Online vs face-to-face tutoring: Which one is better?

With virtual education becoming increasingly popular, we compare online tutoring with traditional face-to-face tutoring to help you decide which option is best for you or your child.

2 months ago   •   4 min read

By Michaela Spiteri
Photo by Scott Graham / Unsplash

Our modes of learning continue to change and develop – whether that be in the classroom or private tutoring environment. Over recent years, with the pressures of the pandemic, we have seen an increased emphasis on learning via the online, virtual space. While these pressures have mostly subsided, for many, the desire to work and learn online remains. As technology continues to evolve to meet these demands, so do the modes and options for private tutoring. With virtual education becoming increasingly popular, we compare online tutoring with traditional face-to-face tutoring to help you decide which option is best for you or your child.

Quickly, what does online tutoring look like?

There are multiple ways in which tutors choose to run their sessions online. Here at KIS, it’s up to the tutor and their students – they can figure out what platform/s work best for them. Zoom and Microsoft Teams are among the most popular video conferencing platforms – they are free, simple to use and have screen-sharing functions which is essential for the most seamless and effective virtual set-up. Cloud-based softwares such as the Google Drive are also really useful to share and organise  materials between the tutor and student, while Google Docs allows for live, shared editing on the one document.

So… what are the pros and cons of each?

Online Tutoring: Benefits

  • Convenience – Save yourself the commute with online tutoring which can be done anywhere, at your own convenience. This is super important if you’re on the go and your location might be changing from week to week.
  • Productivity – Block out the hour of tutoring, then you or your child can easily carry on with your routine, as normal. This approach will likely allow the student to be more productive, and make better use of their time, especially if they are trying to fit tutoring into a busy schedule or are receiving tutoring for multiple subjects.
  • Diversity –  Online tutoring tutoring means the choice of more tutors which means the choice of more courses (which may not otherwise be available in your specific location).
  • Quality – With this increased diversity, also comes increased quality. The online platform means you have an increased pool of tutors which means you can choose a tutor that is the perfect match to you or your child.
  • Online communication skills – Learning how to work or study online is increasingly important as the virtual shift continues. Online tutoring allows the student to practice their online communication skills which they can put to use beyond the tutoring session.
  • Resources - With technology forever advancing, more and more resources are available to assist with virtual learning. For example, virtual whiteboards can be used to create mind maps (which is especially helpful for those visuals learners) or virtual notepads and pens (often via a tablet or iPad) can be used solve those maths or chemistry equations. These resources help to facilitate an interactive learning approach which might otherwise be lacking in the online setting.

Online Tutoring: Drawbacks

  • Access to software and equipment – While hands-on interaction is still possible it will require more tools and effort to simulate that in-person experience.
  • Ability to build rapport – For some, it may be more difficult to establish a personal relationship with your tutor and build rapport in the virtual context, especially for those who find it easier to communicate through face-to-face interactions (perhaps more extroverted or younger students).
  • More screen time – While in-person school classes have well and truly made a comeback, many students will be completing much of their independent study and homework online. More screen time could be a red flag for parents and it might be refreshing for students to switch up their online independent study/ homework with in-person tutoring.

Face-to-face: Benefits

  • Interactive - In person tutoring facilitates important social connection and the use of hands-on resources. This is particularly beneficial for tactile/ kinaesthetic learners when grasping new concepts. It might be easier for the tutor to explain concepts if the child is more engaged through face-to-face, in-person interaction.
  • Attention –  For some students, the face-to-face environment is more engaging and conducive to focused learning, with less distractions.
  • Motivation - Your child might also feel more motivated when their tutor is with them in person.
  • Social cues – It might also be easier for tutors to read the emotions and body language of their students in person so they can adapt their teaching style accordingly. The tutor might pick up on the fact that their student is looking apprehensive/ nervous and can guide them through this process as appropriate.

Face-to-face: Drawbacks

  • Less flexible and convenient – essentially, you won’t be able to reap those online benefits we spoke about earlier.
  • More pressure – In some cases,, a face-to-face tutoring approach may place more pressure on the student. If your child takes time to warm up to new people or needs their own space and time to think, the online approach may create a more comfortable and relaxed environment to build confidence.

Which one is better?

The truth is, it depends on the needs and preferences of the student. For some, in-person tutoring is essential for maintaining focus, motivation and building rapport with the tutors. For others, online tutoring can still offer these benefits, along with the increased convenience, flexibility and choice. If you’re a parent who is trying to work out the best option for your child, make sure to involve them in the decision. Figure out if and what their reservations might be to either approach and weigh up the benefits and drawbacks in the context of their individual learning style.

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