Virtual tutoring has never been easier thanks to video-conferencing programs, such as Skype, Google Hangout, and iChat, and collaborative tools, such as GoogleDocs. Tutoring over long distances has become as easy as working face to face. The sessions can be personal and productive with proper preparation and attention to detail.
I recently worked with a student from St. Petersburg, Russia, who was preparing to take the SATs. After working through some basic logistics regarding file sharing, time zones, and test preparation materials, we scheduled our first formal session, and I contacted her from my kitchen table in New York City. After introducing ourselves, we jumped right into the test materials. Since Skype and Dabbleboard both allow for sharing files directly, I was able to share our own My Learning Springboard curriculum and supplementary materials quite easily. We were then able to work seamlessly on practice problems.
While cross-continent phone calls are an option, video conferencing is vastly superior besides for the fact that it costs nothing more than the price of a basic internet connection. Having the student on video allowed us to have a more personal connection, as well as being a much better venue for non-verbal communication. When my student did not quite understand something but was afraid to speak up, I could see it on her face just as I could in person. I was also able to communicate encouragement and non-verbal feedback through body language that could never have been achieved via phone.
We did find that Skype sessions had a general limit of about an hour in terms of overall engagement and attention. Nonetheless, video conferencing has made distance learning a true alternative to working in person. When face to face tutoring is impossible, Skype tutoring is as close as it gets, with all of the same rewards. With this technology, high-quality teaching can be brought to any corner of the globe with incredible results.
By Sam Yamshon, Private Tutor