We are having great success working with our students remotely, and we’re deeply grateful for the opportunity to continue coaching them during this period of social isolation. Now that we’ve been doing it for over a month, we’d like to offer some quick tips to any students out there who are looking for advice on how to get the most out of their video tutoring sessions.
- Have a plan.
What do you want to work on today? What do you want help with? What has been challenging lately? There could be multiple things. Get set up and/or make a list. If you have, say, math homework, you can try engaging some of the problems ahead of time to learn where you’re trouble points are.
And, as always, it doesn’t have to be homework. We want to help you learn and grow as a student, so don’t worry if you don’t have any pressing homework needs or upcoming tests. Often a student in that position will open the session with, “Well, I don’t have anything to do…” and our response is always the same: “Great. Let’s find something to practice, something to review, or start learning new content.” Plus, we can still support you with any executive function or organizational challenges you’re having.
- Get your materials ready.
Have a pencil or pen and plenty of paper at the ready. Just because we’re working on screen doesn’t mean we’re going to abandon the power of written product. If you’re doing math, get your calculator out. If you’ll need a book, get and open it to the right section.
- Send us any materials you want to share ahead of time.
Anticipate any materials that you want to send to us ahead of time. In addition to sending the materials to email@example.com, please also send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Title the email with the student’s name so it’s easy for the coach to find.
- Get ready electronically.
Open tabs or windows with your web browser and fire up all the websites you’re planning to use. Perhaps you need to log in to Schoology (or your school’s online portal) and open up any electronic textbooks you’re planning to use.
If working on math, science, reading comprehension, grammar, or SAT prep, get a Khan Academy account established and know how to get into the account quickly.
If you’re working on writing, set up a shared Google doc that gives your coach editing privileges using the email@example.com email.
Whatever it is that you might need, get it set up in advance, so you won’t have to spend session time waiting for websites to load and logging in to the various accounts you have.
- Reduce distractions.
Can you tidy up your work-space to make it easier to use? Can you ask your siblings and/or parents to stop playing the guitar and running the blender during your session? Can you close internet tabs and video games that you have open on your computer so you won’t be distracted by them? Can you turn off social media notifications and put your phone in airplane mode? Doing these sorts of things will help you stay focused and get the most out of your time.
- Set a reminder for the session.
In the past two months, everyone’s schedule has been thrown into chaos, and many people are having trouble remembering where they’re supposed to virtually be at what time. As always, the solution is to rely on reminders rather than memory. Set an alarm on your phone to go off 15 or 30 minutes before your session, so you can’t forget.
- Join the session a few minutes early.
That way, you’re there right when it starts. Also, if you have any difficulty joining the session, it’s better to find out before the session starts so you avoid spending session time troubleshooting. Email us right away if you can’t get in. If you don’t get a reply to your email within two minutes, call us.
- Make joining easier.
Speaking of joining, here’s a way to make that easier: Instead of digging through your email archives to find the meeting invite each time, keep the invite email near the top of your inbox. One way to do that is to reply to it after each session, but change the recipient of your reply to yourself. In other words, email yourself the invite each week to keep it near the top of your inbox.
Alternatively, you can create a mailbox within your email system that holds the Zoom link emails. That way, you’ll always know where it is. It’s like having a regular place where you put your things when you come home each night. Remember when we used to leave the house and come home each night?
- Practice with the technology.
Once you’re in the session, you might want to screen share with your coach. This can be a bit tricky to figure out, so try practicing it in a Zoom session with one of your parents. Practice going back and forth between screen sharing and face-to-face.
If you have a document camera, practice using it, and practice toggling back and forth between the document camera and your laptop camera. (On my computer, Alt-n is the short-key for that.) Get your document camera set up the way you want it, oriented and focused on what you want your coach to see.
The last month has shown us that remote video tutoring is an effective way for us to support students while the stay-at-home order is in place. We’ve been steadily improving our skills with the online tutoring platform, and we’ve seen students do the same. Because we’re passionate about helping students learn and grow, we want them to get the most out of their video tutoring sessions, so we’re recommending that everyone practice these tips.
Chris Loper has been working as a tutor and academic coach since 2014, racking up over 10,000 hours of experience supporting students.
Along with Greg Smith, Chris is the cocreator of Parenting for Academic Success (and Parental Sanity) – a five-part course offered every summer.
Chris’s most recent endeavor combines his academic and habit-formation expertise to help students thrive in college. Visit SmartCollegeHabits.com to learn more.
In 2021, he published a humorous memoir titled Wood Floats and Other Brilliant Observations, a book that blends crazy stories with practical life lessons, available on Amazon and through most local bookstores.
He lives in Issaquah, WA where he is the owner of South Cove Tutoring.