Online Tutoring

tutoring, virtual tutor, boost academy, online

“Is mobile learning right for every student? Perhaps not. But for those students who are comfortable with technology and prefer the convenience factor of mobile learning, there is no reason to doubt the efficacy of the experience . . .” This guest post shares information regarding virtual tutoring, as opposed to face-to-face tutoring.

[This is not an endorsement by The Education Cafe to use virtual tutoring services. Guest posts are featured to inform our readers of available resources. You should investigate to determine whether or not it fits your educational goals, standards, and budget.]

The Efficacy of Remote Tutoring

In terms of academic studies, while there has been considerable research into asynchronous online tutoring (think MOOCs, Khan Academy), synchronous tutoring has been given less attention. Available research points to the same set of challenges posed by tutoring not following the usual face-to-face mode, and this consensus has led to similar agreement as to recommended procedures to be followed to allow for an optimal virtual lesson meeting or exceeding the outcomes we have come to expect with a customary face-to-face tutoring experience.

These studies in mobile learning agree there are clear advantages. This is a natural environment for young people, and students are not intimidated in the least. Lessons are recorded for future reference, and technology-based resources are immediately available to both tutor and student. In addition, one-to-one virtual lessons remove some of the more unpleasant aspects of face-to-face interaction, which can hinder the efficacy of a lesson—tutors can focus more on the topic at hand rather than the behavior of the student.

Mobile learning environments take this one step further: The touch screen technology and portability of tablet-based learning promotes usability, making it much more convenient to attend and participate in a lesson.

But what about outcomes?

Do privately tutored students fare as well remotely v. in-person?

In order to answer this question, it helps to look at what remote tutoring with VoIP lacks. Non-verbal communication is the most obvious difference. Addressing this point, researchers Price, Richardson and Jeffs (2007) concluded in their study of online v. face-to-face tutoring that “tutors and students need training in how to communicate online in the absence of paralinguistic cues” (p.19). This is the first point raised by those who seek to understand how we are comparable. Can we achieve effective online interaction without being able to see the student and respond to cues such as furrowed brows, a far away look in the eye—all those signs a teacher is used to reading in order to gauge understanding? There is no doubt that a usual means of communication is lost. However, this is in no way insurmountable. All that is required is an adjustment, and in our alpha and beta phases of testing our application in over 100 lessons, we have observed this to be the case: Adaptation comes readily both to students and tutors. Tutors listen for prolonged pauses and make sure they ask the right questions, and more questions, in order to draw the student out. In fact, many students are more comfortable opening up to the tutor about their lack of comprehension because they feel they are not being “observed.”Students are not under scrutiny—just the work itself.

Is mobile learning right for every student? Perhaps not. But for those students who are comfortable with technology and prefer the convenience factor of mobile learning, there is no reason to doubt the efficacy of the experience provided the tutor is highly competent. In fact, studies that compare online and FtF (face-to-face) tutoring lead to the same conclusion: It is not the technology, but the pedagogy, which distinguishes outcomes.


tutoring, virtual tutor, boost academy, online learningAbout the Author: Dr. Patricia Flaherity is an educational researcher who holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and has over a decade of experience teaching and tutoring at every level, from preschool to adult learners. Her career encompasses work in K-12 public and private schools, as well as community colleges and universities. She currently holds the position of Director of Tutoring at Boost Academy, leading the way in innovative remote mobile tutoring at


Anderson, L., Fyvie, B., Koritko, B., McCarthy, K., Paz, S. M., Rizzuto, M., Tremblay, R. and Sawyers, U. (2006). Best Practices in Synchronous Conferencing Moderation. Technical Evaluation Report. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 7(1). Retrieved June 30, 2006 from:

Linda Price, John T. E. Richardson and Anne Jelfs. Face-to-face versus online tutoring support in distance education,

Studies in Higher Education Vol. 32, No. 1, February 2007, pp. 1–20. The Open University, UK.

Submitted by Louise Steller for Boost Academy, June 26th, 2014.


Click here if you would like to learn about submitting a guest post for The Education Cafe.


Other posts on The Education Cafe that might interest you:

Online Schooling

Types of Curriculum: Technological Learning

Learn Language Online for Free!





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