and individuals to chat via webcam. Much like MSN Messenger back in the day, Skype allows you to use text chat functions and video conferencing features.
Skype is particularly useful as it allows you to share your screen so the other person on the call can see what you see. For meetings and online tutorials, this is a great feature.
Recently, Skype has been usurped by Zoom.
Developed in 2011, the Zoom app allows you to videoconference using a smartphone or computer. Much like Skype, Zoom can host video meetings and calls. It’s easy to use and has exploded in popularity in recent months.
Most users use the free version. There’s a premium version that offers more features and functions. Your tutor may have the premium version.
Google is everywhere nowadays. In addition to the search engine, the American tech giant offers plenty of different tools and applications. Google Hangouts is one of them.
Google Hangouts is free to use, but you do need a Google account. Once you’ve signed up, you can use Google Hangouts as well as the other tools like Google Drive.
Google Hangouts can also be used to stream directly to YouTube.
WhatsApp and Messenger
WhatsApp and Messenger are two instant messaging tools that you can use on smartphones, tablets, and computers. These apps aren’t particularly great for online tutorials but they can be used if you don’t have access to the other apps or programs.
You can use WhatsApp and Messenger for chatting and video calls. They’re commonly used by many people. While they don’t have all the features, you can use them to chat with your tutor.
BigBlueButton is a program with teaching online tutorials in mind. There’s a high chance your child’s line of work doesn’t even exist yet and that they may change careers once it does. This program allows the tutor to organise their workspace according to chapters, level, and share content with their student.
The best thing about this program is that the tutor can chat with the student while also using an interactive digital whiteboard. They can show off diagrams and invite the student to also draw on them. It’s an effective tool for both students and tutors.
If you're looking for private tutors, head over to Superprof today. There are plenty of qualified and experienced academic support tutors ready to help you and many of them offer the first lesson for free. You can use this free lesson to try out several tutors, ask them how they can help you or your child, and discuss teaching approaches and how they'll adapt their lessons to the student.
There are three main types of tutorial available: face-to-face, online, and group tutorials. Each comes with its pros and cons so think carefully about each.
Face-to-face tutorials offer a tailored service and the tutor will often travel to the student's home. These are usually the most expensive types of tutorials, but they're also often the most cost-effective. However, during the global pandemic, many tutors are unable to continue seeing their students face-to-face or are opting to teach their tutorials online.
Online tutorials, as we've mentioned, can be as effective as face-to-face tutorials and they tend to cost less as the tutor doesn't have to worry about travel costs and can schedule more of them in the week.
Group tutorials are usually the cheapest per student per hour as everyone is sharing the cost of the lesson. They're excellent for students on a budget, too, but they can't guarantee that each lesson will be tailored to you. Furthermore, as the restrictions during the pandemic regularly change, it's unlikely that you'll be able to organise them.