I’ve been looking into online tutoring in order to get more students the help they need. I think that it can be a great help for kids who live in rural areas or in locations that don’t have enough peers who can (or are willing) to tutor their fellow students. It has been a daunting process, trying to figure out apps and programs, but it will all be worth it in the end.
There will always be geographical limitations – too many students needing help here, too many tutors without kids there – in a physical setting. But online? That’s a whole different thing! It is a simple idea, really. Have tutors available online, then have students log in and request help in a specific subject. The student is connected with the appropriate tutor, and tada—let the learning begin! The best part about this concept is that the students and tutors can be just about anywhere. I can have a college student in California on a break in between classes working with a student somewhere in Tennessee who needs to learn the quadratic formula. We can reach a lot more students by going online than we can in a traditional setting, even if the program is successful.
I think online tutoring can be very effective if I can get the logistics handled. The two real issues I have found are that in some lower income areas, where tutors are often an integral part of over-tasked schools, students don’t always have widespread internet access. Sometimes the only place students can access online tutoring is at their public library, which means the hours we can provide them with help are limited. However, some help is better than no help, and I plan to work with schools and libraries in these kinds of areas as the business model for my tutoring program evolves and improves.
The other problem is that without a tutor being directly next to you, there is the potential for distraction. I’ve been talking to a few programmers to see if there are ways to mitigate this issue. From making a simple, clean user interface, to possibly having a sort of ‘guided access’ lock where things like the internet can’t be opened while tutoring is in session, I’ve been tossing around just about every idea I can think of. One obvious way to combat this problem would be through the use of webcams, but webcams do require more bandwidth than a simple chat/file exchange type program. Also, we are dealing with minors and there is also the question of what is going to make students and parents feel the most comfortable using our services.
As long as there is a need for students to reach quality tutors, I will keep trying to figure out ways to make that happen!