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How To Find the Best Online Tutoring, Homework Help, and Test Prep

From determining the best platform for your child to a breakdown of its benefits, we’ll help you navigate the world of online tutoring.

The stats are in: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, higher levels of education lead to higher employment rates and increased earnings. But when it comes to making the grade, not all students have it easy. Many struggle within a certain topic or find it challenging to learn in a traditional classroom style setting.

For parents seeking academic help outside the classroom, hiring a private tutor becomes a viable option. With the aid of internet options, today's tutoring profession has seen a tremendous evolution. But many parents wrestle with the question: Is an online option right for my child's learning and my family's needs?

We’ll take a look at the basics of online tutoring, the benefits, and what you need to know.

 

What Does an Online Tutor Do?

What exactly is a tutor? They’re typically private instructors who teach a single student or a very small group. They usually teach outside of school hours and concentrate on areas that an individual may be struggling or looking to advance in by providing support, effective studying techniques, and test-taking skills.

There are many different reasons why parents may hire a private tutor. Some families are looking for remedial or general help for a student who is catching up with grade-level skills or course materials they’re struggling with. Others are searching for maintenance, or general tips and effective study habit techniques that will keep them on par with their current workload.

Tutors are also used for test prep. Students often seek out help in learning test-taking strategies when the SAT and ACT are near. Tutors can also give students who are looking to go above and beyond for scholarships and collegiate admissions a competitive edge in certain subjects.

Online tutoring offers all the services of a tutor from a worldwide network of individuals who are trained in particular subject matters. Services typically include:

  • Video sessions, often using Google Hangouts or Skype

  • Whiteboard, where a virtual chalkboard is used to write, draw, and solve problems in real time

  • Virtual classroom, a combination of all of the above that also has the capability to share documents.

 

Why Should You Hire an Online Tutor?

Online tutoring offers more than just one-on-one attention for your child. It goes above and beyond the methods familiar in traditional tutoring, including:

  1. Flexible schedules: With online tutoring, learning can happen anytime. This flexibility also gives access to answers when questions come up. There's no waiting until a scheduled day and time for problem-solving. Joan Rooney, who manages a community of more than 2,500 online tutors delivering more than one million tutoring sessions each year on Tutor.com said, “Unlike traditional tutoring that requires yet another appointment on overcrowded calendars, online tutoring works around your child's busy schedule. If your daughter has soccer every week night and doesn't do homework until 7:30 p.m., an online tutor can be available then for help with that tough math assignment or when she's studying for a chemistry exam."

  2. Personalized approaches: The variety of teaching aids online helps understanding for all learning styles. Instant messenger, text chat, Skype, shared whiteboards, shared files, graphing tools, and the ability for differentiated instruction are just a few of these tools.

  3. Affordable, high-quality instruction: "Parents can get highly qualified tutors at affordable prices," said Mathew Biju, founder and CEO of Growing Stars, Inc. For example, a comparison of online tutoring options shows a range of $15 to $35 per hour. Comparatively, depending on where you live, personal certified tutors can cost between $25 and $150 per hour. Some sites also offer discounts, like 10 one-hour sessions for $100.

  4. Empowering techniques: The perceived anonymity of online learning creates a safety net for even the shyest student to ask questions and explain what they need to understand within the comfort of their home.

  5. Expert assistance: Online tutors hold a wealth of knowledge, experience, and academic degrees. Online, you'll find academic tutors, college-readiness tutors, career tutors, homework tutors, and even librarians. When parents bring experts who are passionate about the subjects for which they teach to their child's tutoring sessions, they show their children there's more to learning than just passing tests and memorizing information.

 

Ask These Questions Before Making Your Final Decision:

Tutoring is an investment that requires time and money, both of which can be pretty scarce when it comes to you and your child. Before deciding on any service, consider the following:

  • Can I achieve the same aims by using message boards, viewing online videos on the subject matter, or utilizing services and programs at the local library?
    These methods are often free (or steeply discounted) and might be worth trying out first before investing in an online tutoring service.

  • Do I have the right technology?
    Specific needs can vary per program, but you’ll often be required to have a 1 Ghz processor, 512 MB of RAM, an operating system that has been updated in the past 5 to 10 years, high speed internet, a microphone, a camera, and the latest version of compatible web browser.

  • Are the tutors properly credentialed?
    Caveat emptor, or “buyer beware.” Many online services function as a clearinghouse for anyone to offer tutoring services. Oftentimes, these individuals haven’t been vetted for experience and verified credentials. Make sure you’re utilizing a service that can offer proof of background.

  • How does your child prefer to interact online?
    Much like the real world, there are a variety of different communication styles available online. Video calls, message boards, chats; Which one does your child gravitate to and feel most comfortable with? Finding a tutor that can work within that medium will help facilitate learning.

 

What Makes an Online Tutoring Service Stand Out

A few things to keep an eye out for are availability for both scheduled sessions and in-demand sessions, around-the-clock availability, a wide range of grade levels and subjects, credentialed tutors, test-taking strategies, video sessions, progress reports, and additional resources for your child to access during their free time. If the costs of an online tutoring service are too high, you may want to consider posting an online tutoring job to a service like Care.com to find a web-enabled tutor in your area.

These are the top online tutoring services:

 

Jackie Gutierrez-Jones updated this story on April 4, 2018. 

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