During the various Covid lockdowns, perhaps it was the closure of schools and the sudden move to online learning that had the most far-reaching consequences for children. Most education experts agree that the experience was negative for everyone concerned. Teachers were faced with having to deliver online classes with inadequate resources and support. Students became part of an on-screen group with variable levels of feedback.
Now, however, things have changed. It’s clear that online learning in some form is here to stay, across the whole educational spectrum. During the lockdowns families used Zoom and WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends and relations. Younger children rapidly adapted to the theory and practice of online communication. And communication, of course, easily becomes learning.
As a tutor, Ilana King says, ‘Now they are used to this learning environment. Students are not fussed about whether a lesson is delivered online or in person.’
Unlocking the potential of online tutoring
Ilana King is a school entrance exam specialist, teaching children between the ages of five and 11. Before Covid, she tutored pupils face to face, traveling around London to do so. Her only online students were those whose families lived abroad. Suddenly, in March 2020, all her tutoring had to go online. It was unknown territory.
‘I didn’t know whether it would work for the very young students, but it was absolutely
fine. In many ways it was better.’
Three years on, Ilana does all her tutoring online. She is passionate about pointing out the advantages of the system to students, families, and tutors:
It’s flexible – tuition anywhere, anytime
‘The months of November, December, and January are a very intense period of learning for those children due to take entrance exams early in the year. It’s important that their tuition isn’t interrupted. I tutor each student twice a week, for 30 mins each session. This can easily be fitted into a family’s routine. I currently tutor a Year 11 pupil who logs on from a public library on his way between school and a swimming class.
Even if a family is on holiday – and I have tutored a student who was on safari! – the student’s learning can be continuous.’
Online learning tools are at your fingertips
‘I used to travel with a large bag of laminated worksheets, information packs, and so on – I would almost overpack to be sure of not forgetting anything. Now it’s all there online. I can pull out activities on comprehension, writing, and maths in seconds and we can easily switch from one subject to another. I use many games, as all games can be used to teach and embed concepts. It makes for a fast-paced session that keeps the student engaged. Every part of the lesson is about moving the child forward.’
Parents are involved with their child’s progress
‘I encourage parents to sit near their child, but off screen. This is a closeness I wouldn’t have been comfortable with in a face-to-face situation but it works very well online. When young children are taking exams, the whole family needs to be involved. Having the parents nearby means they can see and hear how I’m guiding the student. I do set boundaries though – no prompting allowed! After each session, I’ll email parents with a rundown of the lesson and send them the student’s homework. This is a written record of the child’s learning. From a tutor’s point of view, it doesn’t take any longer than giving face-to-face feedback after a lesson.’
Making online learning work for tutors, students, and families
‘An online lesson is not a ‘classroom’ experience. My sessions are short, and I like to keep them as a continuous discussion between tutor and child. Written work can be done afterward – in the session, it would be a waste of time. The lesson must be engaging and paced well, taking into account the student’s age and level of ability. The tutor must come prepared, having done the necessary research and with the right learning platform. For younger children, online learning has to be fun.’ Ilana admits that during the first lockdown, some parents were hesitant about the move to online tuition.
They reported that online class teaching had resulted in their children losing focus. ‘A teacher with 30 online pupils became like a lecturer at a university. This was unsuitable for primary children. I explained that schooling online was totally different from tutoring online. Tutoring online is a dynamic, one-to-one engagement between tutor and child. Those parents listened to me. Now, after those entrance exams, I think they’re glad they did!’ To find out how exceptional online tutoring can benefit your child at every stage of their education, visit Online Tutors and Tuition – Elite Tutors Sussex.
What’s the difference between classroom teaching and a tutor?
- With a one-to-one tutor, learning is delivered at the student’s pace, so there’s no need for the student to feel under pressure to keep up with everyone else.
- Whenever the student wants to query something or ask for the information to be repeated, that’s absolutely fine. The tutor won’t continue with the lesson until the student has understood and feels happy.
- There are often distractions during a classroom lesson. Also, under the gaze of her peers, a pupil can also feel shy about speaking up or answering questions. A tutor will encourage a student to discuss and comment on the material as the lesson progresses.
- Each lesson with a tutor will be custom-made to fit in with the pace at which the individual pupil learns. It will be tailored to the way in which he learns best rather than mass-produced for a large classroom group.
- In a classroom, it can be difficult for the teacher to differentiate the levels of challenge required for each individual. A tutor will know the appropriate time at which to raise the level of challenge for his pupil.
- Children whose learning is affected by SRBD often receive little or no support in the classroom. With a tutor, however, the lesson is entirely tailored to their specific needs.
The Parents’ Handbook for the 7+ Entrance Exams: An Indispensable Guide by Ilana King (pb, £9.99)
Words: Lindsey Tydeman