Online tutoring taking off

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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MIAMI, Fla. - When college senior Rafael Garcia was behind in accounting, with an exam fast approaching, help was only a few clicks away.  

"I'm more of a last minute studier. I started using online tutoring because I realized I, like, needed help and all the tutors were taken in school," he said.

Garcia uses Study Buddy Today.  Experts say thanks to technological advancement, online tutoring programs, like the one Garcia uses, are taking off.

"Screen sharing programs are now commonplace, webcams are now commonplace, and so it's possible for a tutor to get pretty much the same view of what a student is doing, as is possible face to face," said Chris Dede, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Webcams, virtual whiteboards, faster broadband connections, and the ability to upload and share assignments, have given rise to a host of options for struggling students of all ages.

"Via screen-sharing technology, your tutor can pull up a specific platform that your child can then see on the other end of that device. it allows for real-time working through a mathematical problem, or they can pull up an essay and the child can see as the tutor goes through word-by-word or line-by-line," explained Educational Consultant Katharine Hixson.

Some companies offer instant help for students when they're stuck.  Alison Johnston Rue co-founded InstaEDU, which launched last year.  She says on-demand assistance is in high demand.

"No matter what time it is, 24/7, with online tutoring you can log onto your computer and connect with a tutor almost instantly," she said. "We've seen our usage grow 50 percent month over month all through the year."

For people like Garcia, convenience is key.

"It's like a much more accessible tool that i have. compared to before where I would actually have to like figure out like the hours that tutors were available at school, or somebody I knew in the class could help me out," said Garcia.

Education experts say some schoolkids might actually be more comfortable, and feel less judged in the virtual tutoring environment, and technology is a vital teaching tool.

"the way that kids communicate has changed. so they now expect technology to be utilized in every form of their learning process, which includes tutoring," said Hixson.

Each company has its own criteria for tutor qualifications, and experts say there are no industry-wide standards when it comes to tutoring.

"Which is a concern for some parents and people in the community," said Hixson. However, by doing reference checks, looking at tutors resumes and going with a reputable company, you should be able to by-pass any of those concerns."

Garcia plans to log on whenever he comes across a confusing concept.  As for the accounting test, he says he got a B and was very pleased with that.

Another benefit experts point to when it comes to online tutoring, is the ability to track your progress and watch recorded sessions if you ever need a little extra review.

Online tutoring used in this story:

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