Whether you are a teacher looking to make some extra money, or a subject matter expert who wants to share your experience with others, becoming an online tutor can provide you with extra income, a flexible schedule, and a rewarding part-time career. If you have ever wondered how to become an online tutor, we have some information and advice to help you decide if online tutoring is right for you.
Who Can be an Online Tutor?
Online tutoring jobs are particularly popular for college students. The online tutoring industry is wide and varied, and as such, most people will be able to find their niche in an online tutoring capacity. The requirements for being a tutor may vary depending on where you are located, what you are teaching, whether you work independently, or are part of a tutoring agency.
For example, in the United States, there are several organizations, such as the National Tutoring Association, which offer tutoring certifications, mentoring programs, and ongoing support for individuals interested in pursuing a career path as a tutor or a student mentor. While certifications aren’t necessary to act in an online tutoring capacity, many people choose to gain certifications or accreditation as a professional tutor. However, if you reside in Canada, there are no national certification programs, or organizations specific to the tutoring industry. If you are interested in pursuing a tutoring career, take a moment to review the particular guidelines that exist in your state or country.
So who are online tutors?
Online tutors range from college students, to stay-at-home parents, former and current teachers, as well as business professionals from a variety of industries. How is that possible? The online tutoring industry is enormous and only getting bigger. There are tutors available to teach both children and adults, in about any subject imaginable. Therefore, if you are particularly knowledgeable in a field of study, or a specific industry, you may have what it takes to be an online tutor. If you plan to become an English language tutor, make sure you hold the right certification, such as TEFL.
In speaking with tutoring agencies as well as consumers wishing to access online tutoring, the basic requirements are as follows:
- BS/BA, or studying for a BS/BA; or be certified or an expert in your professional field.
- Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal.
- Fluency in English (or other, depending on your audience).
- Excellent organizational skills.
- Experience in public speaking, training, teaching is a plus.
- Flexibility in your schedule, particularly nights/weekends, as well as specific times of the year (if teaching test prep, for example).
- Personable and patient.
As mentioned above, there are many opportunities for online tutoring. Whether you are interested in teaching a specific school subject to elementary or high school students, assist students in test preparation, or work with adults with literacy, employment education, or language education, online tutors are always in demand. Here are some common tutoring roles:
Students – Elementary to High School
- Basic subjects – Maths, English, History, etc
- Reading Comprehension
- Languages-Spanish, German, Korean, French, etc.)
- ESL – English as a second language
- Skill Building – Test Taking
- Special Education tutoring
Test Prep-Students or Adults
- SAT or ACT prep
- LSAT or MCAT prep for law school or medical school
- GRE prep for graduate school
- Resume writing, interview skills
- ESL – English as a second language
- Writing Skills
- Adult Literacy
- Computer Coding/Languages
- Management Basics
- Customer Service Skills
- Social Media Marketing
Once you have decided on the demographics and the subject matter that you plan to tutor, then it is time to build your tutoring business!
Building your online tutoring business
There are several options to choose from when working as an online tutor, each with their pros and cons to consider. Some tutors choose to work as a direct-hire for an established tutoring organization; others create a profile on freelance tutoring websites to showcase their abilities and attract clients. Still, others decide to work independently and create their own tutoring business.
We will look at each of the options individually and identify the pros and cons for each, so that anyone considering a future in online tutoring can make an informed decision on how to proceed.
Direct online tutoring hire
There are numerous companies dedicated to tutoring – both in-person and online, that work with both young students and adults. As a direct-hire, tutors are assigned students based on their area of expertise. Examples of tutoring companies are Sylvan Learning Center, Kumon, Manhattan Prep, and the Prepartorium.
- Tutors are paid an hourly wage for all hours worked, including hours not specifically dedicated to tutoring, including lesson prep, paperwork, etc.
- Guaranteed income.
- Tutoring students are assigned. No personal marketing required.
- Steady hours.
- Provides solid tutoring experience for new tutors.
- Little autonomy required to follow the prescribed curriculum.
- Income is typically less than a freelance salary.
- As a direct employee, tutors have limited flexibility.
Tutoring through a dedicated website
In addition to private tutoring companies, there are also websites dedicated to matching students – both adult and child learners, with dedicated tutors, such as AssignmentMe.com. These sites act as a platform where online tutors can create a profile listing their areas of expertise, their hourly rate, and their availability. Individuals looking for online tutors can connect with various professionals, compare rates, teaching style, and experience. Once they match up with online tutors, they can negotiate rates, and set up an agreement for services.
- Autonomy – online tutors, can set their hours and hourly rate.
- Freedom to create a curriculum.
- Freedom to accept or reject jobs.
- No aggressive marketing required. Customers come to the site directly.
- Great way for new tutors to gain experience.
- Competitive market-lots of tutors competing for the same jobs.
- No income guarantee.
- Due to the competitive atmosphere, tutors may have to accept a lower than desired hourly rate.
Independent Online Tutoring
Another option is to work as an independent online tutor. Prospective online tutors can promote their business through schools, word-of-mouth, and social media.
- Total autonomy – freedom to set and require a specified hourly rate.
- Ability to create personal curriculum.
- Freedom to select which days/hours to work.
- Less direct competition than on a sponsored site.
- Requires active and possibly aggressive marketing to obtain clients.
- For new tutors, it may be difficult without positive testimonials.
- No guaranteed income
Once you have decided how you would like to proceed with your online tutoring career, it’s time to get prepared! First, you will need the proper equipment and the appropriate setting to work with your students. Teaching online is very different from teaching in a typical classroom, so it is important to create an atmosphere that will keep your students engaged and interested, and will allow you to present information in a clear and concise way. That starts with the right equipment.
Equipment for effective online tutoring
Classroom teaching techniques are effective because the teacher and students are face to face, in the same room. They can hear and see each other well, and as a teacher or tutor, it is easy to read facial expressions to gauge a student’s understanding. When working in an online capacity, it is important to mimic that setting as much as possible. You want to ensure that you can effectively communicate with your students.
Use a high-quality camera or webcam.
Again, there are a lot of visual cues from both student and tutor when teaching a lesson plan. Having a high-quality webcam will give your students an experience that better mimics an in-person setting. If you have to provide examples of problem-solving techniques, or give an impromptu visual presentation, you want to be sure that your feed is clear, without lag or auto delay.
Invest in a quality microphone or headset
Do not rely on the microphone from your computer to assist you in online tutoring. While an occasional meeting or quick discussion can be handled with a simple laptop or desktop microphone, the amount of communication required in a tutoring session is much more robust. As such, to ensure that your students can hear you properly and catch nuances in your lessons that increase understanding and comprehension, you want to use a high-quality microphone or headset.
Don’t forget learning aids.
Many students learn better with visual cues. Regardless of the subject matter, visual aids can help get your point across. For example, when working on complex math equations, or teaching students difficult subject matter, being able to write a real-time example on a whiteboard, or use visual aids from around your home or office to teach complex concepts, will help reinforce your message. No matter how many learning tools you create before a tutoring session, there will always be a time where you need to provide an immediate example off the cuff. So make sure you have the appropriate classroom equipment to do so.
Finding the platform that works for you
There are several different programs to help you meet with your students. Selecting the best one may be partially personal preference, but also consider the overall flexibility of the program, your comfort level, and the compatibility of real-time teaching tools, like idroo, which is an online educational whiteboard.
Common platforms for tutoring include Zoom or Skype, for example. Having a reliable form of video chat is essential for effective tutoring online. If teaching math or science, or other subjects where you will need a chalkboard type experience, consider using a virtual whiteboard, like idroo, or baiboard, or Scribblar to assist with lessons.
Also important is document sharing. Google doc, Dropbox, or Dropmark will allow you and your students to collaborate on papers, quizzes, and other materials. They are all relatively easy to use, and can provide a similar document sharing experience.
Before you get started with online tutoring, you want to take a little time to get comfortable with your chosen equipment, video platform, virtual whiteboard, and your file-sharing programs. By familiarizing yourself with these tools, you will create a seamless experience that mimics in person one on one tutoring that your students will appreciate.
Planning your lessons
Before getting started with your sessions, you need to identify your student’s overall goals. Why are they seeking out online tutoring? Do they need extra help, simply prefer the one on one instruction, or are they trying to supplement their classroom experience simply? Having a sit down meeting with your clients beforehand will help you determine the best way to proceed with lessons that align with the student’s specific goals.
Every student is different in terms of how they learn. When people enlist the help of a tutor, they want the one on one attention they need to be successful. Understanding your students’ learning styles will help a new or established tutor tremendously. Not everyone learns the same way, so before creating a lesson plan for your students, consider using a questionnaire or other mechanism better to understand each of your student’s specific learning styles.
One of the more popular concepts in learning is based on the VARK model, which identifies four primary learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, or Kinesthetic. By understanding how your student learns, you can create online lessons that meet their needs, and are taught in their natural learning style.
Visual learners prefer to see information in front of them, and need visual examples of ideas and concepts. Finding a way to use visually compelling charts, graphs with pictures to illustrate your ideas and concepts will appeal to visual learners.
Auditory learners do well with lecture-style tutoring provided they can be engaged and part of the process. For example, instead of a 60-minute lecture on a topic, engage auditory learners by creating a question/answer style lesson plan. This allows auditory learners to process and understand the information fully.
These are the “traditional” learners, in a sense. These folks do best when information is placed in front of them to read. Bullet pointed PowerPoint presentations where these students can take notes and look up additional information, definitions, and related data that will appeal to this type of learner. Here are some ideas on how to use Grammarly as a tool to teach your student how to write better.
These are hands-on learners who do best with real-life examples, or things they can touch, feel, and experience on their own. As an online tutor, kinesthetic learners may be your largest challenge, since you are not in the same room with your student. Finding creative and innovative ways to provide information to kinesthetic learners will help tremendously.
Once you have an understanding of your student, their overall goals, and their learning style, you are ready to begin creating lessons.
Lesson plans for tutors
Keep lessons fluid
The important thing to remember as a tutor is to remain flexible. Your job most often is to supplement what a student is already learning or already knows. There may be times where you have a lesson plan idea in mind for a session, and your student will come to you with a homework assignment from school, a test with a poor grade, or ask you for specific help on a topic. It is important to be able to switch gears when necessary, and still create an interactive and interesting experience for your students. Use a teacher planner to keep track of your lessons and students.
Yet, don’t go into a session unprepared.
This is why being a tutor can be challenging. You don’t want to have a rigid lesson plan in mind, yet you need to have something prepared for a session to help meet the needs of your student. Don’t rely on your student to always have homework or a test to review. Make sure you have some ideas to engage your students during each session.
Create a basic outline of the goal for each session
By understanding the overall goals of your students, you can break the information down into manageable parts. Each tutoring session should be dedicated to either teaching a critical concept, expanding on the student’s lessons from school, or in some way simply moving the chess piece forward so that you are closer to the larger goal in place for your student. Have worksheets, or other supplemental materials, such as self-created videos, for example, that support the lessons you are teaching.
Some tips and tricks for effective online tutoring
- Always keep your student’s learning style in mind-teach the way they like to learn.
- Watch your student’s body language. They may tell you they understand an idea, answer, or concept, but their body language may tell you differently.
- Keep lessons engaging – the best thing about tutoring is the opportunity for interaction. This helps keep students interested. Make sure you are eliciting responses and feedback from your students.
- Be flexible – if your student is having difficulty understanding a concept, change your approach.
- Don’t just teach lessons, teach study skills – teaching your students how to find information, how to study effectively based on their learning style, or teaching them memorization tips and tricks are all part of being an effective tutor.
- Be enthusiastic. Your students will get excited to learn if you are excited to teach them.
Online tutoring has grown tremendously in recent months, and many tutors are trying to learn how to bring traditional tutoring methods to an online setting. If you follow these guidelines, you will find success in online tutoring before you know it.