Video Conferencing Brings Tutoring to the Masses

As worldwide school closures force students and teachers out of classrooms and into online learning environments, many parents are left with the daunting task of ensuring their children continue to receive the best education possible. According to a U.N. report, nearly 300 million students worldwide are affected by the educational disruptions caused by the coronavirus. 

While some schools have the tools and resources to implement robust online learning programs, not every student is so lucky as to attend one. With minimal teacher interaction and instruction, parents are concerned that their children will fall back academically. As a result, many are looking into online tutors and e-learning programs to fill the void. 

The rise of video conferencing has helped propel the tutoring industry. Tutoring is a sizable industry, and according to Technavio, online tutoring is expected to generate over $38 billion by 2021. College students have predictably taken advantage of the online tutoring trend, both as customers and by becoming tutors themselves, because it enables them to easily connect with their tutoring counterpart via a video platform. 

Due to the coronavirus’ impact on school closings, this could very well extend to students of all ages. Varsity Tutors, a live-learning platform that connects experts from around the country with students, is now offering tutoring in more than 2,500 subjects. A trend that we may see continue in these unsure times.

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Video Chatterbox Nation: Education
Learn the current state of video, what’s next, and how to navigate today’s technological challenges in education.

Video as the New Chalkboard 

It's already well known that web conferencing enhances many existing higher-ed processes. Web conferencing expands reach and saves money on recruitment efforts. It facilitates face-to-face contact with parents, which is especially necessary as they participate more in the student journey. And, of course, it frequently supports and improves academics.

Tutoring is yet another area of higher learning where web conferencing technology can add value. First, with web conferencing, appointments can occur outside students' regular on-campus schedules. Second, institutions that integrate tutoring into their larger cloud strategy can entice potential students and current enrollees away from third-party tutoring services and other paid help that might cross ethical boundaries. Here's a closer look at how this works.

To many students who grew up with consumer video tools on their laptops and smartphones, meeting someone for the first time via video chat feels natural and puts them at ease for a potential in-person meeting. Moreover, modern web conferencing solutions offer features that match or exceed those of business communication systems. Students can share documents, write on a shared whiteboard, and do effectively everything else they could do in a standard tutoring session.

An institutionally supported video tutoring platform can help colleges and universities carve out a valuable place in the tutoring industry. Take these three high-level examples:

  • Paid systems turn the benefits of video conferencing into a larger value proposition for universities, offer students tutoring with institutional backing, and give work-study tutors extra opportunity to earn hours.
  • Unpaid one-to-one systems serve as a "meeting ground" for students and tutors who may or may not be hired through the institution. While not likely a huge revenue generator, this is definitely a value generator, considering the low cost and ease of deploying a web conferencing or video conferencing tool (more on that below).
  • Expanded "learning help" systems make the current classroom- or lab-based "open help" approach more accessible. At minimum, this expands options for students who, again, increasingly prefer the screen over in-person meetings with strangers.

Altogether, this solution helps institutions cheaply and efficiently fulfill students' needs and improve tutoring techniques so that students aren't tempted to look elsewhere.

Higher-Ed Technology Made Easy

In the past, merely putting a video on the internet was hard. Indeed, not that long ago, YouTube was considered revolutionary just because it simplified video uploading.

Today, things are better. Now there are tools that do the hard stuff on the back end and let institutions embed front-end communication into apps. For schools wanting to offer online tutoring, this technology is a game-changer. The same goes for institutions  that want to give students with existing tutor relationships a neutral, institution-controlled meeting place. And that's before considering all the other use cases, from the recruiting side to classroom innovation and more.

The best tools on this front are built for flexibility, using standards like WebRTC to ensure that the most popular devices, browsers, etc. are supported with minimal hassle. Along with virtual whiteboard capability and real-time document sharing, they add multi-environment support­. In other words, the API enables student and tutor to attend the same session while each using a different type of device, such as a laptop and a smartphone. The ability to bypass development, testing, rollout, and every other phase of a dedicated video-based conferencing solution is a major boon. A third party that handles infrastructural requirements and ensures performance is equally useful.

Altogether, this solution helps institutions cheaply and efficiently fulfill students' needs and improve tutoring techniques so that students aren't tempted to look elsewhere.

These ideas might have been impossible to achieve individually in the past; combined, they certainly would have been. Educators now have the perfect foundation to offer new opportunities for students to continue their education.

Evan Wade
Evan Wade Contributor

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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