Online courses vs. online tutoring
Explaining online courses
Like traditional academic courses, online courses involve a series of lessons designed to teach a subject or skill but they are delivered via a website and can be taken by students from the comfort of their own home. Unlike online tutoring offered by individual experts, online courses are normally offered by educational institutions.
Different kinds of online courses
There are various types of online courses, which include:
- Flipped Courses: In a flipped course, lectures are pre-recorded and students are expected to study the teaching materials on their own time prior to attending an online class.
- Web-based Courses: Web-based courses are characterized by limited interaction with teachers, as they are mostly self-paced and heavily rely on online teaching tools such as Blackboard and Moodle for teacher-student communication.
- Peer Instruction Courses: A relatively new form of online learning, peer instruction courses mean materials are posted online and it is the students, rather than the teachers, who help each other learn by discussing taught concepts online.
- Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): A MOOC is an online course designed for large-scale participation, mimicking a traditional university classroom. Lectures are delivered online and open to the public for attendance.
- Hybrid Courses: In hybrid classes, face-to-face teaching is not eliminated, but a significant amount of the course material is available online on a Learning Management System (LMS).
Explaining online tutoring
Online tutoring is the process of private tutoring on a subject in a virtual environment. Online tutoring often serves to help students with specific exam preparation.
Different kinds of online lessons
Online lessons with a tutor are highly personalized and will vary depending on the needs of a student, their strengths and weaknesses in a subject, and the teaching methods used by the instructor. Online lessons always involve live video sessions with a tutor, where they can make use of tools such as digital whiteboards to highlight concepts and ideas.
Online tutoring platforms
Online tutoring platforms are websites that connect students with suitable online tutors. These platforms give teachers and students access to sophisticated software and tools in order to facilitate the scheduling and delivery of online lessons.
1. The main principles
How it works: Online courses vs. Online Tutoring
Online courses can work in a variety of ways, but the typical structure involves students logging in to an LMS which provides them with access to a course syllabus, material, and assignments. Course resources may include a mix of pre-recorded video lectures and live discussion classes, projects, and presentations.
Online tutoring involves using digital, interactive tools during live one-on-one sessions with a tutor, which focus on the specific learning needs of a student in a subject.
Comparing the effectiveness of online tutoring and online courses: are online classes better?
While every student should aim to find the method that works best for their individual learning style, the effectiveness of online tutoring cannot be understated. Some factors that make online tutoring a particularly effective way of learning are:
- Convenience: Online tutoring allows for greater flexibility than online courses, as the time of lessons can be individually negotiated with a teacher in order to maximize students’ convenience.
- Personal focus: Online tutors have a flexible curriculum and, therefore, the ability to tailor their sessions to a student’s specific needs.
- Minimal distractions: Students participating in a one-to-one lesson with an online tutor have no option but to stay present and active during the class, enhancing their learning.
One of the most frequent questions asked by new online students has to do with the length of a course or lesson.
Online courses are designed to deliver lesson content over a lengthy period, which can vary according to the institution, teacher or course objectives. The average online course is estimated to last eight to nine weeks and comprise of several lessons.
Online lessons will normally last for a maximum of one academic hour (40-50 minutes) and can take place as often as needed by the student.
The convenience of regular short lessons
Education experts have long debated whether longer or shorter classes are more effective for learning. While some teachers are in favor of extending classes in order to delve into subjects deeper, it is argued that this is not beneficial to knowledge retention. Scheduling regular short lessons with a tutor can help students learn better by focusing on specific aspects of a course, particularly ones they are having difficulty with.
Students who are short on time may also find regular short lessons more convenient than online courses, which cannot be scheduled as needed, are particularly lengthy, and can often involve a lot of material that they are already familiar with.
3. Teaching methods
There are different teaching methods that prevail in online courses and online tutoring, which is something students need to take into consideration when they are signing up for distance learning.
Online course teaching methods
Some methods that are popular with teachers of online courses are the following:
- Classroom Flipping: A flipped classroom means that students are expected to prepare before a class by doing reading or assignments which are then discussed in the classroom.
- Mind Mapping: Teachers of online courses often create diagrams of ideas and concepts related to their lessons that are meant to serve as study aids for their students.
- Self-learning: Students of online courses are encouraged by their teachers to explore a subject by themselves in order to form a solid understanding of taught concepts.
Online tutoring teaching methods
Teaching methods used in one-on-one tutoring tend to be more personalized for each student. Online tutors will often use the following methods:
- Problem-solving: Online tutors give out problems for their students to solve on the spot in order to assess their understanding.
- Active discussions: Students are actively encouraged to discuss concepts during sessions, asking all the questions they need in real-time.
The advantages of one-to-one vs. group online learning
Online courses for large groups tend to be about the interaction between a learner and the material as opposed to the learner and the teacher, which means that one-to-one tutoring has the advantage of being personally catered to a student and their individual needs instead of forcing a pre-set program on all class participants.
Students who are tutored one-on-one can have the curriculum adapted to their needs by tutors, which helps them better understand topics and can give them an extra edge for exam preparation.
4. Communication with the teacher
It is a common misconception that online teaching is impersonal and distant, given teaching does not take place face-to-face. Technology actually provides many options for direct student-teacher communication.
Communicating with an online course teacher
Some of the most popular ways for students to reach out to their teachers are e-mail, social media, and making an online appointment with them.
Communicating with a private online tutor
It is even easier for students to communicate with a private tutor since they have regular live sessions together where they can voice any questions or concerns.
The role of close student-teacher contact in the learning process
It is vital for online teachers to ensure they are communicating enough and effectively with their students, as it has been found close personal student-teacher contact correlates to academic success. Close contact helps teachers ensure that the students have understood the subject and students depend on their teachers for feedback and guidance.
The importance of self-discipline in online learning
While online learning is revolutionary in terms of democratizing education, successful online learning largely depends on self-discipline. Given learning takes place from a learner’s home and mostly in their own time, students need to be highly self-motivated in order to excel, remaining organized, and keeping up with course resources while being proactive.
Lack of self-discipline and giving up
Lack of self-discipline is one of the reasons why students sometimes give up on online courses. There are many factors that contribute to a lack of self-discipline, ranging from a noisy environment full of distractions to an unhealthy lifestyle that prioritizes comfort and a lack of clear purpose in life.
Scheduling online lessons
Fortunately, there are many online tools designed to help tutors and students schedule their lessons and keep them organized. Calendly is an online calendar that allows easy scheduling without back-and-forth emails, with Google Calendar and AppointmentQuest also being particularly helpful.
How learning with an online tutor promotes self-discipline
While a group online course can allow a student to hide in a “cyber-corner” of a class, live one-on-one sessions with a tutor hold students just accountable enough to do the required work, which serves to promote self-discipline.
6. Home assignment
Contrary to popular opinion, online learning is not homework-free.
Online courses and home assignments
Students of online courses are usually expected to participate in online discussions, virtual labs or tutorials, hand in essays, and may even have to take online quizzes or tests.
Online tutoring and home assignments
Students working with an online tutor are also typically given homework, but this is largely customized to their personal needs. During sessions, tutors try to pinpoint areas that a learner is having difficulty with and assign homework accordingly.
Homework for online tutoring vs. for online courses: which is more effective?
Since homework assigned by an online tutor is targeted to specific students’ needs, it can be argued that it is more effective than homework assigned in an online course for students with many different learning styles.
The average cost of an online course
One of the biggest benefits of online education compared to traditional learning is its lower cost. While there are tuition fees to be paid, they vary depending on the program. Courses on popular online course platforms can cost from $9 to $300, with the average estimated at $182.59.
Paying for an online course
Online courses are mostly paid for fully in advance.
The average cost of an online lesson
Online tutors can set their own prices based on their qualifications and experience. Students can take online lessons for as little as $5 per hour, which can go up to $100 per hour for a specialized subject or highly qualified teacher. The general average is estimated at $25 per hour.
Paying for online lessons
Payments for online lessons are normally made after a lesson is completed. Depending on the platform used, a student may have a certain amount of credits loaded onto their account that are automatically deducted upon lesson completion.
The convenience of paying for online lessons compared to online courses
One of the biggest advantages of online lessons compared to online courses is the convenience of payments. While online courses require a large sum of money to be paid upfront, students can pay a small amount for online lessons as they go and decide when and how often they want to take them.
8. Free options
Free online courses
Some of the world’s top universities offer free online courses in subjects ranging from history to computer science. MIT’s edX platform, for example, offers courses on learning how to code. Many online courses can also be found on FutureLearn, which has partnered with leading educational and cultural institutions to provide classes on niche subjects that are available for free for a 14-day trial period. Udemy’s Free Resource Center, which was released in April 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, also provides a collection of 150 free online courses.
The three best free online courses
Class Central has ranked some of the best online courses which are available for free, including the following self-paced ones:
- Elements of AI from the University of Helsinki
- Machine Learning for Musicians and Artists from Goldsmiths, University of London
- Basic Spanish from Universitat Politècnica de València
Free online tutoring
There are typically no free online tutors, but it is common practice for teachers to provide a short first trial lesson to students, during which they can determine if the tutor is a good fit for them.
The effectiveness of free online classes compared to free online courses
Free online courses are a great way to further knowledge, but they provide no guarantee that a teacher’s method will work for all participants. On the other hand, students can take unlimited free online trials with different tutors until they find the right one for their needs.
9. Cancellation policy
Canceling a pre-paid online course and getting your money back
Cancellation policies for online courses depend on the platform used, which is why students should always check the terms and conditions before signing up. As a consumer of a service, students do have the right to cancel a pre-paid course and many websites offer a period of 14 days from the start of the course for students to change their mind and request a refund.
Canceling an online class and getting your money back
Students of online classes are usually allowed to cancel scheduled lessons and not pay for them if the cancellation takes place within a reasonable time frame, e.g. 24 hours prior.
Getting a refund on an online tutoring platform
Getting a refund on an online tutoring platform is easier than getting a refund on an online course, as students will often have credits already loaded onto the platform that are simply not used if a lesson is canceled reasonably in advance.
10. Online certificate
Online course certificates: are they worth it?
Online courses are a great way to further one’s education but it is important to remember that not all online course certificates are accredited, meaning they are not always recognized by employers or universities.
Students looking to transfer online credits or gain employment after receiving an online course certificate should ensure that their courses are recognized by official institutions prior to signing up. However, the worth of affordable knowledge in an increasingly unstable and expensive world cannot be understated.
Employers and online certificates
With more and more business conducted virtually in a post-COVID-19 world, employers are starting to recognize the value of online certificates which can help people build impressive resumes.
Certificates provided by online tutors
While online tutors can provide their students with references, they are not able to provide them with official certificates proving their knowledge.
Real knowledge and skills vs. certificates
A long-standing debate in academia and the job market has to do with the value of a certificate vs. real knowledge and skill. A certificate does not necessarily imply skill and skill can often be acquired without formal education. While employers ideally seek both in a candidate, it is important to individually assess each candidate to determine whether they possess a certain skill which is what helps a person grow professionally.
Make your choice!
Distance learning, in its many forms, is becoming prevalent. Students today can choose between group online courses or private online tutoring. There are advantages and disadvantages to both online courses and online tutoring services and what a student chooses must ultimately depend on what they are seeking to gain.
Online tutoring is a particularly effective and economical way of learning that established online platforms like Eurekly are offering, providing all the tools and resources that both a tutor and a student need to optimize learning. Join Eurekly for lessons with the best online tutors out there and find out yourself why online classes are better suited for learners!