Lessons over the internet are cheap and flexible. But, it also has disadvantages: The initially large distance between teacher and student.
It is not the material that is the problem, but rather its motivation, says Alec: “I am not very good at learning on my own. I need someone to kick my buttocks.” The 18-year-old from Florida naturally means that in a figurative sense. But he doesn’t have to worry about his tutors taking action either, because both of them work far away, somewhere in the USA. For instance, StudyMind provides the GCSE biology tutor in the same way here, https://www.studymind.co.uk/subject/gcse-biology-tutors. They are connected to him via the Internet. Alec is attending a business school and plans to graduate in April. So that his grades get better, he sits down in front of the computer three to five times a week in the evening, turns on his webcam, opens Skype, the most popular program for Internet telephony, and calls Kelly Krus, an engineer who teaches him math and accounting helps on the jumps, or Svenja, a future teacher, who teaches him. Alec thinks the new form of learning is “simply cool”, “more exciting” than the classic tutoring that he took for a year. “I now feel more interested in studying again.”
There are now plenty of offers for online tuition: a quick internet search reveals more than a dozen providers. Some are established companies that have been offering traditional tutoring for years and now want to gain a foothold in the e-learning market. The advantages of online tutoring are obvious: there are no annoying journeys to the tutoring institute, the lessons can be divided up more easily: It can take place four times a week – for example, to prepare for an exam – and then again at longer intervals, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes in the evening. Alec says that he stopped doing sports when he was still taking traditional tutoring and that he is more flexible now.
For many parents, it should also be relevant that online tutoring is usually much cheaper. The prices differ considerably between the providers, however, depending apparently on the qualifications of the teachers: Minnesota-based provider NoteOne, for example, charges 7.50 to ten Dollars for 45 minutes for its online tuition – the stationary variant costs nine to twelve dollars, but the one is only available in New Hope and Duluth. The company uses pupils from the 10th grade and students as teachers. Online tuition at the StudyMind, which Alec also counts among its customers, costs 16 to 18 dollars for 45 minutes – 30 dollars are to be paid for individual lessons at home, eight to 13 dollars for 45 minutes in a group. The teaching staff is students, retired teachers, and practitioners from the business world. The Minneapolis company LearnTheWork only employs academics with teaching experience. One hour of online tuition costs 15 to 22 dollars, and individual tuition in a Duluth branch costs 24 to 32 dollars.
Only a few students are still using the new service. The StudyMind, which by its own account teaches 65,000 children and adults nationwide every year, does not want to provide any information on the proportion of online tutoring; StudyMind reports that ten percent of their students take online tutoring. Nevertheless, some providers are vigorously beating the drum. For instance, StudyMind commissioned the Minnesota market research institute to conduct a survey, the results of which will be published today. According to this, 58 percent of almost 200 students surveyed who take in-patient tuition said that they would also enjoy tutoring online. 48 percent would be even more motivated to learn, according to the publication, which concludes: “It is better to learn digitally.”
Independent experts advocate a differentiated perspective. There are currently no studies that should be taken seriously about the effects of online studying, says Rudolf Clark, Professor of Media Education at the University of Minnesota. The effects of digital media in lessons, such as netbooks and tablets, and of online learning platforms, on which the material is explained and conveyed with the help of videos, graphics, and interactive tests, have already been researched quite well. “It can certainly motivate students if they also learn with digital media,” says Kelly D. “This type of learning does not in itself represent an improvement, it always depends on the content and how the teacher uses digital media.”
A decisive factor for the success of tutoring – whether stationary or online – is the relationship, the relationship of trust between student and teacher. Tutoring, which only takes place online, has disadvantages here, says Kelly D.: “With a Skype connection, students and teachers can see and hear each other, but it is difficult for them to look each other straight in the eye, facial expressions and gestures are only partially perceptible. It always stays at a certain distance. ” Engro Sinclair, head of the media education department at the State Institute for Teacher Training and School Development in the City of Minneapolis, also thinks that online tutoring can be motivating, but with this type of learning, “the risk of the student being distracted and learning less concentrated is greater because nobody is sitting next to him “.
So far, studies have indicated that the greatest successes can be achieved through so-called integrated learning (blended learning), i.e. through a combination of stationary and digital learning, say the two experts. “I think online tutoring makes sense if it is precisely tailored to the needs and performance level of the student. But I wouldn’t recommend it alone, but only in combination with in-patient tutoring,” says Rudolf Clark. Mark Sebastian, head of online tutoring at StudyMind, believes that online tutoring alone can create a relationship of trust. “Certainly a certain start-up time is necessary, but after a while, the student forgets the spatial separation. If you then listen to the lesson, you get the impression that you are exactly sitting at a place full of knowledge.