The period since the start of coronavirus pandemic early in 2020 has been one of very disrupted learning for many students. The lockdowns, school closures and, for some, periods of self-isolation have resulted in significant loss of teaching and learning opportunities for most students. Most students have a substantial amount of catching up to do and many of them need some additional help to do so. One-to-one tuition is undoubtedly one the best ways to identify and address gaps in knowledge and to rebuild confidence.
Online tuition provides all the benefits of individual face-to-face tuition while keeping all concerned safe. It is very different to the large class online lessons experienced by many during the school closures. With one-to-one online tuition, students are involved in a direct discussion about their subject(s) and are able to ask questions freely.
I will continue to regularly review the situation regarding COVID-19 to decide when the time is right to return to face-to-face lessons in students’ homes. This involves considering the concerns of parents, as well as any implications for myself.
Online lessons are available via the video communications app Skype. Skype is free, easy to download and use. It is available for a wide range of devices from smart phones through to desktop computers.
A typical online lesson involves face-to-face discussion via webcam, sharing of device screens to show questions, diagrams or explanations. Students are able to follow written worked examples and descriptions either on a physical notepad or on a shared screen in much the same way as in a face-to-face lesson. They can also use screen capture to take copies of examples or other information to incorporate into their notes after the lesson. Prior to their first online lesson, many student expressed doubts as to how it could work. In all cases, these doubts have disappeared a short time into the lesson as they realised it wasn’t very different. Indeed a number of students seem to prefer and respond better to the online teaching.
Online lessons are so similar to face-to-face teaching that all the advantages of one-to-one-tuition discussed elsewhere on this website apply equally well. Issues such as building confidence and identifying concepts which have not been understood are even more important in the present situation. The numerous benefits of individual tuition via online teaching include:
- Helping to provide a focus and structure to the self-directed study which will be a major part of students’ learning over the coming months
- Providing help and guidance with set work from school
- Working to tackle gaps in knowledge from earlier subject material to break down barriers to learning new concepts
- Building confidence through supportive feedback on students’ work and progress
- Looking ahead to topics later in the course to ease the eventual return to school and minimise the time lost due to being at home
Most families will already have available, or can easily obtain, all the items required for online lessons. These are:
- Broadband internet connection
- A device with a webcam (either internal or external) capable of running Skype
- A Skype account
- The Skype app
Broadband internet: As with most things internet-related, the faster the connection, the better. Although the speed and quality of internet connections has varied considerably, none have posed any insurmountable problems during the lessons to date. It may be necessary to ensure that, during a lesson, no-one is involved in any data-demanding activities such as streaming video or games elsewhere in the house. It will depend on the speed of your internet connection.
Device with a webcam: A broad range of devices are suitable, ranging from desktop computers with a webcam, laptops, ipads or other tablets and smartphones. The main limitation on the suitability of smartphones will be the screen size. It may be difficult to see text clearly on a smaller screen. It is possible to split the screen to show both the camera output and a shared screen side by side. This is generally more suited to the larger screens of desktops and some laptop computers.
Skype account and app: A Skype account is free. Go to www.skype.com. Click on sign in and then select sign up and follow the instructions. The Skype app can be downloaded for free at the same website. Alternatively, if you arrange online lessons with me, I will send you a Skype invitation link which will prompt you to both sign up to Skype and download the Skype app for your device.