Relationships – How to Build Effective Student-Tutor Interaction Online


In October 2020 I launched my Online English Tuition Business. I am an advocate for the power of Online Learning when it is done effectively.

There has been a lot of talk about analysing the data regarding the effect of learning online. I have always disliked a data-led approach and find that statistics are often manipulated to suit the political persuasion of the research study.

My specialism is English Literature and Language. This is a different entity to the STEM subjects which are more easily measured in the immediate present. That said, there are “wins” that a tutor and student feel in individual lessons.

These wins are more subtle and create building blocks for the achievements that the student will experience in the future. There is a distinct disadvantage for students who are not surrounded by a culture of reading. It is therefore vital to encourage this, and many of my students start reading at home for the first time. This will support them in a way that is more than measurable by a spread sheet.

How do I get these reluctant readers to engage?

The simple answer is a build up of trust. I allow my students to see me as a person.

When interacting virtually with a teacher or tutor you have never met before, you may feel vulnerable and shy. My students gradually “open up” with conversations about their interests outside of the learning. If I am meeting a student for the first-time, I will ask him/her what he/she does for fun; if it is gaming; I interact with that and ask them questions about their favourite game. I let the student know I have a son who shares this interest, and this then gives the signal that I understand something about his/her world.

I will also share information about me, such as having two children and two cats. My cats often make an appearance in my sessions which gives students an opportunity to talk about any pets they may have. I am known for showing my new acrylic nails and asking what they think.

Last Christmas, I turned my camera around so they could see my Christmas Tree. One of my students then talked to me about her Eid celebrations. Students have lots of experiences to share with me and I am always interested to learn from them.

We are always learning, and we must listen and learn from our students.

The main thing to remember is that even virtual interaction needs to have the human touch. Let your students share a bit of your world and they will feel a connection. We can remain professional and stick to strict safeguarding standards, without being distant and inhuman. I allow my students to see me check a spelling on Google or check the meaning of a word. They need to see you know your subject, but this does not mean that you are all seeing and all knowing!

Learning happens everyday and they may even teach you something unique to them.

Tutoring online is a shared experience and a fulfilling one too. It is an effective way of teaching and learning.

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