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Online Tutoring: A Complete Guide To Everything Parents And Schools Should Know Before They Start

Online tutoring in the UK has been big news in the education sector for many years but the onset of a global pandemic, the shutting of schools across the world, and the need to keep education going has catapulted it now to the forefront of most educators and parents mind.

If you’re new to the idea it can be a bit daunting to know where to start. Since 2015 we’ve given online tuition to over 60,000 children in schools and homes across the UK so this is our guide for parents and schools covering all the aspects of online tutoring in the UK that you need to know about.

Hopefully it answers all your questions. If it doesn’t and you’ve got any more please don’t hesitate to contact us hello@thirdspacelearning.com

At Third Space we’ve been providing online tutoring to primary school pupils for many years as part of our maths intervention programme. Recently we’ve been able to adapt these into a home offering for children aged 6 to 12. This article looks online tutoring predominantly from a parents and children perspective. School leaders and teachers are recommend also to look at this guidance on how to ensure you choose the most effective maths interventions for your school.

Let’s start with the basics

What is online tutoring?

Online tutoring is a form of teaching, usually one to one, that takes place over the internet in real time. Online tutoring must involve a ‘real person’ despite what some technology platforms may claim. The online tutor can be somebody the student already knows in a real life capacity or somebody from the other side of the world that the student only ever meets online.

The requirements for online tutoring are usually just that student and tutor both have internet connection with sufficient bandwidth and a device that’s able to receive or deliver the online lesson.

What is online tuition?

Online tuition is the same as online tutoring. You can use either almost interchangeably and indeed in this article we will refer to both.

How does online tutoring work

How online tutoring works can vary immensely from person to person and from one tutoring organisation to another.

Options for how it works include:

  • a standard Skype or Zoom video chat with both the online tutor and the student showing their work / instruction to the webcam.
  • a bespoke online virtual classroom environment where a tutor follows a carefully worked out programme of lessons often using functionality similar to an interactive whiteboard.
  • A ‘shared screen’ type approach where the tutor is screen sharing and potentially annotating it for the student to follow, possibly with a messaging function as well.
Virtual classrooms, such as Third Space Learning’s online intervention,
are one style of online tutoring.

Why do people use online tutoring?

The benefits of online tutoring are covered in detail below, but broadly parents and students choose online tutoring for one of four reasons:

  1. To get better grades in the run up to an exam, whether that’s SATs, GCSE or A Levels.
  2. To plug gaps in learning or support a child who’s struggling in a subject
  3. To enable a child to accelerate their progress further and faster than they would in a class of 15-30.
  4. To build confidence in a subject and develop the habits of learning so that they can respond better in all their lessons

As you’ll have noticed all these reasons apply just as much to face to face tuition as to online tutoring. That is deliberate. Online tutoring provides all the benefits of face to face tutoring but with much greater convenience.

One to one or small group online tuition?

Most of the time when we talk about online tutoring we’re referring to one to one tuition lessons where one professional tutor will teach one student over the internet. However it is possible for one online tutor to teach more than one student at a time in a small group.

Once the group size gets bigger than about 5 or 6 then we tend to refer to it as online teaching – of the sort that has taken place during the Covid-19 pandemic – as many of the focused personalisation benefits of online tutoring are lost.

It’s our opinion that if you’re looking to invest in online tutoring one to one tuition is the way to go. The benefits of a tutoring experience entirely personalised to a single individual’s needs, moving at their own pace can’t be overstated.

For younger children aged 5 to 12, primary school tutoring online is almost exclusively focused on maths and English. As children progress through secondary school then maths remains very popular but many tutoring companies today also see large take up in Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Languages.

It’s worth bearing in mind that a more ‘physical’ subject like dance, PE or even Art may be more challenging to teach online but I’m sure there are plenty of people who are making it work.

As a parent looking for online tutoring for your child you’ll have a good idea of what subject tuition your child will get most reward from.

What does the online tutor do?

An online tutor does exactly what a face to face tutor would do: plans the lesson, teaches the lesson, and then ideally reports back on the lesson to parents.

The difference is that with the benefit of technology a lot of the additional processes can be automated and improved to enable the maximum amount of time to be spent on the teaching part, rather than the preparation and reporting part.

For example all Third Space Learning’s online maths tuition lessons are created well in advance by a team of curriculum experts. So when a tutor knows what lesson they’re teaching, they don’t need to plan the lesson from scratch, they just revise the lesson that they’ve been trained on.

Thanks to our diagnostic assessment at the beginning of any maths programme we know where a child’s gaps are when they start and what their educational needs are.

We can therefore recommend the programme of national curriculum lessons the tutor should teach them, and then report back through our online platform on how the child is progressing against their gaps after each lesson.

Parents of pupils on Third Space Learning interventions get clear,
accurate reports of their child’s progress in every lesson.

An online tutor should also work to build a relationship with the child or student they are teaching. For online tuition to be most successful the student needs to feel safe, relaxed, and keen to do the work for their tutor. Respect on both sides is key.

Is online tutoring safe?

Online tutoring is very safe. Provided of course you do the right checks in advance. Every tutor must have a DBS or DBS equivalent, just as you would check for a face to face tutor.

The difference with online tutoring is of course that you can, if you wish, be present for the entire lesson by placing your child in a central location in your house. With in person tutoring it’s quite likely you’ll be asked to wait in the car which gives much less transparency.

Moreover if you use a reputable tutoring company, they should be able to provide their recruitment and vetting processes to you to ensure the quality and background of the tutors.

How much does online tutoring cost?

Online tutoring tends to be a lot cheaper than in person tutoring. Costs with most tutoring services start at £15 per lesson up to about £35 for the most expensive tutors.

At Third Space one of our goals is to make the effectiveness of one to one tuition available at a price point that everyone can afford so the lessons start at about £10.

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Now we’ve hopefully addressed your questions and concerns, let’s finish with a summary of the benefits of online tutoring.

10 benefits of online tutoring

1. Online tuition is much more convenient

Talk to any parent about their weekly schedule, and you’ll be impressed by the amount of organisation and logistics that goes into making sure their children get to the right after school club or activity at the right time. And that’s not even factoring in managing full-time working for many parents.

Adding tutoring into the mix isn’t going to be easy, right?

Most in-person tutors will try to fit children in around their other after school commitments. But as well as finding a free slot that you can commit to each week, there’s the question of actually getting to and from your weekly tutoring appointment. Sometimes travelling to and from (or parking at!) your tutor’s house can add an extra hour into an already busy schedule, something which no parent has time for…

In comparison, online tutoring takes place in the family home, meaning there is no travelling, or time making small talk with the tutor. It’s simply focused on the task in hand.

Online tutoring lesson at home
Online tutoring can take place in your pyjamas when you’re just sharing a screen!

At Third Space Learning we know how busy parents are so our process, right from signing up and picking your child’s time slots through to the maths lessons themselves, is extremely simple and easy to use.

Everything is done online which means that the furthest you’ll have to go is to your laptop to secure a world-class primary school maths tutor for your child. We’ve also got a dedicated customer service team who are ready to help you out should you ever get stuck.

2. You get a greater range of the best tutors online

Finding a tutor who really knows their stuff is one of the biggest challenges for many parents. Often the top tutors have been snapped up by other mums and dads a term in advance, and it’s not easy to tell if a tutor that you get on with as a parent will be the right one to take your child’s learning to the next level.

With online tutoring, the hard work is done for you. Look for an online tutoring provider with a rigorous selection process, and you’ll see that only the best tend to get through the various selection processes.  This means that your child will be getting the best-quality tuition that they possibly can and avoiding trawling through the vast pool of underqualified ‘tutors’ who set themselves up with few qualifications or credentials.

At Third Space Learning, all of our tutors have been carefully selected, screened and had their teaching consistently monitored. Fewer than 1% of all applicants make it through our rigorous process, so you know that the tutor your child will be paired with really is an expert in KS2 maths.

What’s more, we are working with one of the best universities in the world, University College London, to ensure that all of our tutors are trained to the same consistently high standard.

So you can be confident that when you book one of our tutors, you’ll get a top-quality teacher who will engage and encourage your child to build their confidence and skills in maths.

3. Students can be matched to the best online tutors for their needs

It can be extremely difficult as a parent to know which tutor is right for your child.

  • Do you go with the one that you got on with the most?
  • Do you choose the tutor that your friends recommended?
  • Or do you pick the tutor with the best CV?

One of the benefits of online tutoring is that the hassle of picking the right tutor for your child is taken out of the equation. Algorithms make finding the right tutor easy, and by answering a few questions on your child’s likes, dislikes, confidence and other attributes, a computer will be able to perfectly match your child with the right tutor.

This certainly saves the dozens of phone calls and meetings that can come with finding an in-person tutor!

Online Tutoring Benefits

4. Online tutoring can be fun and engaging for children

Engaging lessons? In maths? Yes, it can be done!

Maths can be a tricky topic for a lot of young minds, so having engaging lessons is crucial to help keep their focus firmly on the maths that is being taught.

As a parent you’ll already know how hard it can be to persuade a child to do their maths homework, let alone another whole maths lesson after school, but fortunately this is where online learning comes into its own. Thanks to the versatile nature of online classrooms, each and every lesson can be highly personalised to each individual child and the events of the day or week.

There is no need to read from textbooks that were written 10 years ago when learning online, and this responsiveness is something that children love when they are being taught.

Online tutoring vs in-person tutoring lesson taking place

We’ve found over years of teaching that the high level of engagement that comes from using our interactive classroom is great for encouraging children to verbalise their responses too, and this is crucial for learning!

5. Learning takes place in a comfortable environment for your child

Depending on the age and confidence of your child, introducing them to a stranger can prove to be a very intimidating experience. Face-to-face in person tutoring can be a scary thought to someone in primary school, but present them with the chance to head over to the house computer to chat with a tutor over a headset, and they will likely find the learning experience much more appealing.

One advantage of online tutoring is that it place in your home or school, and this is something that should not be underestimated when considering the impact tutoring could have on your child. If they are more comfortable in their surroundings, taking part in an activity they probably enjoy (working online), then they will get a lot more from the tutoring sessions.

6. Online tutoring sites tend to have more training options for their tutors

Before they are qualified to teach with Third Space Learning, our online tutors not only have to pass the rigorous selection process but are also required to do initial training on the primary school maths curriculum, how to use the online classroom, and, importantly, how to develop a rapport and work with even the youngest primary school children.

We believe this is essential to ensure parents can trust us with the care and education of their children.

After all the skills, knowledge and understanding required to teach a 17 year old further maths are very different from those needed to coax a 7 year old into explaining how they know that 20 x 3 is 60.

7. Online tutoring is cheaper than in-person tutoring

The realisation that your child needs a tutor is often accompanied by a sharp intake of breath when you think ‘how much is it going to cost?!’.

As you will likely already know, face-to-face tutoring can vary hugely in cost depending on where you live, and often ranges from £30 an hour to £80 an hour for a tutor who has a great track record in getting results.

Weekly sessions will be needed to keep up the learning momentum and ensure steady progress, and payment is usually taken in advance per half term or term, with all of this adding up to a substantial lump sum in one go.

Of course, no one wants to cut corners when it comes to their child’s education, but with the cost of living increasing it’s important to get great value for money too.

Value for money is just as important for schools, with budgets growing ever tighter and intervention programmes usually costing about the same as private tutoring.

Thanks to the overheads being lower and elements like travel costs being taken out of the equation, online tutoring has the benefit of being competitively priced and can be a great option for parents who want a quality service that won’t break the bank.

8. Online tuition is safe and secure

As discussed above each session will take place in the comfort of your own home, which means that not only will your child feel safe in a familiar environment, but you will also be able to keep an eye on what is going on.

Online tuition also gives companies the chance to firmly vet tutors to ensure that each and every one of them meets the high safety standards that are in place, and monitor and record lessons. This enables them to track every lesson in great detail to ensure that safeguarding procedures are followed, meaning you can rest easy when searching for a personal tutor online.

9. Online tutoring helps improve your child’s technology skills

Our children have grown up in a world filled to the brim with technology, and another advantage of online tutoring is that it can give them another great place to practise their all-important digital skills.

Whilst children may be firmly focused on the lesson that is taking place within the tutoring platform, they will also be inadvertently improving the digital skills that will be so useful when they are older and searching for a job.

10. Online resources and homework between lessons 

With online tuition come the other benefits that the online world can bring, namely a host of free resources and advice. The best online tutoring sites provide pretty extensive support back in the office should you need it as well as worksheets and activities for your child to do between lessons.

At Third Space Learning we have a large section of free home learning packs and home learning guides for parents and children as well as a section devoted to maths homework help and free worksheets for your child’s age.

With online tutoring, when the lesson ends, the learning doesn’t have to!

Let’s finish with some frequently asked questions in case you have any remaining.

FAQs about online tutoring

Which is the best online tutoring site?

The best online tutoring for maths is Third Space Learning you won’t be surprised to hear us say. Or at least we try very hard to be the best through our training, diagnostic assessment of children’s gaps and then their progress, as well as the curriculum coverage. And it’s what our customers tell us. Other tutoring organisations may specialise in other subjects.

Does online tutoring really work?

Yes, online tutoring really works, but generally it works best if it’s one to one and focused specifically on an individual learner’s needs. Provided the technology is sound and you find a well trained, qualified tutor, it will be as effective as face to face tutoring – and often, if the child is more engaged online – then more effective.

How effective is online tutoring – what’s the evidence?

Online tutoring with Third Space Learning can double a child’s progress over a period of 14 weeks. We ran a trial using a standardised assessment test and children who received our one to one online maths tuition achieved double their expected progress. They made 28 weeks progress in 14 weeks. Find out more in our case studies from schools who’ve seen excellent success with our online tutoring.

If you’ve got any further questions don’t hesitate to get in touch on 020 3771 0095. We’re speaking to lots of parents and teachers in the United Kingdom every day who are looking to use our services and we’ve probably go the answer to any question you ask, as well as range of testimonials and reviews we can send you if you’re interested.

Online 1-to-1 maths lessons trusted by schools and parents
Every week Third Space Learning’s maths specialist tutors support thousands of primary school children with weekly online 1-to-1 lessons. Since 2013 we’ve helped over 60,000 children become more confident, able mathematicians. In schools the lessons run as part of a successful maths intervention. At home parents use our online maths tutors to support their own children to catch up or make extra progress in maths.

Our online tuition for maths programme provides every child with their own professional one to one maths tutor

Ellie Williams
Ellie Williams
Third Space Learning
Content Team
With a love for all things KS2 maths, Ellie is a part of the content team that helps all of the Third Space Learning blogs and resources reach teachers!
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