10 Tips for How to Be An Effective Online Tutor

Learning how to be an effective online tutor can be pretty stressful, especially since your effectiveness as a tutor directly correlates to your overall success. Being an effective online tutor goes far beyond what you do in the classroom and stretches into your general daily routine.

Like a smart man once said,

The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.

John C. Maxwell

It’s no secret that your effectiveness as an online tutor is hidden in your daily agenda. Your daily schedule as an effective online tutor should include everything you do to prepare for your lessons, how you communicate the material to your students, and how you end every class.

Why is learning how to be an effective online tutor important?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the world learns forever, with billions of people turning to their smartphones and laptops to access quality education. In a study conducted in 2019, Research and Markets expect that the global value of the online education market will reach $350 billion by 2025

With online learning gaining popularity, you’ll thank yourself for dedicating time to learn how to bring value to your students. Plus, you’ll stand out from the crowd in the sea of online tutors with all your tips and tricks!

Cambly is an excellent place to start your online tutoring career because they don’t require any prior experience or education. In fact, it was voted in the top four online ESL tutoring companies to work at in 2021.

10 Tips for How to Be an Effective Online Tutor

1. Personalize lessons to your students needs

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

Albert Einstein

I believe that every online tutor should keep this quote in the back of their mind when speaking with new students and regulars. It reminds us to be adaptable while catering to our student’s needs and unique learning capabilities. One student may be a visual learner, whereas the other may be an auditory learner.

Remaining adaptable is crucial for being an effective tutor; however, I recognize that it is harder to accomplish in a room of 5 to 20 students.

Luckily, most online tutoring settings are one-to-one, so get in the habit of playing on your students’ strengths. They’ll love you for it, and you’ll see fast progress in their abilities.

2. Take an online course

Enrolling in an online course to expand your tutoring skills is not necessary, but it will definitely help you on your path of becoming an effective tutor. 

The more you understand about the in’s and out’s of tutoring ESL (or any subject), the more effective you will communicate that material to your student. 

We should all hold a life-longer learner mindset. Admitting that you don’t know everything at all times is very admirable, and a lot of growth comes from that kind of mindset. 

ESL tutors can take a few fantastic online courses to expand their knowledge, including the TEFL or TESOL online courses.

Or, often, a SkillShare membership or YouTube will do just nicely to brush up on some skills!

Every effective online tutor comes prepared with extra resources.

3. Come prepared with extra resources

The tutoring platform you work for may provide a lot of the resources you’ll need to tutor, as seen with the Cambly Library. Although sometimes, it’s good to branch out and check out what else the internet has to offer. 

Becoming a successful and effective tutor doesn’t just happen overnight. Online tutors that take the time to build their curriculum regularly consult informative online resources to become the best at their craft. 

Check out this article where I compiled a list of the best nine free ESL resources that every tutor must have in their back pocket. 

Once you find some extra high-quality resources, share them with your students and encourage them to study the material. The internet is an incredible place with endless educational possibilities. 

4. Don’t be afraid to use TPR

Total Physical Response, otherwise known as TPR, is an effective method of teaching language or vocabulary concepts by using physical movement to react to verbal input.

TPR is essentially modelling speech, such as pretending to swing a bat when teaching a student the word “baseball.” Or gesturing a smiling motion with your hands when teaching a student vocabulary related to emotions.

TPR is highly effective for creating an engaging lesson and leaving a lasting impression on the student. Humans learn through three primary methods: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Using TPR helps you dive into all three ways.

5. Be relatable

Being a person your student relates to can be tricky; you’re fluent (or a native speaker) in the language they’re trying to learn, after all! 

However, chances are, as an online language tutor, you’ve studied some other languages, or you’ve at least studied English enough to become a qualified tutor. Show your student that you’ve done tons of learning and problem-solving to get to where you are now in your tutoring career. 

Reminisce on what it was like learning all those pesky grammar rules and sympathize with the hardship of learning a language. Share some of your best tips and tricks with them, and show them what you’ve found personally helpful for remembering some rules or critical takeaways. 

Some helpful advice you can give your students based on personal experience: 

  • Memorization techniques 
  • Note-taking hacks 
  • Mind maps that create links to verbs and vocabulary 
  • Productivity tips, such as the Pomodoro technique 
  • Positive habit creation

Being a relatable person will automatically make your student feel at ease, and in turn, will create a safe space for your student to ask any question. 

If your student feels comfortable and supported by you, they will advance in their language learning incredibly fast (making you an effective tutor). 😉

6. Professionalism is key

To gain a base of regular students you love working with, you must focus on being as professional as possible. Professionalism is absolutely vital in the online tutoring industry because this is what establishes you as a trustworthy.

In my experience tutoring ESL students online, a professional tutor will have the following attributes: 

  • Punctuality (if you’re running late, message the student and let them know! Communication is key). 
  • Schedule lessons in advance and plan
  • Send your student a message after class celebrating their achievements 
  • Always come prepared 
  • Have empathy 
  • Admit when you don’t know something (and find the answer together!) 

If you’ve nailed all of these tips above, you’re well on your way to developing a professional reputation. 

Learning how to be an effective tutor involves encouraging critical thinking.

7. Encourage critical thinking

As online tutors, it is our role to motivate our students to reach new heights and encourage them to think critically. 

As an effective online tutor, you will encourage your students to share their thoughts and opinions, study new topics, and ask thought-provoking questions regularly. 

Motivate your students to consider the material at a macro level and then dig into the nitty-gritty details of a grammar rule or an advanced text. Encourage them to problem solve when they are having difficulty comprehending a specific topic. 

When students are forced to think critically, they are much more likely to practice this form of thinking and retain more information than they would viewing something at surface level. 

Sure, good tutors help students achieve top marks in exams, but a great tutor will encourage them to think critically about the English language and the world as a whole. 

8. Make your classes interactive

I mean, what student learns anything in a boring class!? 

Making your classes interactive not only keeps your students engaged, but studies also show that conventional learning has many limitations. When students learn in an interactive environment, they are more likely to retain the material. 

Luckily, there are endless options to create an interactive educational experience with online learning. Some of my favourite ways to keep classes interactive are to read exciting news articles, have students keep a diary, and play games.

Another key to maintaining an interactive environment is to play on the student’s interests. If the student is interested in the topic, they’ll be more engaged and excited to learn!

9. Open up your schedule & be available

To gain regular students, you need to be available for more than two hours every week. Well, at least at the start when you’re trying to find repeat students! 

The most successful online tutors open their schedule a few weeks in advance. This allows time for those slots to fill up and students to ask questions about availability.

Regular students will start to see patterns in your schedule and will likely request the same lesson time each week. 

Aside from scheduling, it’s essential to be available for your students when they need you—being available means whole-heartedly supporting your students and helping them achieve their goals!

Let your students know that you are there for them anytime they have a question. Take the time to explain things in detail and remember that being available is so much more than class time.

Pro tip: I like to leave a little break in between my classes. Even if the break is only for five minutes, it allows me to be flexible with the timing of classes. This is not always possible, but when it is, it’s nice having time to accommodate a student with extra questions or to prepare for the next lesson. 

You should always start small when learning how to become an effective online tutor.

10. Start small, then branch out!

No tutor can truly be effective when they have too much work on their hands.

If you’re a new tutor, a good practice is to start with a small group of regular students and then branch out once you feel confident that your schedule is healthy and sustainable.

Check out this article on how to manage your schedule to set yourself up for success as an online tutor.

You can’t pour from an empty cup, and your students are bound to notice if you’re feeling overwhelmed. So, take things slow and focus on a few things at a time to see optimum results.

As you can see, a lot of elements go into being an effective tutor.

If you focus on having a positive attitude and a genuine interest in seeing your students succeed, you’ll do just fine in the world of online tutoring!

If you’re interested in tutoring online, check out Cambly. Cambly is an amazing online English tutoring platform where you can meet students from all over the world in seconds. Click the link below to apply!

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