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Online Tutoring via Skype

The Internet has certainly made it easier than ever for students and tutors to find each other, as WyzAnt's service demonstrates. We as tutors should also be aware of the many other tools available online to help us reach out to students.

Skype is a tool for communicating in real time via the Internet, including videoconferencing, making it an extremely powerful means of connecting with students before meeting in person. It's also an excellent method to speak with parents who would like to get more information prior to making arrangements for tutoring their child.

I've recently been turned on to the use of Skype and, a web application which allows both tutor and student to share use of a virtual whiteboard. (See links below.)

This combination makes possible an entirely online tutoring session, which in many ways improves on live, in-person tutoring. First, by eliminating the inconvenience of travel, we immediately see the benefit of one-on-one tutoring that can be just a few clicks away. There is also the benefit of the many drawing tools and colored pens/highlighters that are extra useful for illustrating the topics being covered. The use of cut-and-paste and undo/repeat also comes in handy. Overall it really makes for a cleaner lesson than piles of paper and notebooks scattered across a table. Sharing a virtual whiteboard also feels so much more natural than the traditional, teacher at board, student at desk environment still used in schools.

All these advantages could probably be topics for their own future posts, and I'll be working on expanding this blog in the weeks and months ahead. So check back periodically for more online tutoring techniques and tips. Perhaps I'll even record a video demonstration, which will show what a powerful combo Skype and can be for tutors and students alike. Thanks for reading! If you have any questions/comments or suggestions for future posts, I'd be happy to hear them.




Hey, thanks for the tip on Scribblar. I've been trying to figure out how to make online tutoring work for all the advantages you mention (really mostly eliminating the travel, but archiveable whiteboard would be useful too) but I really find it helpful to see the intermediate work steps as they're trying to solve problems, and the various symbols in math and science (especially chemistry!) are tough to express with keyboard entry. Do you use free-hand drawing tools for math equations / symbols and multistep problems, and are your students comfortable doing that?

I use a Bamboo pen tablet from Wacom (see link below.) It really works well when needing to freehand, and definitely works better than keyboard entry, which can be cumbersome.

I'll be recording a screencast demo of it's use in the near future. That'll give an idea of how powerful a Skype + Scribblar combo makes for online tutoring.

Thank you for your question Ian, and if I can help by recommending any other useful tips, please let me know. I think all tutors can benefit from each other's experience adapting new tech to our services.

I have the opportunity to keep tutoring a student in NY (I live in Evanston, IL), but I have to figure out exactly what you have described above.
How do you integrate the with the Skype?  Are you toggling between the video screen and the white board?
I can't find a white board type feature on skype. Am I looking in the wrong place or are you saying you use the 2 together? If so are there any good programs that basically combine the 2?

Woodbridge Online Tutoring via Skype tutors