Use these simple tips to become an online tutor in less than 24 hours. I interviewed 20 professional online tutors and below I list their top recommendations. You can sign up for my free online tutoring cheat sheet at the bottom of this page – I’ve even included links to the best free software and best value-for-money hardware with next-day delivery options!
Becoming and online tutor requires you to evolve your tuition style; move away from pen and paper and onto BitPaper – the online whiteboard created by tutors, for tutors. I said earlier, that you wouldn’t dream of turning up to a student’s house with pen and paper, and it should be no different for an online class. You may not make use of an online whiteboard for every class, but it is important to have the option to put pen to paper at any time should you run into difficulty explaining a subject and need to use diagrams or words to help your student through the explanation.
2. Video and Audio
Top tutor tip: STOP CALLING IT SKYPE TUITION!
In fact, stop using Skype at all. Whilst Skype is very well known and easy to arrange a first tutorial on, the audio and video quality is less stable than its competitors. We recommend using Zoom because it has better features (see our how to become an advanced online tutor to learn more). Sadly, Skype tutoring has become synonymous with low-quality, budget online tutoring. When you tell your prospective clients that you use specialised audio-video software and the most advanced online tutoring software, they’ll have more confidence in your ability to tutor online.
There are many other great software tools for online tuition, but Google Docs gets a special mention for its ability to type together.
1. A decent computer or laptop
These are a requirement for online tuition. Two-way audio and video + a high-powered whiteboard + screen sharing + recording take a lot of processing power. If your computer can’t keep up, you might as well be tutoring in slow mo. We don’t recommend using only a tablet. It’s fine for the student to have a tablet, but we feel that a tablet limits your technical ability. If your computer is old and slowing down, you should consider investing in better tech before starting.
2. A writing tablet
Personally, I do not believe that a tutor should ever be without a pen. The ability to write is essential for explaining new concepts and reinforces the words that we use. It amazes me how many online tutors do not use a writing tablet and yet would not dream of turning up to a student’s house without a pen! Graphics tablets are surprisingly affordable – you can get them online for as little as £16. We recommend mid-range £50 Wacom tablets for professional online tutoring. You can earn it back in just one online tutorial. For long term students, you should encourage them to have a writing tablet too, especially for subjects such as maths.
3. A headset with mic
When you become an online tutor, your words are your work – your students must be able to hear them clearly! Use earphones with a microphone to communicate clearly. Otherwise, software like Skype picks up and amplifies background noises like your typing, subconscious tapping on the desk, or the washing machine next door! This can be really distracting for students, especially over longer tutorials. This works both ways – make them use a headset too! It does not have to be top of the range: a standard set of earphones with a microphone that comes with most phones will make all the difference.
1. Internet Connection
To become an online tutor, you must have an excellent internet connection. Students simply will not pay for a tutor they cannot hear clearly and speak to naturally, and they would be right to ask for their money back. If your internet provider is not very good, you must consider changing to a better one. Ask your neighbours who they use and if they would recommend them. Most packages can be significantly upgraded for only a small monthly increase. If this stops you having to cancel a tutorial, you’ll earn it back very quickly.
2. Quiet Space
You must teach online in a quiet, professional space. I recommend keeping your camera on so that you can still make eye contact to gauge if a student is really understanding (or listening). Tutoring in a public space like a coffee shop will have distracting background noise and sound so is a no-no for me. Now, think about your background and your own presentation – you are selling yourself? Is there a bed in the background? Worse still, is it unmade? Are you well presented? What does that say about you? As tutors, we are selling our services, and so there is a little showmanship. Set up a space in your home that has a neutral or professional backdrop (in front of a bookcase is great!) Always remember, they are paying for your time and judging you. So look professional. Show them that you take their education seriously.
Practice Makes Perfect
It may seem daunting learning how to become an online tutor, but with a little practise, you’ll be up and running in no time. To run through your new hardware and software, try inviting a friend/family member/loved one to your online class and run through creating your content on BitPaper.
1. Online hand writing practice.
Yep. You’ll need to practise using your writing tablet. It’ll take a little time to get used to looking at the screen whilst writing on a table. Don’t worry – I had this too! Try writing the alphabet out 5 times, starting really slowly and then building up to natural writing speed.
Top tutor top: I don’t recommend cursive (joined-up) writing for online tuition unless you are truly pro.
Learn to whizz around your computer naturally. Check out my next post to better understand the hotkeys that I use daily.
Now that you are ready to become an online tutor, why not see our Advanced Online Tutoring Tips to take your tuition to the next level?