In this Article, Virtual / Online tuition will refer to a 'live' interaction between a tutor and one or more pupils, mediated by internet communication. This form of tuition makes it possible for teacher and pupil(s) to be in different places. Through the use of various 'platforms', they can communicate with each other synchronously (live) and can see and speak to each other. Technology can also facilitate use of powerpoint presentations or a whiteboard. Various other sharing technologies can be used to enhance communication. Synchronous communication may be augmented with online content and asynchronous communication methods such as forums or email.
- Specialist teachers for difficult-to-source subjects can be accessed by individual students or by mainstream schools without the need for relocation.
- Teachers and students can work across the globe rather than being confined to a physical location.
- Geographically distant mainstream schools can share teachers.
- Neither teacher nor pupil(s) need to travel.
- Pupils who cannot attend mainstream school can be supported in their home environment.
- Language classes or individual pupils can be connected to native-speakers all over the world for language and cultural exposure.
- Learners can revisit sessions if they are recorded
- Online tutors and sites are unregulated - anyone can advertise as an online tutor. (NB Virtual Schools in the US are regulated ... need more detail)
- Access to online tuition requires suitable technology and internet connectivity which may not be present in all pupil's homes (Rose & Blomeyer, 2007)
- 'The use of multimedia materials in online instruction requires specific accommodation to make it more accessible' to pupils with some forms of disability (Rose & Blomeyer, 2007)
Modes of Delivery
Training and Accreditation for Online Tutors *
- The Open University offers a number of options for teachers wishing to develop their skills in Educational Technology and Practice.
- The University of Oxford Department of Continuing Education offers an course in Effective Online Tutoring. There is also a free trial unit, Introduction to Teaching and Learning Online, which can be accessed if you register on the site.
- The University of Wales - Trinity St David's offer a Post Graduate Certificate in Technology Enhanced Learning
Technology Requirements *
Devices / Connectivity
Both tutor and student(s) require devices through which they can connect to the internet, and which enable transmission and reception of audio and visual content.
These are just a few of the possible ways of enabling synchronous communication online:
- Blackboardoffers a variety of platforms for synchronous and asynchronous communication and content delivery.
- Adobe Connect facilitates communication at a distance and includes a variety of teaching/learning tools such as a whiteboard.
- Skype primarily intended as a free (or subscriber) telephone and video connection service, the free version of Skype can be used to enable 1-1 tuition. Subscription (paid) services cater for class sizes of up to 9 students.
Other Sharing Technologies
- Googledrive lets the teacher and students view and edit the same file (a document, spreadsheet or presentation). The owner of the file can choose to allow view-only or editor access.
- Dropbox offers similar file sharing and editing capabilities. Extra free space is available for those with a '.ac.uk' email address.
- Box also offers some free space for sharing files, along with the ability to edit them collaboratively using google applications.
Evaluation / Research
'Abstract: The article summarizes a presentation on virtual education given by the director of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology, Karen Cator, during the National Technology Leadership Summit, held in Washington, D.C. on September 30 and October 1, 2010, and recommendations from the Summit for action by the U.S. federal government. Topics include an overview of kindergarten (K)-12 virtual education, the impact on advances in virtual education from lack of an informed research base and proactive thinking, and the importance of teacher training in advancing quality virtual education.' EBSCO link
'Abstract: Education has long been considered merit good; however, inequitable distribution has made it more akin to a toll good. This was most recently demonstrated by Henry, Fortner, and Thompson (2010). Choice requirements designed to remedy the inequitable distribution of education, have largely been confined to brick and mortar schools. Subsequently, they face challenges comparable to traditional programs. With shrinking state budgets and an increasing achievement gap, online choice options are growing in popularity as means of satisfying choice requirements specified in No Child Left Behind. This paper considers whether online options facilitate education as a merit good, or if they extend education as a toll good.' EBSCO link
Waarshauer, M. (1997), Computer-Mediated Collaborative Learning: Theory and Practice in The Modern Language Journal 81(4):470-81 (requires login)
Abstract: 'Recently interest has grown concerning the uses of online communication for language teaching. Yet this growing interest in computer-mediated collaborative language learning has not been matched by sufficient research and theory. This article introduces a conceptual framework for understanding the role of computer-mediated interaction based on a sociocultural analysis of the relationship among text, talk, and learning. The article then analyzes current research according to five features particular to online interaction.'
Qiyun Wang and Huay Lit Woo, (2007) Comparing asynchronous online discussions and face-to-face discussions in a classroom setting (requires login)
Abstract: The purpose of this study is to investigate the perceived differences between asynchronous online discussions and face-to-face discussions in a classroom setting. The students’ reflections were analysed by following a qualitative research approach. The results showed that atmosphere, response, efficiency, interactivity and communication were the top five themes that differ between asynchronous online and face-to-face discussions. Implications for designing asynchronous online and face-to-face discussions are discussed.