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From in-Person to Online Tutoring: The Difficulties and Advantages

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Read Write Discover quickly adapted to online platforms despite being in-person every year prior. As a tutor during the summers of 2019 (in-person) and 2020 (over zoom), I noted the differences between the two learning environments and picked up some ways to make online learning more fun and engaging.

A few key differences between in-person and online tutoring involved these four areas:


During in-person tutoring, it was easy to examine body language and see if your learner was tired, excited, bored, distracted, etc. Over Zoom, it is more difficult to determine how your learner is feeling, especially if their camera is turned off or isn’t working. Because of that, I recommend verbally asking them how they’re doing, and this can be done in multiple ways: For example, incorporating a mental health check-in at the beginning of every session can be beneficial. If the learner is more tired one day, the lesson plan can be adjusted to have more exciting activities that the learner can look forward to. On the other hand, if the learner is more excited and enthusiastic, this can

Technological difficulties, such as faulty cameras or microphones, can make communication over zoom even more difficult. Thankfully, there are a few resources that I believe make communication a little easier.


There are many useful resources that make tutoring online easier to navigate. For example, Google Classroom, which Read Write Discover used last year, makes it simple to upload materials, classwork, and homework. Usually, I would make one document with the lesson plan and all the material for the day, so everything was in one place for my learner. Having the lesson plan available was helpful to my tutee because she liked to know what we were doing ahead of time. Using Google Classroom and Google Docs also gave me the freedom to write my own questions and use fun fonts and colors to make the session as engaging as possible. In my lessons, I would often include links to YouTube videos to help explain a concept. This is something I wouldn’t have been able to do in-person, and learning through videos proved to be useful to my learner.

Read Write Discover provides lots of resources for tutors that help them teach common core standards, grammar, and more, as well as other online resources that keep learning fun and engaging. Those are especially important now since learners often face many distractions at home.


When tutoring at a library, there were minimal noises and distractions, making it easy for the learner to focus. At home, however, learners can be distracted by pets, siblings, technology, etc. This is why it’s important to have methods to keep the learner focused. One great way to do this is to give incentives; for instance, allowing a break after finishing a worksheet. The Pomodoro method, or working for 25 minutes, then allowing a short 5-minute break, can help the learner stay focused as well.

It is also possible that the learner is simply not enjoying the material or is experiencing Zoom fatigue, making them prone to distractions. To combat this, I would work hard to find out what the learner is interested in and incorporate that into lesson plans. If the learner is interested in science, for example, finding a passage or short story about anatomy can be effective. Or if they like to play Minecraft, giving them a prompt on how they would survive if they woke up in a Minecraft server could encourage them as well. Personalization, which works for in-person tutoring as well, is especially important for online tutoring and keeping learners engaged in the high-stimulus environment that is their home!


One advantage of online tutoring is being able to attend from home. My learner was always comfortable at home and was rarely late, which may have been because there was no transportation needed. She was also able to go to the bathroom, drink water, and eat whenever she wanted. Normally, this would take at least 5 minutes to do in-person, but online, it was convenient and saved important time that could be used to learn new material!

Summer 2021

Although online tutoring has its difficulties, I have no doubt that RWD’s tutors will be able to adapt (given the proper resources and guidance by coordinators) and teach their learners to the best of their abilities. As a previous tutor and now Program Manager, I hope to use my experience with online tutoring to help guide the program coordinators and tutors to make the greatest impact on our community’s youth this upcoming summer.

Book Recommendation

If you enjoy romance novels, I’d recommend reading Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. This book is narrated by both Eleanor and Park as they attempt to navigate their feelings and fears. With an intriguing plot and excellent character development, this book will keep you on your toes and rooting for this heartwarming couple.

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