Top tips for teaching online 💻

Online tutoring is a really powerful tool that allows tutors to make an impact on the lives of students, despite their location.

We have many FAQs on the site to support our tutors, you can find them here:
[Online Lessons Help and FAQs – Tutorful]

Here’s some of my top tips for teaching online:

  • Make sure you have your equipment set up properly prior to a lesson and a stable internet connection (you can test your connection using our ‘Online Browser Test’) and if you can, enter the classroom early so that you can upload any documents, before the student joins.

  • Think about how you can make your lessons interactive - how can you get the student really involved? Maybe include a short quiz or a learning game to consolidate learning at the end of a session.

Have you got any tips for online teaching? Click the reply button to add your own advice to this thread and help other tutors out :hugs:

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Hi - I think the first thing is to pace yourself, initially I was worried that I would not have enough students, four years later I now set myself a weekly limit. I always work on the basis that for every hour online I need one hour prep. Familiar topics may only need a short amount of time but new topics or specialized support may run well beyond an hour so it all evens out. I always try to provide something more than is asked for, this keeps students and parents happy, instils loyalty both ways and produces good reviews. Take time to discover what generic support is out there on publishers websites, in my case generic coursework booklets for A level coursework for each of the main exam boards. Lastly know the rules set down by examination boards for what help you can permissibly give and clearly explain the limits to students.

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Like @MusketFifeandDrum I have had to really learn to pace myself - for every hour of teaching, I also spend about one hour prepping, researching resources etc. and providing feedback to parents.

For science, I would make sure you have really clear visual and auditory elements. So for example, if you are completing questions on ‘moles’ calculations, make sure that the student can both clearly see and hear you talk through the question and solution. Use different colours and underline things for emphasis - they all help the student process the information and stay engaged.

I’ve actually worked as an online tutor since 2017. I’ve learnt that you need to be extra expressive online, as so many subtle clues are lost - so I try and keep the tone of my voice and facial expression obvious and varied (that probably leads to come hilarious facial expressions :laughing: :roll_eyes:)

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Some really great suggestions here!

@MusketFifeandDrum I agree It’s really important to know the rules and specifications set out by the exam boards. Different exam boards will have different content and may give marks for different techniques.

@Rosie_A interesting point about having to be really expressive when tutoring online. It’s super important being conscious of keeping the student engaged with facial expressions, even if they are hilarious! :joy:

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I would not say any form of admin is my strength, I have a big plastic storage box on a waist high unit in my study, every student has a doc file with name, day and time of lesson (e.g. Monday 5pm) exam board and unit codes. The info is normally on sticky labels so files can be reused. I also have files organised by topic e.g tsarist Russia, Lenin and Stalin, the USSR after 1945, early Tudors, later Tudors, Cold war, Civil rights - everything goes into those files as central. I have just gotten round to producing a generic mark scheme for AQA A level history units for paper’s 1 and 2 as I teach a lot of AQA topics and can use this with a number of students. Lastly I have a weekly clipboard above my PC with all dates and times of lessons, this is essential as I work through two websites and have a few local bookings by word of mouth. Double booking is my biggest worry!

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@Rosie_A and @Luke_Tutorful I totally agree about the facial expressions and tone of voice, but I’m like that in real life, so it hasn’t been a problem for me. What I have found is that I can add in extra elements. I use a physical whiteboard that I turn the computer towards, so I’m off screen (I find it helps them to concentrate on what I’m writing and saying without the distraction of my ugly mug!), and I can then poke my head in from the side with a raised eyebrow!

@MusketFifeandDrum I have a folder on my computer for every student. At the end of the lesson I save any documents I’ve used to their folder, and that way I can tell what we’ve covered. It may not be the most efficient method, but it works for me!

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I have a GoogleDoc for each student, which they also have access to. All of their notes and previous lessons are on there, so if they need to revise or want to refresh their memory, they can do so on the document.

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Similarly to @KathrinS I use Google Docs for notes and Google Forms for assessments (DISCLAIMER: This post was not sponsored by Google :wink:). It saves so much time on marking homework too! No more blurry photos of scribbles :see_no_evil: I share these with my students on Google Classroom. It allows me to see their activity and progress and spot any trends. The students can see which areas they need to prioritise, what is due when and I can show their parents what they have done so far.

Here is an example of one of my Google Classrooms:

Other online assessment tools I use regularly are:

  • Quizizz - similar to Kahoot but you get more options for questions types and it has huge quiz library so you can “steal” copies of other peple’s quizzes for free and edit them if you want

  • BookWidgets - great for fun, interactive worksheets like crosswords or fill-the-gaps, particularly useful for lower ability students who need to take it slowly or for students with dyslexia and/or dyspraxia because they just need to click on things rather than write long paragraphs.

  • Quizlet - interactive flashcards, great for definitions, equations or anything else that needs to be memorised before a test or exam. Similar to Quizizz as you can either make your set from scratch or copy other people’s sets to save time.

But my tip no. 1 is getting a good laptop with a touchscreen + pen. I use a Microsoft Surface laptop and although it wasn’t cheap, it turned out to be a great investment because it enabled me to be more productive, create more resources and deliver higher quality lessons and therefore charge a higher rate. My handwriting is so much clearer and I can now easily annotate diagrams on the Virtual Whiteboard. I really can’t recommend it enough. A tablet + pen will probably work well too but I appreciate having the keyboard and a bigger screen. So if you find yourself in need of a new laptop, I recommend getting the Microsoft Surface :heart:

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As well as having a good computer, good lighting is essential. I sit facing a window and it’s great during daylight hours but have to rely on lamps after dark. With regards to microphone, I use the built in microphone on my Mac computer. I’ve tried using a headset with mic, which was ok but if I’m sharing a video, the sound on the video at their end doesn’t play. I tried microphone that I bought for making videos but found it wasn’t any better than my inbuilt mic.

With regards to internet connection, mine kept dipping in and out so I now use a wired connection with an ethernet cable and it’s much more stable.

I share PowerPoints and videos with my students, I write on the interactive whiteboard and I play online games with them by giving the children remote control. I don’t know if you can give them remove control on the Tutorful platform as I haven’t had any success using it so far and have had to rely on Zoom. (That’s another topic!)

I use a desktop whiteboard as well, so that I can model how to write things for the younger children.

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I agree with the posts that mention parents’ involvement. I think that keeping the parents informed on the progress helps you build a better and deeper relationship with the students. It takes time but it is worth it.

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I am getting used to using flip functions on cameras to enable students to see demonstrations.
I have also begun pre-recording parts and sections for individual students but it is only because I do classroom teaching (virtually) at a school.
I reply by WhatsApp/ email so there is a virtual notebook for students.

I find working online awful and I’m no good for tips etc but the journey for me to go online has been a real struggle.

I stopped my previous career because of too much computer work ( I have poor eyesight and arthritis) only to find myself having to use one again! I bought my laptop with a government grant during covid and with my daughters help I do my best.

I hate it when things go technically wrong and have lost clients because of that.

However because of Covid I do my bit to stay online and it means I can see all my regulars and have branched out into international waters!

I have just found the upload file button which is my new toy and my youngest student enjoys using the board.

I will be going back to face to face as soon as possible with my locals and look forward to seeing them all again and getting out of the house!

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Hey @Kitty, sorry to hear that tutoring online has been a real struggle. I also have issues with eyesight (I’m partially sighted and short sighted) - so it’s important for me to rest my eyes, especially on busy tutoring days.

I don’t know if this would be an option for you but I invested in a huge monitor some years ago - it’s made a big difference. I also upload a lot of PDFs to my sessions and use the ‘zoom’ feature in the online classroom a lot.

I limit the number of sessions I do in any one day and have small rest breaks between them… not sure if any of this is helpful but just wanted to reach out :heart:

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Hi Rosie

It is a pain having bad eyes it! I can’t afford a big screen.

I also can’t see a zoom button I will check.

I see everything I. The blurr, and tell students at the start if I appear to be staring and really close to the screen :joy:.

I also lost a partially sighted student because of the poor video link slowing down the whiteboard share and overlapping text from both our sides!

I know tech is the way forward but it’s not easy for some people.

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Definitely agree with a touchscreen and a pen on the laptop! It makes such a huge difference.

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Hey @Kitty,

In the ‘new’ online classroom, it’s at the bottom of the screen, on the right hand side (but only works for documents you have uploaded)

Sorry to hear you lost a student because of the poor video link! I agree, technology can be amazing but also really has its challenges sometimes! :thinking:

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  1. Touch screen laptop with stylus is essential. I use the HP Spectre x360 but there are cheaper alternatives.

  2. A PDF editor such as Bluebeam Revu. Draw on PDFs as if they were paper and remembers the previous location in each document after closed.

  3. Personally I currently prefer Zoom to the Tutorful online classroom and Skype as it allows students to take control of the screen and use my software. I hope this will be a feature in the Tutorful online classroom in the future.

  4. Personally I prefer to leave the webcam off as it is a distraction and gets in the way of screen sharing.

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Regarding the webcam: I often have it on when I meet someone for the first time. But generally during classes we both switch the video off because it can reduce the quality of the audio and general fluidity of the experience when the webcams are on. I’ve found that in almost all cases the webcam is not necessary. There have been a couple of rare exceptions when I’ve decided to use my hands to try to demonstrate something but those examples are very unusual.

I personally typically like to use Google Meet and its screensharing function and go through BBC Bitesize or Physics and Maths Tutor online materials.

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There are some great tips here, thanks everyone. I’ve been registered with Tutorful for awhile now, since this current lockdown started, but haven’t as yet gained any clients as the job board seems to be empty anytime I look. Hopefully it’ll improve once schools reopen next week.

I see a lot of you recommend a touch screen which is an issue for me as I own a Macbook Pro (no touchscreen) and can’t afford to purchase another computer right now. Hopefully it’ll work just fine once I start working online with a student.

Wishing you all ongoing success.
Cheers, Gael :slight_smile:

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Hi Gael,

Finding the first student is probably the most difficult. As soon as you get some positive reviews you will get more enquiries.

What subjects do you teach? I used to only teach Chemistry and Maths but I have been getting a lot more enquiries since I started offering Biology and Physics too. I have found that most students who are interested in Chemistry also want help with other Sciences.

Maybe you could also expand your range of subjects or exam boards? Maybe try tutoring Primary too?

Regarding the touch screen, as helpful as it is, it is not completely necessary. I tutored online for the first few months of lockdown last year just drawing on paper or typing on the screen. It was far from ideal but it was the best I could manage with my old laptop. Some people mentioned using a tablet. I personally never used one for tutoring but maybe that would be worth a try?

Hope you can get your first student soon! :blush:

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