Is Online Tutoring Effective?

Online tutoring has spiked in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced students and teachers to give online learning a try for the first time.

It offers a host of benefits over face-to-face tutoring, including:

  • No travel time to Tutor (or costs!)
  • More cost-effective due to no travel costs
  • More flexible lesson scheduling
  • The lessons are recorded and so can be referred back to
  • The ability to benefit from collaborative, online teaching tools
  • Time-saving admin and payment protection tools

But is it more effective? And now that 4 years have passed since the beginning of the pandemic, what does the research tell us?

A great indicator of its effectiveness is to ask the people who use it the most. Bramble is one of the longest-running online tuition providers. For the last 4 years, they have released a report based on an annual survey of their stakeholders - students, parents, tutors, teachers and schools.

Sherpa has released its own impact report this year in 2023. It is one of the newest platforms in the market and is committed to making online tuition surpass the effectiveness of in-person, making it easier and more affordable to access quality tuition.

While the effectiveness of each platform that provides online tuition is sure to vary - the state of online tuition seems to be stronger than ever and with the space constantly evolving, there is only more scope for improvement. The vast majority of tutors (84%+) and students (87%+) found online tutoring as effective or more effective than in-person. An increase from last year!

As technology advances and online tuition surpasses the experience of in-person tuition, the real limiting factor has been and always will be, the quality of the tutors available. This threat to the success of the industry has unfortunately been exploited in times of rapid growth in popularity. Sherpa is one of the few places online you can be guaranteed to find a qualified and experienced tutor for a comparatively low price.

In this blog we will go through some of the aspects that make online tuition so effective and why we focus on creating the best possible environment to learn online.

Is Online Tutoring Effective and what’s the evidence?

Sherpa recently asked 200 users what their confidence and grade levels were before and after tuition. They found the vast majority of people who had tried in-person tuition before saw online tuition as just as effective or even better! Only 13% of users would prefer to go back to in-person tuition.

Provided you have access to a standard device and network connection, there should be no reason why online tutoring isn’t effective.

From research carried out by Sherpa Online, the most common concerns among parents were:

  1. Potential network problems causing audio or video lag in the classroom
  2. Decreased engagement from their child

In support of the efficacy of online tutoring, a significant study was conducted in 2018 and published in the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL).

This research found that students participating in online learning environments demonstrated slightly better academic performance than those in traditional face-to-face classrooms. The study evaluated the grades and learning outcomes of both sets of students, providing empirical evidence that online tutoring can indeed be highly effective. 

The research underscored the potential of online tutoring as a viable and beneficial alternative to traditional in-person instruction, with its ability to deliver quality education and desirable outcomes.

Student engagement during online lessons is also shown to be vastly improved. In a one-to-one lesson, there is no quietly hiding away at the back of the class. Once they are used to their tutor, they appear more relaxed and focused during sessions. This is especially true for students who struggle with new face-to-face situations.

It also makes tuition with learning difficulties much easier by using clear and contrasting digital resources that can be reviewed at any time. The agility of a quality tutor changing learning styles and the plethora of online resources and mediums available at the click of a button seem to appeal to the younger generation with waning attention spans.

Scientific studies have also shown students who undergo online tuition retain 25%-60% more material when compared to 8%-10% within a classroom environment.

Pairing this with the fact it is easier to cover more content when all online than in-person, it's no surprise that online tuition looks like a winning combination.

High Dosage Tuition

One of the biggest factors in the effectiveness of tuition, whether online or not, is the consistency and frequency of its delivery.

In summary, research shows a series of regular short tuition sessions every week works far better than a longer session, less than once per week.

High-dosage tutoring (HDT) is defined as a session of more than three days per week or at least 50 hours over 36 weeks with at least 1 hour occurring every week.

Rigorous research from independent bodies such as GSVTV and EdResearch for Recovery show that high-dosage tutoring can produce average learning gains of an additional 3-15 school months for students who participated in HDT for at least 10 weeks for a wide range of students, including those who have fallen behind.

In fact, Sherpa has incorporated this research into designing our platform that provides high-dosage tuition to students in schools with Pupil Premium funding.

Tuition has historically been a luxury with bespoke tutors costing up to £100+ per hour. This makes it unsustainable for most families and students across the country including those that may need it the most to benefit from high-dosage tutoring.

The savings you make by finding the right tutor for the right price through an online platform like Sherpa will translate to a far better impact on learning if parents can afford to invest in at least one session per week.

Benefits of online tutoring for the student:

There are so many benefits to online tuition, that it's hard to know where to start. The "old-school" parents amongst you may not immediately see the benefits over face-to-face, but with the popularity of working from home and the benefits of using technology - Sherpa is confident they will see it is the best option for them overall. Some reasons for this given in a recent survey include:

You Get the Best Possible Tutor

Using online tutoring platforms allows students to have the biggest scope of expert and specialist tutors to choose from for their given subject. 

Rather than being limited to a handful of tutors who live within a reasonable travelling distance, you can connect with the best possible tutor in the UK for you. This allows you to find a tutor that covers your exam board and requirements as well as someone you and your child find easy to communicate with.

Unlike in-person tuition, having separate tutors specialising in each subject you require is just as easy as having one - with the added benefit of getting their individual expertise.

You can also have a free 20-minute introduction with all Sherpa tutors in the same online classroom where you will have lessons. A classic try-before-you-buy scenario!

You Don’t Just Get the Lesson

Sherpa’s platform records each lesson on the platform, allowing students to watch the interactive recording of the classroom back for revision. 

When you receive tuition on Sherpa, you’re not just paying for the hour-long session, you’re also collecting an invaluable revision resource that can be looked back on.

In the time between lessons, you have access to your chosen tutor to ask questions - send and receive resources, complete homework and have it marked for future sessions.

Additional Flexibility

Online lessons have vast amounts of flexibility. They make it easier to book and reschedule lessons outside of traditional working hours. You can even reschedule a lesson, request a time change or set one up instantly if you need it.

Tutors can spend more time teaching, without needing to travel between houses each session. Saving time and money is great for everyone!

This generally means they’re a bit more flexible when it comes to scheduling sessions and even rearranging sessions if you can’t make it.

Everyone will want something different from their tuition, whether they take control of booking the lessons or be more hands-off and let the tutor take the lead. Online platforms ensure parents tutors and students have the tools they need to stay in control of their education - all in one place.

You Get Payment Protection

Finding a tutor the traditional way can be risky. Maybe they don’t have the experience you thought they had, or maybe you just don’t click. 

Whilst Sherpa only onboard qualified and experienced tutors with over 2 years of professional experience, you always have the ability to request a refund if you felt the lesson quality just wasn’t up to scratch. 

You only pay for each session 24 hours before and you can always cancel any lesson for free up to 12 hours before, completely free of charge.

Should a tutor not show up or cancel lessons as requested, you can be sure the Sherpa customer support team has your back. You always have at least 48 hours after a lesson to dispute the lesson charge if something isn't quite right.

A Top-Notch Online Learning Environment

Browser technology has come in leaps and bounds in the last 5 to 10 years. Laptops used to require clunky, buggy software to be installed and network problems would often mean the lesson was inferior to a face-to-face lesson.

Now, online classrooms can be accessed in a browser from any device with a standard network connection. We have also come a long way from holding up scribbles on jotters up to grainy webcams.

Whilst we can’t speak for all online tutoring platforms, Sherpa offers a top-quality online classroom that combines high-definition video and audio streaming with an interactive, collaborative whiteboard and document editor. It has handwriting and graph drawing tools, drag & drop resources, downloadable notes and many more features.

All Sherpa users can demo the classroom before they even meet a tutor.

We’re constantly improving our classroom, and our end goal is to not just match face-to-face tutoring quality, but surpass it.

Technology is used during every class and homework assignment, so it is a natural progression to create an online classroom that thrives in sharing, viewing, editing and collaborating on all of these digital pieces of work in new and effective ways.

Technical Skills

Online tutoring will also help improve your child's technological skills. In fact, you've probably already enlisted their help as tech support around the house!

Providing your child uses an online platform, online tuition gives them the advantage of nurturing and developing their all-important digital skills, which is important for later life when looking for a job.

IT skills are vital to the way we interact and use data socially and in the workplace. Getting to grips with using collaborative sharing, feedback and learning technology would be of huge benefit to anyone in the future.

Improved Safety

Online tuition is safe and secure. As stated previously, the lesson takes place from the comfort of your own home. This means students learn in a more comfortable environment but parents are also able to keep an eye on what’s going on.

Tutor platforms like Sherpa also vet tutors ensuring that they’re DBS checked and qualified to teach at the highest standard.

Every lesson on the platform is also recorded if any issues regarding safety pop up and our dedicated safeguarding team is on hand to help with any reported concerns.

It’s Cheaper

Online tutoring is actually cheaper than face-to-face tutoring. The cost of face-to-face tutors can vary hugely depending on where you live.

These tutors often range from £30- £80 an hour. This is a lot more expensive when compared to online lessons.

The cheapest lessons provided by Sherpa start from £20/per hour with the average lesson being £25-£30.

To make online tutoring as effective as possible, be sure to use the correct online platform for you.

Sherpa Online grants students access to the most qualified and engaging tutors over the internet

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Ethan Carter

9th November

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