We had the privilege of getting Nick Dale, experienced online tutor and avid photographer, to answer some of our questions about Online Tutoring.
How did you discover your passion for tutoring
I ‘retired’ when I was 29 when I agreed to rent out a friend’s apartment in the Alps for the winter, and I ended up travelling for seven years. When I got back to London, I decided to go ‘quality of life’, and I happened to read an article in The Daily Telegraph called Ten Ways to Beat the Recession. I’d never thought about teaching before, but I’d already taught skiing and golf, so I thought I’d give it a go. I signed up to a couple of agencies and within a week had two clients. That was easy!
2. Do you think online tutoring is the future of tutoring?
Is it still a new concept to many parents and schools?
My tuition career has passed through three phases.
At first, I generally travelled to clients’ homes, then I asked clients to drop off their children at my flat for lessons and, finally, I started teaching online.
Now, all my midweek lessons are online, and I’m gradually phasing out my personal lessons at the weekend – and that’s only partly because I’m not allowed to use my new flat ‘for business purposes’!
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Why do you prefer to work online?
It saves travel time, and that allows me to fit more lessons in.
In the early days, I was cycling up to half an hour to each client, and during the week, when there was only a limited ‘window’ after school, that meant I spent up to half my time travelling rather than teaching.
I also use an ‘electronic whiteboard’ from Bitpaper that allows me to keep a record of all my lessons, including the question papers, the answers, my marks and any comments I’ve made in the margin.
That allows parents to review the lessons if they want to, and it’s also useful if I don’t quite finish an exercise as it means I can simply start again from where I stopped in the previous lesson.
3. Are there any downfalls or specific benefits in using an online tutor?
From the clients’ perspective, most people would prefer lessons to be in person if possible, particularly in the case of the initial lesson when they don’t know me.
However, they often live too far away for that, and they soon get used to the idea of online lessons. Dialling in using Skype is something they can rely on their children to do. It also means they don’t need to worry about ferrying them around and potentially being delayed by traffic etc.
The only things that are hard to teach online are skills that require drawing lines or using special symbols, which include the basic methods of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division for younger children.
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4. Why do you think the tutoring profession has grown so big over the past few years?
Education is increasingly seen as important. Over half of 18-year-olds are going to university now, and parents want to set their children on the right track by getting them into the best possible schools – whether state or private. One way of doing that is to hire a private tutor, and it’s becoming increasingly affordable as economic growth gradually raises people’s disposable incomes, particularly in London and the south-east.
5. What are the qualities of a good (online) tutor?
I don’t think an online tutor needs to be different from any other tutor.
It’s important to be
Half the battle is good communication. That’s even more important when the lessons are online as the visual ‘cues’ that we rely on to interpret other people’s thoughts and feelings are not as easy to see.
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6. What should parents look out for when choosing a good tutor?
There are plenty of tuition agencies out there, so in a way, parents are spoilt for choice.
- Price is obviously a factor, and not everyone will be prepared to pay my rate of £65 an hour.
- Location is also important if they want lessons in person.
- Beyond that, I guess it comes down to experience and ‘fit’.
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Parents want to know
- how many pupils tutors have taught and
- whether they’ve managed to help any win places at their ‘target’ schools at, say, 11+ or 13+.
- they want to feel comfortable with them and feel confident that their children will learn something in a friendly (and safe) environment.
In my own case, I try to help make things as easy as possible for parents and pupils by providing a host of educational resources online.
Past papers can be a pain to get hold of. I’ve spent hundreds of hours collecting over 1,800 of them at all levels and in all subjects so it’s now easy for me to set homework by simply asking pupils to do a paper from my website – and it only costs £5.99 for a 12-month subscription. It can also be time-consuming (and a bit boring) for pupils to have to take notes.
I have therefore written dozens of articles that help pupils carry out common tasks such as doing comprehensions, writing stories or working out simultaneous equations, and parents can simply print out whichever ones they need.
Every little helps…!
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