Tips for Choosing an Online Tutoring Service

Charlie R. Claywell
Online Tutoring

Online tutoring is a growing trend that gives students the flexibility to learn on their own time schedule. However, the industry is growing at such a rapid pace that there's a wide gap in quality from one service to the next. Taking the time to research a company before opening your wallet can save you money in the long run.

Common Misconceptions About Online Tutoring

Deciding which tutor is the best fit for your child can be a challenge. This is especially true the first time you try online tutoring since you may not know what to expect. After studying a number of consumer questions at Skype in the classroom, it's easy to see that there are a few common misconceptions about online tutoring.

For example:

  • Online tutoring should be cheaper than in-person tutoring. The logic behind this thinking is that since there is no brick and mortar building and no need for a tutor to drive to your home, the service should cost less than traditional tutoring. Currently, the cost range for quality service starts around $30 an hour and can go considerably higher based on the subject matter. However, the reason the online tutoring industry can charger higher prices is due to a company's ability to secure highly-talented and highly-knowledgeable tutors from around the globe, whereas traditional tutoring is limited by the resources available in the local market.
  • Online tutoring is not personable. While it's true that some tutoring services do rely on computer software programs to educate the student, many of these services rely on video chat systems that allow the student and tutor to interact. Some companies also rely on a whiteboard-type environment so the student and teacher can work together on the project.
  • Reading can't be taught online. The thinking behind this misconception is that a struggling student would not be able to read the text during an online session. However, when the tutor interfaces with the student via a video chat, the setup resembles a classroom environment. A skilled reading instructor who is comfortable with technology and using digitized copy can easily guide a student along.

Four Ways to Avoid Scams

You've got to protect yourself anytime you do business on the Internet, and there are several factors to consider as you seek out a legitimate online tutoring service for your child. Some points may seem obvious, while others can provide you with some food for thought.

For example:

  1. Pay attention to a service's online presence. A quality tutoring service will present itself in a professional manner on the Internet, especially since this is the bulk of their business. If a company or individual has not taken the time to invest in a quality site that gives you the information you're looking for, choose another company. While you're on a company's site, read the About Us page and look at their credentials to see if they work with/are endorsed by colleges, universities, or educational associations.
  2. Read online reviews. In addition to making sure a tutoring company has a quality website that explains their services and their fee schedule, search for reviews about them. Read what former students have to say and see how the service is rated by independent sources, like the Better Business Bureau.
  3. See if the service has a LinkedIn account. If a company has a LinkedIn profile, they most likely have long-term plans in place. As a potential consumer, you can read what other LinkedIn users have to say about that organization.
  4. Seek recommendations from other clients. Old-fashioned, word-of-mouth recommendations from previous or current students or their parents can offer key insights into the quality of a company's tutors and the methods they use to instruct. If other students in your child's school have found success with a particular company, chances are your child will too.

Getting the Service You Expect

When you hire a company or an individual to tutor your child, make your expectations clear. Ask questions so you understand which services you will receive, the cost of those services, and the quality level of the instruction. According to Education Week, online tutoring should, at the minimum, be convenient and cost effective.

  • Look for convenient scheduling. A company that offers 24/7 availability will give you and your child the flexibility you need to work tutoring into your schedule. Some companies offer prorated services, while others are subscription based. Choose one that fits your needs. If your child will most likely need last-minute homework help as opposed to a weekly one-on-one session, a prorated approach may work best for you.
  • Choose the most cost-effective service. When you sign up with a service, be sure that you are not agreeing to an open-ended contract that could potentially let your child rack up fees. If your child needs extensive tutoring, as opposed to just getting through a homework assignment, consider a package deal so you can get the most for your money.
  • Match the instructor's credentials to your student's needs. Guide your child toward a tutor who specializes in the area he or she is struggling in and has the educational/teaching background that most closely aligns with your child's needs.
  • Match the company's specialty to your student's specific challenges. For example, if your student is not a native English speaker, a company like eAge may be a great fit since the company was designed by non-native speakers with the goal of addressing the unique challenges of learning English. Mashable offers a list of dependable online tutoring services that specialize in various areas.

Be Sure Your Child Needs a Tutor

If your child suddenly struggles in school, first rule out other factors before automatically thinking he or she needs to be tutored. There are some common reasons a child struggles that don't require a tutor to fix, including excessive extracurricular activities, inadequate sleep, or poor behavior in class. Once those possibilities are eliminated, talk to your child's teacher to get an idea of what it will take to get things back on track. Remember, if your child has only fallen behind in one subject, the school may offer free tutoring to remedy the situation. If that tutoring doesn't fit into your schedule, online tutoring may be your next best option.

Tips for Choosing an Online Tutoring Service