As with all of the categories we work on, our reviews of the most popular and well-used UK Online Tutoring websites are the most comprehensive you will find anywhere online. Even so, it can often be difficult to decide which services are right for your particular needs (or those of your child), especially if you haven’t had much experience of using these services before. This buyers guide helps to fill the gaps by giving you the low-down on exactly what you should be looking out for when you’re reading our reviews in this category, to help you make the right decision about which service is exactly what you’re looking for.
Online tutoring is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of different online tools and resources that help children and young adults with their schoolwork. The mainstay of these resources is access to a real-life tutor, often an expert in the field and with experience in teaching that particular subject, who is the initial point of questioning and contact within the service. Tutors often give their lessons through webcam, internet-phone or instant messaging chat, meaning that students can ask questions and develop their knowledge in a discursive and communicative environment.
The exact content of the services we have reviewed in this category varies depending on the subjects and levels covered. In order to give our readers a thorough idea of what to look out for when choosing a service, and what features in particular will be of most use to them, we have considered some of the most common of these features below.
- Subject Coverage
One of the most important things to consider when choosing an online tutoring service is the subject coverage of a particular service. While many services cover all of the major national curriculum subjects, not all do, and therefore it’s worth checking in advance whether the subject you require tuition for is covered by the service. As well as common subjects such as English, Maths, Science, French or German, a lot of services cover more unusual subjects such as Elocution, Sociology, Psychology or CV Writing. Be sure to check out the full subject coverage for each service to see what’s on offer.
- Age Range / Level Coverage
Another important thing to check out when choosing which service is right for your child, is whether that service provides coverage for the appropriate level of age range that you require. Broadly speaking, online tutoring services start providing services for children around aged 7, all the way up to university-age and beyond, although many services concentrate on a particular age-range or level within this spectrum. Other services may not specify the age of students they tutor, but may concentrate on the level (11+, GCSE, A-Level, Undergraduate, Postgraduate) they teach at. Either way, be sure to check that the service you’re thinking of signing up to is able to provide the right level of service for what you require.
The real value in online tutoring services is often in the quality of the tutors themselves. If a service has good tutors who are experienced in teaching a particular subject and are passionate about it, that service will generally produce good results. Bad tutors, who are inexperienced or disinterested in teaching will not inspire students to do well and therefore will not achieve very good results. Almost all services require their tutors to hold degrees in relevant subjects, but check out the individual requirements for each service (listed in our reviews) as some are more prescriptive than others. What’s more, if the student in question will be under 18 when they are tutored, be sure to check that the service you are subscribing to requires a CRB check as standard.
The use of technology is one of the things that helps bring learning alive when using an online tutoring service such as those reviewed in this category. Look out for sites that allow students and tutors to communicate through webcam chat, interactive learning environments (such as ‘whiteboard VLE’), VOIP (Voice-over-Internet-Protocol services, similar to Skype) or instant messaging, all of which help to make learning more fun. This also helps students and tutors to engage more with each other, making it easier for students to ask questions and improve their knowledge on particular topics.
- Flexibility & Variety
Although sticking to a rigid schedule may be the best way for some to get the most out of online tutoring services, we believe our readers should look out for services that offer their users flexibility and variety, not only in learning style but also in the scheduling and timing of lessons. Look out for services that let you set the pace and content of lessons, as well as deciding how long a lesson lasts and when it takes place. It sounds like a straightforward thing, but having the ability to dictate what is covered within a lesson and how long a tutor spends on a particular topic will have a real impact on how successful your tutoring is.
Although this buying guide is intended to give general advice as to what to look out for when choosing a service, the price of such services is an important consideration. Our in-depth reviews will give our readers information about the specific cost of each service, but in general terms be prepared to pay anywhere from £10 to £35 (and in some cases a little more) for an hour’s tuition.
Some services provide packages of lessons (for which subscribers receive small discounts) while other services offer additional materials (such as practice exams and revision materials) free of charge to those subscribing for tutor sessions. As with anything, shop around to get the best combination of quality and price.
Quality is definitely a buzzword here – you need to be sure the service you sign up to is offering not only the sort of features you’re looking for, but that the tutors are experienced, well educated and most importantly, have the capacity to teach well. While the cost of such services is of course a consideration, this is an industry where you really do get what you pay for – sometimes, it’s worth paying a little more to get a great teacher who will help you, or your child, move on faster. Good luck!