How To Become An Online Tutor

February 28, 2017 by Esme
Image Have you ever considered offering online tuition alongside your face-to-face lessons?

As Tutorfair now offers the option for clients to specifically search for online tutors, we have asked expert online tutor Luka R to share his top tips on how to become a successful online tutor.

First of all, Luka, why online tuition?

In two years I have gone from offering exclusively face-to-face lessons, to having a large proportion of my lessons online.

Why? It has brought increased flexibility and has saved me time and money on travel.

To give an example, at Christmas, a notoriously busy time for tutors, I was able to go on holiday for two weeks and continue to tutor all of my clients.

Now I choose my hours and am free to travel to any part of the world where there is an internet connection!

Where to start with online tuition?

For those interested in online tuition, there are essentially two routes,

1.Look for new clients who are already searching for an online tutor due to a shortage of in person tutors in their immediate area.

Tutorfair now offers the option for clients to specifically search for online tutors so it’s a great place to find clients looking for online tuition.

Top Tip! To make sure you appear in online search results on Tutorfair, head to ‘edit profile’ and make sure you have ticked the box next to ‘I'm happy to tutor online e.g. via webcam’.

You will then appear in search results when a client searches for an online tutor and, so long as you have not opted out of receiving notifications when new opportunities become available to you, you’ll receive communications around online tutoring requests from us.

2.Invite your current clients to try some or all of their lessons online.

Initially you may have some difficulty persuading parents that online lessons can be beneficial, as many are sceptical about a new approach to learning. However,  without exception, I have found that students take to online tuition very naturally and find it equally effective to face-to-face tuition - in some cases they even find it better!

A good time to suggest online lessons is if your client is going to be away on a holiday and wants to postpone lessons until their return. This is the perfect opportunity to offer the parents an alternative so that their child can continue their lessons while away.

Here are four key things you’ll need to consider to get started as an online tutor:

  1. Software - useful apps and programs

  2. Equipment - computers, tablets and audio/visual

  3. Internet connection - speed and reliability

  4. Backup plan - what to do when things go wrong


1.  Have the right hardware

Firstly, it is definitely worth investing in a new computer, laptop or tablet that you can rely to run smoothly and reliably.

It is useful to have two devices side by side, for example a desktop computer to run Skype video and a tablet to run an online whiteboard. Or you can use your tablet or phone as an extra display for your computer using a "desktop extension" app such as Spacedesk (works with most devices) or Duet Display (iPad/iPhone only).  

As a Maths tutor, I find a writing tablet with a stylus pen essential, as it allows me to write equations and draw graphs and diagrams that the student can see instantly via an online whiteboard (see next section).

My preferred option is the Surface Book Pro. There are other alternatives, for example the iPad Pro combined with the iPad Pencil.  

Of course the ability to do actual handwriting on your device may not be a necessity for language based subjects, but for science or other subjects you need to be able to draw symbols, diagrams and illustrations easily.

An alternative to using a tablet is to buy a "visualiser" or a separate webcam on a stand which you can place on your desk angled downwards towards your hand, allowing you to write on pen and paper while projecting a video image of your hand to the student.

As far as audio equipment goes, most computers come with a built in microphone and speakers, but for added sound quality you may want to invest in a stand-alone microphone or a headset with noise cancelling capability.

  1. You need a good internet connection.

Your internet connection needs to be reliable and reasonably fast as your lessons depend on it. Do a speed test on your computer and see what you're getting.

If your connection speed is not up to scratch, it is worth calling your provider to see if they can offer any plans with a higher bandwidth.

One easy way to optimise the speed of your home computer connection is to plug in instead of using WIFI: connecting your computer directly to your router using a LAN cable will give you a faster connection than relying on the wireless signal.

If that's not practical and you need to use WIFI connection, it's worth investing in an up-to-date computer and modem which both have "5G Wi-Fi" capability.

  1. Have the right software / apps

There is now a vast range of fantastic apps available that can help make online lessons extremely effective; I will limit this article to a few basic essentials.

First of all, you'll need Skype or some form of video conferencing software. Make sure your software is up-to-date to prevent any unnecessary interruptions. Consider the background of your video shot - will people be walking past in the background and causing a distraction? Make sure that your backdrop looks tidy and conducive to learning.

Once you have Skype, you will want an online whiteboard so that you can share notes with your student on the screen. There free options as well as some that require a paid subscription.

If you don't need handwriting or drawing capability then Google Documents is a great way to collaborate . If you want an interactive whiteboard for handwriting or drawing shapes try Bitpaper, Twiddla or awwapp (works well with iPads).

Subscription alternatives such as Tutortrove or Webex  offer added features such as the ability to draw graphs or upload pictures and pdf documents to the whiteboard.

Whichever option you use, it's worth allowing a little extra time before the first session to help overcome any technical issues. It can often be easier to do this at the client’s home. If not, you can get them to share your screen with you via Skype and guide them through the setup process.

  1. Have a backup plan

Sometimes even with the best laid plans, your internet connection drops out and there's nothing you can do about it. Since your income is reliant on being connected, it is important to have a backup plan.

Ideally, upgrade your mobile phone's data plan to a 4G connection with a generous data allowance so that if your home connection drops out mid-lesson you will still be able to continue the Skype call via your phone.

Also make sure you have several telephone contact numbers for your client if possible, (eg landline and mobile) so that you can carry on the lesson by telephone, if need be.

If you are away from home it's worth doing a speed test on the internet connection at your accommodation before doing lessons. Again, having a good mobile data package will give you a plan B in case the hotel's internet connection is not good enough.

One final suggestion is to reassure your client that if there is any downtime due to technical problems, you will make sure they still get the full amount of lesson time that they are paying for. I like to allow at least 15 minutes between online lessons (rather than scheduling them back-to-back) so that if for any reason the call cuts out and a few minutes are lost, I am able to offer to add that time on to the end of the lesson.

Whether you are looking to make the transition to becoming a fully-online tutor or simply wanting to increase your flexibility as a traditional tutor by supplementing your regular face-to-face lessons with occasional online lessons, I hope that this article helps to get you thinking about the options. Go for it! And let me know how you get on…

Luka is a professional tutor and a qualified teacher of mathematics with a Master of Education degree from Cambridge University and 10 years' experience teaching Mathematics in secondary schools around the world.

If you would like to contact Luka, please visit Luka's profile

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