online tutoring best practice

How to Become a Successful Online Tutor

Teaching Trends and Best Practices

Urvi Bhagi is an eLearning consultant, advising instructors on pedagogy in virtual environments. She frequently writes on STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. Because these areas are deeply intertwined and play a crucial role in how students learn, she consults instructors on how to increase effectiveness and engagement in online sessions. She has served as an e-learning consultant with researching about latest trends in e-learning and education technology. In addition, she contributes on prestigious eLearning websites and blogs as an author.

Urvi will be presenting a webinar on ‘7 Best Practices to Become a Great Online Tutor’ on April 27, at 1 pm EST, in association with WizIQ. She will share her experiences of teaching online and the practices she swears by.

Last week, she spoke with Arpit – Sr. Online Marketing Executive, on constantly changing educational scenario and challenges that online educators face.

Excerpts from the interview: 

Arpit: There’s a great deal of difference between online and offline teaching – the environment, the course content, course length, medium of instruction. Naturally, these two would use different strategies. To be effective in the new and ever-changing digital environment, aspiring online teachers will need to develop a different skill-set. They cannot rely on the same skills that they used in a traditional classroom. How important is this change? And how challenging can it be?

Urvi: It is wrong to assume that online tutoring is simply about having a tutor deliver instructions to the students over internet. Online tutoring has grown in response to the changing demographics of present day learners as well as their changing learning needs. Online Tutoring is not a means to horizontally displace the traditional classrooms but in fact can effectively become vertically linked to it as well.

Imagine how great it will be for a teacher to walk into a classroom where the students have already mastered the fundamentals of the lessons with an online tutor the evening before in the comfort of their homes. This frees the teacher from the dirty’ rote learning work, leaving it to infinitely patient online tutors. Teachers are freed up to utilize their classroom time for higher level, critical thinking activities and problem based learning in class.

On the other hand students gain motivation and confidence in classrooms when they are prepared in advance for the lectures. Also, there is no peer pressure of asking online tutors their ‘dumb’ questions. This ends the keeping up struggle and enables students to learn at the pace that they are comfortable with.

Realistically, even the most dedicated traditional classroom teacher cannot spend time and resources to offer 100% adaptive and individualised instructions and assessments to students. However, by working with these online tutors who tackle students 1:1 it becomes easier to track fast learners as well as students struggling with content.

Arpit: Online tutoring has become very popular even though most educators still struggle to turn it into a thriving business. What could be the possible reasons? You have been teaching online for long. As a successful online tutor, where do you see the gaps?

Urvi: The online learning and online tutoring has grown leaps and bounds since its inception 20 years ago. Over seven million students worldwide, enroll in at least one fully online, for-credit course in any given year, while millions other unaccounted students are part of variety of blended or hybrid courses. However, several un-addressed areas have become apparent in due course. While the number of students enrolled with online tutoring has grown, most students are opting for one-to-one tutoring formats even in online environment.

This is because the students are constantly in need for personalized yet cost effective tutoring options. Students are looking for tutors that can deliver tailored learning experiences to suit every student’s personal learning objectives as well as learning styles and abilities. There is a dearth of online tutors who can personalize their tutoring and adapt to student’s strengths and weaknesses as learners, as well as deliver instructions to incorporate students’ medium of interest. The next big wave of learning analytics will definitely seek to plug in these gaps and differentiate a great online tutor from just another online tutor.

Arpit: There are a couple of things that differentiate an online educator from a great online educator. In your upcoming webinar, you’re talking about ‘7 best practices to become a Great Online Educator’. How can online tutors embark upon the journey of becoming good to great?

Urvi: Yes, my next webinar will focus on 7 Practices to Become a Great Online Tutor. Keeping in mind the demographics and learning characteristics of present-day learners, a great online tutor has to be distinguished from a tutor for whom online tutoring is singularly about using technology as a medium to deliver instructions. With the emergence of new education technology as well as learning analytics tools there is a significant difference between an online tutor and a great online tutor depending upon how they harness the education technology as well as learning analytics. In fact the webinar discusses 7 essential tips that can establish a role for online tutors as distinct from conventional classroom-teachers and yet equally effective.

These seven tips will revolve around

  1. bringing a fresh perspective to learning with new media and technological inputs
  2. assigning learning objectives in an online tutoring space
  3. using appropriately suitable media format for content delivery
  4. provoking responses from learner : Active Online Learning
  5. discussing optimal content length and time for online tutoring
  6. proving that learning took place in an online tutoring setup
  7. leveraging analytics for delivering tailored tutoring solutions

We will also discuss how online tutoring is giving way to a new format of microlearning and flipped classroom.

Arpit: Now that the attention spans have reduced significantly, there have been debates around the ideal content/course length. Microlearning is one concept that has emerged lately. Why do you think, content length matters so much?

Urvi: Content length matters a lot to learners in online learning environment. The learners today are constantly on the lookout for what, how, why, when kind of queries with quick access to multiple technology-enabled intelligent sources over internet. With attention spans of humans being significantly reduced, learners are constantly looking for smaller chunks of information to address their queries and learning demands in 5 minutes or even less. Microlearning, thus, comes natural to present-day learners. Now you might think that it’s easy given we can always break a 45 minutes long video into 9 smaller micro-videos of 5 minutes each.

However, it goes beyond this. Such a micro-series needs to be designed recursively in a way such that individual micro-learning targets are fulfilled in tandem with a larger macro-learning target. Only such micro-learning content will be amenable to search, access and re-use by learners with all permutations of the micro-learning objectives.

Arpit: What advice would you give teachers who wish to begin their journey as online tutors or want to take their online teaching business to the next level?

Urvi: For anyone who wishes to successfully venture into online tutoring, I would urge them to ask the following questions:

  • Who are my learners? Not only in terms of their demographic information, but in terms of their learning objectives, their learning styles and content preference and how they learn best. These learning analytics will help the online tutors to engage and retain learners in an online environment.
  • What kind of learning activity will be most effective for my learners? Technology by itself cannot guarantee effective learning. Technology is a tool for teachers in an e-learning environment that can be leveraged to construct a learning activity to ensure effective learning takes place. Based on whether the learners are experiential learners, visual learners or whether they are more team oriented or learn better in a 1:1 setting, an optimal learning environment should be produced to complement individual differences among learners. No one-size-fits-all approach will be effective with online tutoring.
  • Are there more innovative ways to use IT to make learning more successful? A great online tutor must always strive to inculcate the latest trends in e-learning and education technology in a manner that can make the learning process more active, social, and learner-centered.

To know more about online teaching best practices, attend Urvi’s upcoming webinar. Enroll now by clicking on ‘Save my Spot’ button.


Arpit Daniel

Sr. Online Marketing Executive at WizIQ. When it comes to Webinar, MOOC & online conference marketing, I am on the top of the game. Love to compose music on my Ibanez 6-string.

3 thoughts on “How to Become a Successful Online Tutor

  1. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful article. Online tutoring is not an easy task, it requires a lot of efforts and patience. Tutors them self-need to study for hours to teach something to the students.

  2. Hi Urvi, hope you are fine. Thank you for sharing this informative post. Your blog is really helpful to the online tutor. When someone providing teaching through online to the struggling students, one need to assess the student fully. Pointing out the areas where the student is struggling. One thing is very important to teach a struggling student: tutor should use easy steps so that students can learn easily. They must use different techniques. One such is pictorial representation.

    1. Thanks Garfield. Great to hear that you found this post informative. True that an instructor must use different techniques to teach students. Because each one learns in a different way.

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