Face to Face tutoring - a thing of the past?

Hi every one ! I have a question which could be relevant for all tutors. I am new to Tutorful myself, but have been tutoring independently for 18 months (GCSE English plus elementary and intermediate ESOL). When I started my lessons were all face to face but during the pandemic everything had to go online.
There are many advantages to online lessons, particularly convenience and the fact that you can tutor students anywhere on the planet (I currently work with two Spanish students), but what of the things that are unique to face to face tuition ?
I want to be able to monitor how well a student or a class is engaging and learning, and one of the ways I have done this in face to face lessons is to observe body language.
Also the ability to switch the style and format of a lesson to cater for the need of the moment is more difficult online, I would say, depending on how skilled you are in using the tools the software provides.
We obviously need to make the most of all the new opportunities which the online classroom offers, but I don’t think that means we should abandon the idea of face to face work.
Does any one have any thoughts on this ?


I completely agree. I took on a new student during the pandemic, as the result of direct parent recommendation from a current client. While those lessons have been successful so far I was completely unaware of many facets of the student’s personality and learning behaviours that were only revealed when I met them face to face last week. In the space of just one hour of in-person tuition I learnt more about the student, their needs and home/learning environment than I have over the course of several weeks online!

Thanks Lewis for sharing that. Do you expect to get other opportunities to do face to face tutoring ?
I was interested in the areas in which your in-person lesson gave greater awareness : “student’s personality … learning behaviours … their needs and home/learning environment”
It is good to consider these issues, both to see how we can better use the online classroom as well as to keep seeking in person opportunities.

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There has been a lot of debate over in person verses online and I have to admit I was strongly against online lessons.

However I had to adapt and now work more online than in person. I would have preferred the option to still have in person new student ms on here but that is now not possible.

I do agree that there are many advantages to having in person lessons as you have stated.

For me they tend to stay for years rather than months as well.


Great to hear from you, Kitty. Personally I have no in person lessons at the moment as I moved house a few months ago and am too far away from the students. But I intend to find some in this area if I can.
What have you found to be the biggest challenges in going online ?

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For me it’s my arthritis and eye sight, it’s the reason I stopped working as a Secretary I couldn’t see and work quick enough on computers and now I have to use it again!

Hi Steve,

Yes, I do expect to get other opportunities to do face to face tutoring; in fact, I’ve gained a new student this week. Fortunately for me, the parent I mentioned in the other post keeps recommending me to her friends and some of those live close by. The first lesson was online, but when I suggested the possibility of in person the student’s mum was 100% on board with the idea. I just find that, whatever Mark says to contrary, the appetite for in-person tuition is just as strong as before Covid. Some topics, for example, fractions and decimals, are just so much easier to explain and illustrate in person. I think being able to observe a child’s body language is invaluable, especially with the younger students. Best of all, I don’t have to worry about technical problems or the internet or the student’s/parents’ technical knowledge, etc.

Like Kitty, some of my face to face students have been with me for years now. I don’t see any correlation between student retention rates and whether the tuition is online or face to face.


Surfing the web tonight I came across some interesting data that I would like to share.

The Tutors Association have recently published (29 July 2021) a survey - a follow up apparently to their 2020 survey.

Headline in their blog “In person tutoring is least favourite option”

Clicking on the link I found more details. “80% of tutors want their tutoring to be either solely on-line or part of a mixed approach over the next 12 months”.

“It is a similar story for students and their parents. Almost three-quarters of students surveyed said they wanted either a mixed or exclusively online tuition approach over the next year. Although some parents are keener on a return to in-person only tuition (37%), the majority (63%) prefer a mixed or an online-only approach”.

Looking deeper into the report. The question asked of 2700 people (combining results from students tutors and parents) was “Do you want to return to in person Tutoring ?” Survey results were

Yes 23%
No 27%
Mix 50%

It would appear that support for face to face tutoring has dropped from the 87% figure previously reported on this forum to around 80% Could this fall be due to a perception that the Covid 19 crisis is nearing its end ?

Comments anyone ?

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Hi Philip !

Thanks very much for this interesting material.

It is good that the Tutor’s Association have looked into this in such a helpful way, However I am not sure that I agree with their headline “In person tutoring is least favourite option”
As always with statistics it depends on how you interpret them.

Looked at another way , 73% of respondents want to return to in-person tutoring, of whom two thirds want to carry on with a mix of online and in-person. In that light ,“In person tutoring is the favourite option.”

The big attractions of IMHO of online tutoring are convenience and reach, and having worked in this way for well over a year it is not surprising that most people want to retain this part of their portfolio. The battle to be won is to return to the more effective learning experience of face to face tuition where we can, and the default would be not to bother.

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Hi Steve,

Rest of post deleted by author - I thought I had sent a private mail back to Steve

@SteveJ @Philip

Hi Phillip,

Please do share the rest of your thoughts on here unless there is some underlying reason to only converse with Steve as I found your research very interesting.

I do, however, agree with Steve that the takeaway from this survey should be that 73% want at least some face to face tuition in future. I can only speak for my students, but so far all those I’ve asked have taken up the return to (or in some cases, initiation of) face to face teaching.

Hi Lewis,
I don’t actually think that I posted anything that can’t be deduced inferred or extrapolated from the data I posted last night.

However one extra thought strikes me today.
Tutorful tell us that 87% of tutors prefer on-line.
This recent survey tells us that 37% of parents prefer face to face.

Since parents decide between the two options (face to face vs on-line) is it fair to conclude that post pandemic 13% of tutors will be hunting 37% of the work ??


Bear in mind that we’ve yet to find a tutor that can remember taking part in any such survey by Tutorful.


Interesting. Only a small sample and if people who were contacted by the association or searched for the survey? I knew nothing about it but know of the association.

I am building my business with a mix of both options but I much prefer in person and most of my regulars at present are in person.

I have plenty of room but sadly I have not had a student from Tutorful for month now. I am expensive compared to others on here.

My website goes live soon so I shall see then which is the most popular option!

I don’t think so. I have quite a few students who come to me in person and I would hate to lose that. I think online tuition is just another avenue whereby students who learn best remotely can access tutors.

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I just resumed in-person lessons with a student whom I used to teach in person pre-pandemic. I can’t stress enough what a difference it made to teach him face to face. He’s being going backwards rapidly for the last few months, but In just one hour of face to face tutoring he’s made more progress than weeks of online lessons.

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Hi Lewis
Thanks for that : really interesting.
Perhaps if we could pin down what it is about the face to face tutoring that makes the difference we could not only maximize those benefits in the physical classroom but also learn how to tweak the online sessions so that we can improve their (albeit lower level) effectiveness ?
As I said before I am speaking as one who currently only has online classes although I am looking to start some face to face as I prefer them.
E.g: by giving more time for discussion on “view speaker” mode full screen so as to give opportunity to read body language…

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I have also resumed face to face lessons and I have recommended some of my students to be tutored face to face and they have a better attitude to learning.


Face to face is and always will be the best way to tutor. During the various lockdowns, not a single one of my Tutorful pupils showed any interest in online tutoring, and some pupils were astonished that such a thing existed - particularly for learning a musical instrument. I lost several pupils as a result of them not being able to be taught face-to-face. Teaching an instrument online only works if the pupil has a natural willingness and aptitude, otherwise online teaching can be a major problem.

I had the odd private pupil who agreed to online teaching during the pandemic, but returning to face-to-face was a big relief to both them and myself.

This is the reason that the majority of jobs on the jobs board naturally assume that lessons are face to face. Unfortunately, Tutorful still aren’t addressing the problem of making it more obvious that lessons are now online, despite many tutors raising the issue over the course of several months.


So today I had this message:

Hi Matthew hope you are well. I am sorry to inform that we will stop all the lessons from this week. I am looking for face to face lesson for ______ from now and I need to cancel all online lesson. Thanks for your help so far and if we need extra help, we will be in touch.

This is a couple of months after receiving this message:

Hi Matthew I would like to inform you that we have found a tutor to come home to teach ______ she has found being in person much more useful therefore tomorrow will be her last lesson. We would like to thank you for everything you have done for ______.

Now I don’t want this to look like I’m using it as a stick to beat Tutorful with, as it happens I enjoy online tutoring, the freedom it brings, the limit on needing to use petrol etc but in both these cases I was tutoring a pupil for at least 8 weeks, the pupil was enjoying the sessions but in both cases they cancelled in favour of face-to-face tuition and my major worry is - in a week where Boris is cancelling all covid restrictions - that people will begin to favour face to face tuition a lot more. I guess all I’m trying to say is I’m worried lol … anyone else? Or am I overreacting?