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Determining Most Effective Approach: Face-to Face Tutoring or Online Tutoring?

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Anyone in the tutoring profession or has supported a tutoring program or center sites can best advise that tutoring delivery can vary from face-to-face one-on-one tutoring, group tutoring, peer tutoring, online, or web-developed tutoring programs. Such variety of delivery has definitely changed the way students are learning.

Oftentimes, if you ask any tutors, they can best advise that the most effective method for this form of instruction is based on the student’s learning styles, preferences, comfort level and other factors, such as location, cost and materials used to support the student. There really is no ‘right’ method to provide instructional support outside of the regular classroom.

Students can best benefit, however, with an instructor or tutor who can meet their learning styles, any special accommodations, preferences in curriculum used and zeroing on areas of challenges or difficulties.

Tutoring delivery has certainly changed over the years with the introduction of web-based or virtual or online support. This multi-disciplinary approach has served several benefits, but also poses some challenges. Benefits can be the flexibility of accommodating student’s schedule and creating less-stress environment where students do not have to worry about transportation to get to tutoring center. Materials can be easily uploaded to a portal, for instance, where access to curriculum and materials are easily retrievable.

However, some students who elect virtual support find that feedback may not be timely and this mode can lose the interactive essence of learning. If tutoring is not done face-to-face, students tend to lose the affiliation with peers and connection with their school or institution, thus creating that gap in active participation. Students who are more autonomous and can self-study or self-pace may not find this problematic.

Whether instruction is delivered at a virtual platform, group-setting, or one-on-one tutoring at library or at home, it is imperative to set clear guidelines and expectations. Tutors and students must establish a connection and understanding about what their roles are.

Students may only expect to receive scaffolding in specific areas or challenged courses. While, some tutors may only provide support and guidance with test preparation for specific subjects. In this case, both needs to understand which mode of delivery of instruction is best for the student to meet the student’s learning needs as well as establish the frequency of support (once a week, daily after school, etc). Both must also understand the goals for tutoring sessions in order to maximize time and create a win-win solution.

Finally, feedback is critical when engaging in tutoring sessions. Tutors need to provide timely, clear insights and observations to the lessons provided and share with the student how he or she can continue to improve. Feedback should be that – sharing how the session went, what other areas the tutor must continue to focus on, and overall, evaluate student learning. This is a reciprocal engagement in action as the student also needs to address how he or she is able to learn, what methods or techniques work, and if improvement for future tutoring sessions may involve evaluating the time spent, materials used, etc. All must be considered when delivering tutoring, whether online or face-to-face.

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