Online tutoring is the provision of educational support over the internet, facilitating remote connections between students and instructors. It encompasses both synchronous interactions, in which real-time communication takes place, and asynchronous exchanges, characterised by time delays between messages.
The increasing prevalence of online tutoring in the educational landscape is fuelled by its convenience, accessibility, and the array of tools available for crafting dynamic and interactive learning environments.
Online tutoring operates as a digital mode of academic support delivered over the internet. The role of Educational Technology (EdTech) in facilitating this process is multifaceted. There are three primary categories:
An Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) is an advanced AI-integrated solution designed to replicate the role of a human tutor. It comprises distinct modules, each fulfilling specific functions to structure and optimise the system as a purpose-built AI tutoring solution. While the configuration may vary, an ITS typically consists of four core modules:
These four modules collaborate to establish a dynamic and adaptive learning environment. The Student and Domain models inform the Tutoring module, which subsequently generates customised instructional content, while the User Interface module facilitates effective and intuitive interaction between the system and the learner.
While online tutoring appears straightforward, it often falls victim to misconceptions. Experienced online tutoring providers within our community have helped us to address them:
1. Tutoring is Solely for Classroom Reinforcement:
askOLA: “Yes – the core purpose of tutoring platforms is to build upon teacher-led instruction. However, it is not their sole purpose. The ‘anonymity’ online tutoring can deliver helps students who do not engage in traditional classroom settings to access learning online. That is a good thing, and should be better recognised.”
Manning’s Tutors: “Tuition can be viewed by schools as a ‘catch-up’ option, yet it’s important to recognise that its benefits have an accumulator style effect. Deploying tuition earlier in the learning journey means pupils can return to class with increased confidence, motivation and self-efficacy, accelerating their progress months beyond the intervention.“
2. Online Learning Sacrifices Real Learning for Fun
“While some students are visual learners, others prefer to learn via gamification. Online tutoring is ideal because it can be fun, engaging, and effective without compromising on the educational content. It allows a different kind of environment to be incorporated whilst retaining the essential element of human instruction.” – GoStudent:
3. Tutoring Equals Punishment:
Manning’s Tutors: “Tuition provided to pupils by schools can, bizarrely, be misunderstood by parents as a form of punishment: “Why does my son have to stay after school for extra lessons.” In reality, online tutoring is an opportunity to narrow the disadvantage gap, offering pupils from all backgrounds access to 1-to-1 or small group targeted learning.”
4. AI Tutoring is Supplementary:
Whizz Education: “Many perceive virtual tutoring systems as a supplemental provision, when really they are best deployed and embedded within a whole school teaching, learning and data provision culture. Virtual tutors deliver continuous formative assessment data, enabling agile responsiveness. This means schools, and particularly school groups and MATs, can mine live datasets to support timely, targeted, and highly effective interventions.
5. Online Tutoring is Less Effective Than Face-to-Face:
GoStudent: “Online tutoring provides a unique advantage over face-to-face: personalised attention without geographical constraints. Students receive dedicated support in the comfort of their own homes, leading to a more relaxed and focused learning environment.”
Online tutoring platforms provide essential support tools that enrich digital communication and collaboration between students and tutors. Here are their key features:
Online Tutoring Marketplace
Online tutoring marketplaces streamline the process of finding tutors. Here are their key characteristics:
Intelligent/AI Tutoring Systems
Intelligent tutoring systems deliver personalised guidance, feedback, and assessments. Here are their key features:
As AI continues to infiltrate education, the juxtaposition of human tutors and AI in online tutoring prompts multifaceted considerations. But is framing the discourse as a competition involving a single winner helpful? We don’t think so.
As education increasingly emphasises the individuality of each learner, it’s vital that online tutoring is afforded the same consideration. While some students may favour the real-life relationship aspects of a human instructor, while others may feel more comfortable or engaged with an AI tutor.
Rather than framing the debate as a contest, it is more pertinent to discern the distinct strengths and limitations of each tutoring approach. Our community experts offer valuable insights on this matter:
Manning’s Tutors champions human-led online tutoring, advocating for the irreplaceable roles humans play in:
Meanwhile, Maths-Whizz is an entirely AI-driven virtual Maths tutor. They consider AI better placed [than human instructors] to provide personalised and real-time assistance to learners:
“AI/Intelligent tutoring systems engage with students in real-time, tailoring instruction based on ability, rather than age group, and providing feedback that enables students to immediately identify and fill gaps that have arisen. This efficient, personalised approach ensures students make meaningful progress that accelerates their learning.”
askOLA integrates Human-in-the-Loop AI into their service, envisioning AI as a tool to make tutoring more accessible:
“When the vast majority of students cannot afford tutoring, then maybe AI is about democratisation. An automated learning experience right now is likely better than no learning at all.”
GoStudent combines human tutoring with advanced technology, believing this approach can:
1. Save Tutors Time: “AI’s integration – such as an AI lesson plan generator trained on the local curriculum – will free up capacity for tutors who remain instrumental in creating a learning environment that is more personalised for their students.”
2. Improve Learning Outside the Classroom: “AI-driven content-based learning will allow students to study in between lessons and engage with content tailored to their specific needs.”
3. Bolster Student-Tutor Engagement: “It’s clear that there is a tremendous appetite for the increased use of tech in education, and so it’s about providing students with the best of both worlds. Where there’s the importance of human connections in tutoring, there’s also technology’s ability to enhance the learning experience. ”
It’s one thing stating the benefits of your product; it’s another thing proving that the outcome actually occurs. On EdTech Impact, we ensure providers not only outline their product features, but also specify intended outcomes. Users then rate these outcomes in their reviews, providing valuable feedback.
Out of 26 listed online tutoring platforms, users have collectively rated outcomes 67 times. Here are the most common outcomes, and their impact ratings:
When initiating a search for a solution, crafting a precise procurement strategy is essential. It provides a clear roadmap for addressing the specific problem at hand, outlining the necessary components for achieving your objectives effectively.
In the realm of online tutoring platforms, essential elements to consider encompass:
In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, education worldwide is grappling with the profound setbacks to students’ learning, socio-emotional growth, and mental well-being. Consequently, online tutoring emerges as a pivotal sector within the realm of EdTech, poised to retain its significance.
So, what lies ahead? Our experts weigh in:
GoStudent: “Technology is set to play a central role in the continued advancement of the structure of education: the continued implementation of hybrid learning, the introduction of AI-enhanced education, and increased engagement with virtual reality. These new formats, whilst allowing students and teachers to benefit from more personalised learning programmes, will have a natural impact on how the tutoring system operates.
Tutors must embrace what lies ahead, adapting to changes in how information is consumed and developing new skills in line with society’s demands.”
Manning’s Tutors: “While AI and chatbot technologies serve to remove burdensome and repetitive tasks from teachers, they also introduce great challenges to how pupils are assessed. The old “don’t just copy Wikipedia” might evolve to “don’t just get AI to write your essay” – an evolution in instruction.
Among stronger educational settings, and by extension tutors, rising to these challenges will involve critically incorporating AI into assessment tasks to better prepare learners for the work world that they’ll be entering: “Use AI to generate an essay on this topic, and then fact check and criticise your AI’s response”, or “Ask AI to prepare two opposing arguments on a controversial topic, and then compare and contrast their responses”.
askOLA: “Modern education is all about accessibility, yet the vast majority of students cannot afford tutoring. In the next 5 years, we’re hopeful that AI and tutoring are increasingly ‘blended’ to not only ensure relevant, safe and personalised learning at scale, but to make tutoring accessible to all.”
Whizz Education: “As technology evolves, and resources and budgets in mainstream education continue to be squeezed, greater awareness and evidence of the cost/benefit ratios of AI tutoring systems will unfold. This will likely result in their mainstream adoption, serving to democratise tuition as a benefit available to all.”
An initial in-depth consultation assesses each pupil’s individual needs so that they can subsequently be assigned to their most suitable tutors and groups.
Tuiton programs integrated seamlessly into a school’s educational strategy, ensuring targeted support is provided to the right pupils at the right time.
A maths virtual tutor that can assess strengths and weaknesses; adapt to student progression; offer direct support, and reinforce to facilitate subject mastery.
Tailored one-to-one online lessons, with an initial assessment matching each student to a suitable tutor based on character fit and personal learning goals.
Flexible online tutoring where users select the subject and level they need tutoring in and purchase the required number of lessons.
Online tutoring support that can be conducted privately or in groups, and targets children of all ages at all key stages and subject areas.
Modern day tutoring designed to support the whole child. On-demand Online Learning Assistants deliver subject tutelage and mental wellbeing support.
Updated on: 16 February 2024