While tutors have traditionally instructed pupils in face-to-face environments, many students now rely on entirely online tutors. We'll examine a number of web-based tutoring opportunities at all grade levels, along with reviews of the leading providers of online tutorial services.
The Thinking Behind Exclusively Online Tutors
Online tutors typically follow one of two formats:
Asynchronous tutoring relies on offline coursework.
- The tutor emails the pupil their assignments, and the pupil then completes their work and submits online.
- Although most asynchronous tools allow students to reach out to instructors for extra help or clarification, both parties don't need to be online at the same time in order for that help to happen.
Synchronous tutoring involves real-time interaction between the tutor and the pupil.
- It requires software that allows both parties to communicate directly via video, audio, or text.
When compared to its traditional counterpart, it's clear online tutoring has some unique benefits. Most online modules allow students to complete coursework at their own pace – an incredibly convenient perk for anyone with a hectic schedule. And web-based learning indirectly – sometimes directly, depending on the subject – refines computing, word processing, and web-based competencies; all of which will be coveted by future employers.
In addition to student benefits, online tutoring has effectively bolstered a sagging tutoring industry. According to a recent article by Forbes, in 2011 the U.S. government invested roughly $134 million in private tutoring programs for low-income families. These programs were created in accordance with the No Child Left Behind legislation. However, nationwide budget cuts have led to the elimination of much in-school tutoring. In their absence, private companies (many of them online tutoring services) have stepped in to meet student and parent demands.
Web-based tutoring is also especially valuable college students. Cherie Mazer, a student of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, published a white-paper report that highlights the benefits of online college tutors. Her findings indicate that college students enrolled in online programs reported significantly higher grades than students who didn't. The students receiving tutoring were also noted to be making strides in “achievement, attitude, and retention” when compared to the students without tutoring.
Online Tutoring for Different Types of Students
Web-based programs geared at primary school students (K-8) typically incorporate a high level of multimedia and interactive activities designed to stimulate learners as they complete their coursework. Many of these programs are targeted at special needs learners, and focus on subjects where children tend to struggle the most, such as the core competencies of reading, writing, and math. A number of these fundamental online tutoring sessions are offered in languages other than English (often in Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese) to help immigrant families.
Online high school tutoring is primarily geared toward students who need extra help in specific areas. However, these programs also offer courses and assignments designed to help students improve their standardized test taking skills, especially as they pertain to the SAT and ACT. In addition to programs that assign students to a licensed educator, many online tutoring platforms offer peer-to-peer instruction, in which both pupil and tutor are high school students.
While many college students supplement their education by enrolling in free massive open online courses (MOOCs), one-on-one online tutorial programs are very much an option for university-level learners as well. Most accredited universities provide on-campus tutors, and many have expanded to also include web-based services that don't require face-to-face instruction; in either case, the tutor is typically another college student with expertise in a given field. Many private companies have also launched online tutorial services aimed exclusively at college students. Check out some of these programs in our list of options in the section immediately below.
According to KQED contributor Audrey Waters, there are several reasons why online tutoring is the very best tutoring option for students. “Because tutoring can be done online and at a rate far cheaper than some of the offline options, it may open up opportunities for kids and parents to seek help who otherwise wouldn’t,” she noted in a 2011 article. “There’s no visiting learning centers that identify you as a struggling student. Parents can feel comfortable monitoring the tutoring sessions. And the college students who tutor can set their own rates and hours.”
The Online Tutoring Options Out There
As you might expect, there are a number of dedicate online tutoring services out there – many of them excellent. Some reputable brick-and-mortar tutoring companies geared toward primary and secondary learners, such as Top Notch Tutoring, have even begun to supplement face-to-face work with online-only services. And many web-based college programs provide complimentary tutoring for enrolled students; these institutions include Walden University, Kaplan University, and Strayer University.
In addition to these options, students and parents may choose from a wide selection of online, private tutoring companies. We've listed three of the nation's leading providers below and included information related to their tutorial offerings, cost, platform, and relevance for different types of learners.
This company offers a wide range of tutorial services aimed at K-12 students. Courses cover four core subjects ― math, science, English, and social studies ― as well as advanced placement (AP) courses and SAT tutorials. Tutor.com feature:
- A user-friendly, synchronous platform
- An interactive whiteboard
- Chat functions
- File-sharing capabilities.
There are three payment plans available:
- One hour (per month): $39.99
- Two hours (per month): $79.99
- Three hours (per month): $114.99
The allotted time can be applied to any subject, and unused minutes may be rolled over to other courses. All three plans include 24/7 access (including mobile devices) and do not require any long-term contractual obligations. A money-back guarantee is offered to clients who are unsatisfied with Tutor.com services after a six-month window. Students belonging to families of active military service members may qualify for free tutorial services.
The tutors who work for this site include licensed teachers and professors, graduate students, and certified experts in their respective fields. The courses are specifically designed to help students achieve higher grades, complete their homework, and build self-confidence.
This company specializes in tutorial services for college students and advanced high school-level learners. Courses cover nine different subject areas:
- Nursing and Allied Health
- Computers and Technology
Courses in English, ESL, and Spanish adhere to an asynchronous format, while the remaining subjects are taught using a live whiteboard that directly connects tutors and students. The price structure does not follow a month-by-month format; instead, students pay for a predetermined number of hours; any unused minutes expire after four months. Additionally, students pay to have tutors review materials they have written. Smarthinking's services are priced as follows:
- One hour of tutoring: $35
- Four hours of tutoring: $120
- One essay submission: $19.95
- One long essay submission: $34.95
- One SAT long essay review: $9.95
According to the company's website, the average tutor has taught professionally for more than nine years, and 90% have an advanced degree in the subject they teach.
This site specializes in individualized tutorial services for K-12 students. Courses for elementary, middle, and high school learners are divided into four categories that include more specific subjects:
- Mathematics: Algebra, Computation and Analysis, Probability and Statistics, Estimation and Measurement, and Geometry
- Language Arts: Listening, Literature, Reading, and Writing
- Science: Astronomy, Biology, Botany, Chemistry, Ecology, Geology, and Physics
- Social Studies: Economics, Geography, History, Politics, and Sociology
Learners can also choose from two different tutorial formats. The eTutor Independent Program uses a self-guided curriculum that allows students to learn at their own pace; students receive individualized instruction, and parents may request report cards to track their child's progress. The eTutor Guided One-2-One Program features coursework similar to the independent program, but requires students to interface with their tutor for at least one hour per week using real-time software.
Prices are determined by two factors: the tutorial format and the age of the student. Elementary learners who enroll in the independent program pay monthly tuition of $149, while middle and high school students in the self-guided program pay $249 per month. Elementary students who use the One-2-One format must pay $249 per month, while middle and high school students in the program are charged $399 per month.
The Steps to Get Started
If you are a student who would like some extra help in one or more subjects or a parent of a child who could benefit from online tutoring, the following process will aid your search for a service provider that meets your specific needs.
1. Figure out exactly how a tutor can help you
Most online tutors offer services that encompass a wide range of core subjects, but chances are you only need help in a few areas. Look for sites specializing in areas where you need the most improvement. For parents, it may be helpful to talk to your child about the subjects that interest them the most or the least in school; if there's hostility toward certain subjects, this could very well mean they'll benefit from the support of a tutor. For many students and parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and other education professionals are the best resource for discovering online opportunities; they can often recommend programs that have been particularly effective with former students.
2. Make a list of viable online tutors
Once you've identified your subject-specific needs, then start browsing the web for suitable tutors. For each site that matches your criteria, you'll want to make several notes, such as the cost and contractual obligations, instructional style and qualifications of the staff, to name but a few.
After your search is complete, contact each entry on your list and inquire about the site's services. Pay attention to the company's response time, as well as the answers given; if the language is too generic or vague, then this should serve as a red flag.
Once you think you've narrowed down your list to two or three candidates, perform another online search ― this time to see if any past clients have reviewed the sites, or if the company's practices have caused any controversies. Many sites also offer sample tutorials for students to test out before making a financial commitment.
3. Choose a provider and review the curriculum carefully
Online tutoring is inherently convenient, but adjusting to an online-only learning format can be difficult for students accustomed to the classroom environment. Once you've identified the best online tutor for you or your child's needs, then it's important to make a plan of attack.
If the program is self-guided, review the curriculum and map out a daily, weekly or monthly schedule. For more structured programs, determine how and when the coursework will be completed in conjunction with on-campus learning, extracurricular activities, employment, and other obligations. Contact the tutor who will be interfacing with you or your child for advice on how to make sure all the assigned coursework is completed and that the student's progress is realized.
Just as e-learning has essentially transformed the way students absorb information and complete their coursework, online tutoring provides the supplemental skills-building that students require in a way that is significantly more cost-effective and convenient than traditional services. Whether you're a graduate student eager to improve your writing skills in order to craft a stellar thesis or a third grader in need of a little extra help with geometry homework, online tutors are ready and able to provide the instruction needed to stay on track.