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15 Online Tutoring Tips for Students

By Dr Scott R. Dempsey on 20th August, 2021

Are you a student who is being tutored online?

Perhaps you’re thinking about getting an online tutor but not sure what it will be like or have some worries about starting.

Fear not, we’ve got you covered in this article.

We’ve asked some of the most experienced students to share their advice on having effective and enjoyable online tutoring sessions. We’ve compiled their advice into 15 top tips. So, whether you’re completely new to online tutoring or you’ve been learning online for years, there’ll be something here for you.

Here’s an overview of the tips we’ll cover:

  1. Ask lots of questions
  2. Keep water and snacks on hand
  3. Have fun
  4. Have a plan
  5. Make use of your lesson recordings
  6. Take breaks
  7. Be yourself and personalise your learning
  8. Don't be afraid to ask for help
  9. Be Engaged
  10. Take Notes
  11. Find a comfortable place to work
  12. Minimise distractions
  13. Ensure your devices are well charged
  14. Check your connection
  15. Connect with your tutor

Let's start with one of the most popular suggestions...

1. Ask lots of questions

One of the most popular tips from students was to ask lots of questions. This is one of the biggest advantages over traditional classroom lessons, where it’s not possible for everyone to ask when they don’t understand something. It’s at that point when it can be easy to switch off and knowledge gaps start to appear. It can be a bit of a mental shift at first, but you should treat your online tutoring sessions more like a conversation with your tutor, rather than something too instructional.

Mariya - Student

“Throughout my years of education, I have never been able to understand large amounts of texts. However, my tutor designed my lessons as if we were both asking questions to each other to help guide me to know what I need to be taught for that topic. For example the topic of negative feedback is one I struggled with the most in class and my tutor helped me understand it effectively.”

“If there is anything you do not understand, ask the tutor during the lesson time as it may be very hard to communicate after. As soon as the lesson finishes try to hydrate or eat a small snack. Try to write notes down and go back to the recorded session to fill in knowledge gaps.”

Robert - Student

“Be open and honest - discuss how you're feeling with your tutor so you can work through things together. Having the opportunity to have one on one tutoring has massively boosted my confidence and grades and will allow me to progress on to the next stages of my life.”

2. Keep water and snacks on hand

Many students recommended having snacks and drinks on hand to aid their learning and there is strong evidence to support this. The brain needs glucose for fuel and many studies have shown that dips in glucose availability can negatively impact attention, memory and learning. In addition to this, the brain (which is made up of around 80% water) will not function as well if you are even mildly dehydrated.

So if you want to improve your performance, have a piece of fruit and a bottle of water to hand and watch out for things which can cause dehydration.

Oanna Osa-Oni - Student

“Get a snack nearby and a drink. Furthermore, you don't have to sit down. I find standing up and placing my device level to my standing height eye is a lot more effective and less of a strain to my back and eyes.”

3. Have fun

Make your lessons fun. Many students mentioned that having fun whilst learning can be beneficial - so look forward to your lessons and work with a tutor who will make your lessons an enjoyable experience.

image showing a fun page from a Bramble notebook playing a division game

Jheanelle - Student

“I think people should try their best, have fun and listen to the tutor because it could really improve what you're learning.”

4. Have a plan

It’s important to remember that your online tutoring lessons are not the same as classes at school. In class, you can’t always control what you study and how you study it. Tuition offers you the opportunity to have more of a say in what you’re studying. With this in mind, it can be very useful to work with your tutor to plan your lessons in advance and let your tutor know what you wish to study so they can prepare resources for you.

Manvir - Student

“Have a plan for each tutoring session in advance and work with the tutor accordingly. I literally couldn't have done this year without the help of my tutors. At the start of the lockdowns my tutors helped provide a level of structure to my day in a chaotic time. My tutors have ensured that my grades did not slip during lockdown and they have been so useful in marking and helping with exam questions in preparation for my year 13 exams.”

Surayia - Student

“It really helps if you have a to-do list with you as you do your lesson so you can tick off what you've completed and what you haven’t. This has helped to work on topics I didn't fully understand in class in a one-to-one format.”

Rohan - Student

“Plan the lessons in advance and set out a list of things to achieve to boost productivity. Every week during lockdown I was tutored by a Cambridge Medical student in Biology and the Medicine admissions process. This I believe was the main reason why I eventually got an offer to study medicine at Cambridge.”

Irram - Student

“Make sure you read up on what you will be studying before your session. It will definitely help when it comes to your tutor asking questions about it. It is also useful to make a list before the session on the main things you don't understand, this way your tutor can tailor your sessions to ensure you are getting the most out of your tuition.”

5. Make use of your lesson recordings

With Bramble, you can revise and search all of your tutoring lessons. It means that you can learn from your learning in one place; safe in the knowledge that all of the content you covered was delivered by your tutor and delivered in a way that you understood.

It can be time consuming and sometimes even confusing looking up information via Google or YouTube, but with Smart Search you can revise all of your online tutoring lessons quickly and easily.

Hibah - Student

“Make sure that you have all your recordings saved because it is a really useful feature that allows you to go back on your previous lessons.”

Laela - Student

“My number one tip would be to make use of all the recorded lessons! Bramble has been a lifesaver. It is easy to navigate around, the recorded lessons are absolutely great - overall Bramble has become an essential part of my learning!”

6. Take Breaks

Try to avoid having your tutoring lessons immediately after you finish school or after a long period of study. Studies have shown that shorter learning intervals with intermittent breaks can improve your overall performance. If you have longer sessions scheduled for your online tutoring, ask your tutor if you can take a five minute break in between to stretch your legs and get a drink.

Nithila - Student

“Make sure you take breaks as sitting in front of the screen for a long time can become very tiring.”

7. Be yourself and personalise your learning

One of the most common tips students gave was to be yourself. Online tutoring can be personalised to you in a way that classroom learning can’t. So if you find that you’re more of an introvert and struggle to get your questions heard at school, online tuition can provide an excellent medium for you to learn and receive feedback. If, for example, you know that you have a tendency to be less organised, be open with your tutor about it and ask them for help. It’s important to embrace who you are so you can leverage your strengths and let your tutor help with your weaknesses.

Bea - Student

“Clarify with your teacher or tutor what you specifically want out of the session be it exam paper questions on a certain topic, content knowledge etc. This will benefit both parties to get the best out of your sessions. Note any questions you have after the sessions to review what you may need to focus on next.”

Ionie - Student

“Be yourself and don’t be embarrassed to talk to your tutor. Online tutoring has really helped me to stay consistent with my work. It has also helped me with my confidence.”

8. Don't be afraid to ask for help

We’ve all been in a situation where we’re embarrassed to ask a question in fear of looking silly. You think to yourself: “surely everyone knows this”. In reality, it’s likely that half the class were also thinking the same question.

Knowledge gaps often first appear in the foundational areas of a topic which will stop you from building on it, so it’s vitally important that you can be open with your tutor about what you know and what you don’t. If you’re not sure, the best thing to do is try a few questions. Ask your tutor for clarification or a recap if you don’t understand something.

Tanzena - Student

“Be honest with your tutors. Tell them in detail what you struggle with. At the end of the day they only want what's best for you.”

“In 3 months of online tutoring, I made huge progress, going from a grade 7 to a grade 8. English language was one of my worst subjects. I hated it with a passion. But now it’s the subject that I have achieved so much in.”

Saima - Student

“When you don't understand something in lessons, don't be quiet but instead ask your tutor to help you! That has really helped me to become more confident in my studies.”

Raveen - Student

“Make sure you ask questions and ask the tutors for help and tell them to recap whenever you don’t understand anything. Tutoring has been life changing for me, everything that I wasn’t able to grasp at school I have been able to fully understand and enrich in. My tutor went out of my way to help me. Bramble itself is easy, accessible and allows me to practice exam questions right in front of my tutor to get feedback, testing my knowledge and allowing me to develop further.”

9. Be engaged

Studies have shown a significant positive correlation between a student's engagement in their learning and what they remember. In addition to this, it’s also a lot more fun to be actively engaged in something than passively listening to someone else speak for an hour. Again, one of the advantages of online tuition is that it can be significantly more engaging for you than classroom learning. It should almost be conversational, with questions and answers, in a collaborative fashion.

Engagement is one of the key areas measured by CUE Ratings. After each of your sessions, you can report on your own engagement so that you can keep track of it over time.

Faiza - Student

“Attend all your lessons ON TIME. Engagement is key.”

Christy - Student

“Engage by asking questions and answers. This ensures both people are focused and concentrating. Bramble has helped me to feel comfortable to ask any questions I have regarding the topic which in turn helps me understand difficult and complex concepts with ease.”

10. Take notes

Taking notes links to being engaged and using your sessions for revision. On Bramble, you can take notes in the notebook during the session and revisit them later, or download them as a PDF – you can find all your notes and session recordings in your session library. Some students prefer to write notes in a separate document or even with good old pen and paper, although those are a bit more difficult to keep track of and not lose!

Whichever way you decide to take them, note taking uses additional kinesthetic senses and will enhance your learning and memory.

image showing myBramble sessions page with recorded sessions and notes

Sriya - Student

“After online tutoring lessons make concise notes of the lesson you have had to ensure you have learnt something. During the first lockdown it was really hard to focus and get work done. With Bramble, I was able to find the motivation to do work. My tutors were so supportive and helped me get the grades I needed for my mocks, playing a huge role in helping me succeed.”

Saima - Student

“Even though we have access to the lessons afterwards I find it useful to create additional notes, especially for English. This is because there are many useful points that our tutors make that may not be in the lesson resources. It also makes it advantageous as you would be summarising the notes that would be in the lesson making it easier for you to understand when revisiting the content after.”

“Using Bramble for my online tutoring has meant that I'm able to get as good a teaching experience online as I would have had in person. This means I'm able to get the help that I need, improving my grades in English by three levels.”

11. Find a comfortable place to work

Different students will require different environments to learn at their best. As tempting as it might sound, avoid laying on your sofa or bed when having your online tutoring. Not only will this lead to bad posture and neck ache, it will make you feel less alert and less likely to engage. Try to use a desk or table where you can and also have your textbooks to hand.

Jhosh - Student

“Make sure your surroundings are good to learn in.”

12. Minimise distractions

In addition to finding a comfortable place, minimising distractions is crucial to having a productive and engaging session. Distractions will negatively impact your learning.

Try to find a quiet place to learn, away from noisy siblings and barking dogs, and close all other tabs on your device. It’s also a good idea to place your phone in another room (or switch it to airplane mode) and to not have the TV on in the background - even on silent.

Tiffany - Student

“When online, it is best to close any unnecessary tabs and websites that might keep you unfocused in class.”

13. Ensure your devices are charged

This is probably an obvious one. However, you’d be surprised how many students forget. Device charging can also apply to pens if you use one with your tablet or touchscreen.

Priyanka - Student

“Make sure to fully charge your devices and create a list of what you are going through each lesson so you know which video to go back and watch when you need to revisit that topic.”

14. Check your connection

Poor internet connection is perhaps the most common culprit for session interruption and disruption. While some of this may be out of your control, depending on where you are when having a session (home, school, library etc.), it’s work checking you’re in an area with decent connection. If you use Bramble, you can do that here. Here are some additional tips to improve your connection.

image showing internet connection tips

Ricardo Bezzina - Student

“Make sure your connection is good before every session.”

15. Connect with your tutor

Finally, it’s important to connect with your tutor. You should be able to see them as a mentor who you are working with on a common goal: to get the most out of your education and achieve the best results you can.

Imaan - Student

“I find that tutors who connect with me more by asking about my week are more effective at getting me to remember things. Online tutoring has led to me understanding more of my content, and has boosted my scores in tests. The tutors are also really helpful and try to ensure that your time spent is worthwhile. Overall, it has helped my scores, understanding and confidence.”

Bramble is a market leader in the online tutoring industry. An award-winning online tutoring platform which has been used by over 5000 tutors and students in 100 different countries. The experience and knowledge gained from over 62,000 hours of online tuition has given us a unique insight into how people teach and learn online, and ultimately what makes the difference between a poor and a great experience tutoring online.