Online tutors use a set of digital tools to conduct virtual tutoring sessions in real time, miles away from their students. But in this hyper-connected Internet world, how can online tutors add a human touch to their virtual sessions? We came up with some tips to guide online tutors in preserving a sense of humanity while tutoring remotely.
Leverage open-ended tasks
Using digital technology for distance learning is a great opportunity to leverage open-ended tasks, which allows students to share their work in the online classroom. This might entail providing a math task with multiple solutions for students to solve independently. Or it may entail free or creative writing, bounded by a genre study that still allows online tutors to provide structured feedback and help students progress in their writing. After students have time to work on their own, online tutors can host a discussion (during an online session) so students can share their work and together have an opportunity to connect over academics, just like in person.
Encourage constant dialogues
To maintain the dialogue and discourse that we value during in-person encounters, online tutors should try to always conduct live sessions with their students through the online classroom. Learning happens during a conversation. It’s stimulated by human connection and interaction. Think of the online classroom as a means for empathic extension—as a tool for connecting with others when face-to-face human connection isn’t possible. Regular dialogues with a trusted tutor/mentor will help keep students thinking critically when they are on their own.
Learning as a process
Focus on the process, not just the product. This is really what “learning” is all about. Whether the student did well or poorly on an assignment or exam, if they can reflect on the process and make appropriate adjustments, then they’re truly learning something. Here are some questions that online tutors can pose to their students:
- What went well for you with this task?
- What will you do differently next time?
- How has your thinking changed?
All of these remind students that learning neither starts nor ends with the activity they’ve completed. It can—and will—be connected to future activities, and by taking them through the process of reflecting on the task.
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