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Online and In-person Tutoring: Which Works Best?

As we continue to transition back into a "normal" school schedule and lifestyle, we may begin to finally see some of the effects that at-home learning instead of regular in-person classrooms had on our children and students. Many children finished the 2019-2020 school online and away from their friends and teachers. Some students were not even able to go back to in-person classrooms when the 2020-2021 school year began. Some schools decided it was best to slowly matriculate students back in groups instead of all at once. And — with potential shutdowns and lock-downs looming once again, the questions are: Are our children and students learning what they need to? And how much do they need to? Are they able to retain what they are learning or will learn online?

The answers to those questions are complicated. When many (but not all) students returned to modified classrooms for the 2020-2021 school year, teachers and administrators did their best to assess the situation and found that with most children, there was at least some amount of learning loss. This was expected by many parents, teachers, and school administrators. Online learning does not provide the same direct, structured learning environment that in-person learning provides. Of course, the results are going to be different. Imagine having 25 six-year-olds on a Zoom or Skype call. This is all not even to mention the fact that not all students have equal access to technology and school materials when they are at their home. They may not have a reliable internet connection. They may not have a quiet space to learn and focus. Even with the perfect environment and all the resources they could need to learn at home, students have still been found to have some sort of learning loss while at home.

Additional Help Needed

So, because of the previous shutdowns and potential lockdowns in the future, our children and students are going to need a little help to alleviate some of that learning loss and improve the retainment of vital information. There are small steps parents can take while learning at home. Reading more and making everyday tasks educational can be helpful and keep their brains rolling. But-- at some point, many parents are going to be seeking additional help outside of the home and outside of the classroom.

Teachers had their hands full before the pandemic and they are going to be overwhelmed afterwards. They are trained to do their best and will provide the best education possible for our children. But-- for some, it may be helpful to find additional professionals to help

alleviate some of the changes that have occurred over the past couple of years.

Tutoring is a viable and affordable option for many families. There are a wide variety of tutor types at different price ranges that can fit the needs of your family. In the past, when you pictured a tutoring session, you probably thought of an adult (or teenager) sitting at a table with the student in a public or school library. For a long time, this was the main option for getting help outside of the classroom. But now, we have computers and technology to help make the tutoring process fit more lifestyles and schedules.

Online and In-Person Options

Online tutoring came about because technology offered a new, more flexible option of extra learning opportunities. Tutoring, in some cases, can be paramount to the success of a student. Maybe they do not focus well in a classroom full of other people. Whatever the case, tutoring has always been something that helps struggling students succeed. And now, with online access, even if your schedule, lifestyle, or price range does not allow for in-person tutoring, you still have the option to get the help you need.

Which is better? Online or in-person tutoring? Well, that truly just depends on what you need and what benefits you the most. Everyone is different and their brains and schedules are different as well. What works well for your friend in math class may not be the best option for you.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both types of tutoring:


Online learning in a full classroom setting may result in learning loss and decreased retention, but that is not necessarily the case with online tutoring. Whereas virtual classrooms are 20-25 students plus a teacher communicating over Zoom or Skype, online tutoring is usually one-on-one instruction. Yes, it is online, but you are receiving direct instruction that you may not be able to receive in an online classroom filled with twenty other students.

Convenient/Flexible- Online tutoring allows flexibility that in-person tutoring does not. You do not have to be at a specific place at a specific time. Commuting can keep many people from tutoring depending on where they live. With online, you get to choose where you learn from. This also provides flexibility to the tutor.

Beneficial- Online tutoring provides one on one instruction. This is not something students receive in a regular classroom, let alone a virtual one. Direct instruction is one of the most proven ways to learn and retain information.

Less Direct Accountability- Like with many online interactions, it is easier to hide when you do not understand something. It is harder to read facial expressions and energy through a computer, so a tutor might have a harder time figuring out when the student is struggling with a concept. Technical difficulties can also create some misunderstandings or missed information.


The more traditional method of tutoring; in-person provides a direct interaction that is hard to mimic through a virtual lesson. There are some drawbacks to in-person tutoring, but most of them deal with convenience, access and pricing.

Direct/Focus- Sitting right next to a tutor is going to encourage a greater focus than an online classroom. In-person tutoring might be best for those who struggle concentrating without direct, formal instruction. It can be much more difficult for a tutor to notice a student having a hard time paying attention or losing focus through a computer. Both online and in-person one on one tutoring are methods of direct instruction, but it can be easier to stay accountable in regards to attention and focus when you are in person with the tutor or student.

Personal Relationship- You can form a personal relationship with an online tutor. However, it is much easier to gauge energy, reactions, and mood when you are in person versus a computer. Having a tutor that knows the student’s personality well enough to gauge how they are feeling about a topic, can really help a student grasp information. A tutor and student can get to know each other through a computer and form a solid relationship, but virtual tutoring cannot exactly replicate the type of relationship and connection that can happen when tutoring takes place in person.

Less convenient- This reason alone is why online tutoring became a common method of additional learning. Some families have busy schedules or have long commute times. Being able to go in person is great, but not everyone has that ability. Factoring in commute time with the actual time of the session makes a one hour tutoring session into a two hour tutoring session. Some families may only have access to one car at a time and therefore have no transportation. Some tutors may offer homes services and regularly tutor at the homes of the students, but this can add to the price of tutoring as the tutor has to make the commute themselves. Online tutoring provides a significant amount of convenience that in-person tutoring does not.

More Costly- Because in-person tutoring involves not only a commute for the student, but also the tutor, this is often factored into the price. This makes in-person tutoring often more expensive than online. There could also be potential cost for the space being used or physical books and materials.

As you can see, there are valid pros and cons to both online and in-person tutoring. Online tutoring offers a convenience that in-person tutoring cannot provide. In-person tutoring offers a relationship and focus that is really difficult to achieve in an online lesson. Both of these methods are ways for children and students to practice methods and lessons outside of the regular classroom. They are both beneficial. The best option for you and your student

may vary from their classmates. Your schedule may be flexible and you may have access to multiple cars. This could mean that in-person tutoring is within the realm of possibility for you. Or— you may only have access to one car and your family’s work and extracurricular schedule may be all over the place. In which case, online tutoring may be the only option. Online tutoring can offer exceptional services, so you do not have to feel like you are settling for one method over the other. It's just what works for you and that is fine. If your child has issues focusing without strict accountability, it might be worth it to see if you can squeeze in-person tutoring into your schedule.

Whatever method you choose, your child will be receiving the additional teaching and repletion of concepts that they need. In both methods, they are often receiving direct one-on-one instruction, which is proven to be the most effective form of teaching and learning. Figure out which method works for your child and your family and move forward. Both are incredibly beneficial and you will see the results in your child’s performance at school.

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