Online tuition is conducted through Zoom (video conferencing software) and BitPaper (collaborative online whiteboard). Both of these are available freely online. Students can use a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet with a large screen (min 10 inch). To make the most of online tuition, I also strongly recommend students have access to either a Graphics Tablet (e.g. Wacom One) or a write-on tablet screen (e.g. iPad Pro / Microsoft Surface).
The rest of this section describes how ParkerMaths tuition sessions work in general. For specific information on the technology requirements for online tuition, see the 'equipment' section of the 'getting started' page.
A Typical Session
The structure of a tuition session will depend on the needs of the student. Sessions usually comprise of a combination of the following activities:
- Learning a new topic from the beginning.
- Focused instruction on a topic a student has previously struggled with.
- Reviewing any problem areas that arise from the independent study work that the student has completed.
- An opportunity to review homework that the student has been set from their school/college.
- Attempting challenging exam questions and exam preparation.
Independent Study Work
In general, most of my tutees are set independent study work in advance of tuition sessions. The extent of the independent study work provided will depend upon numerous factors:
- The amount of time the student is able to commit.
- The demands and quality of independent study work provided by any school/college teachers.
- Progress towards the grade that the student is aiming to achieve.
This work is submitted electronically by the student so that I can use it to inform the planning of tuition sessions. By completing the work in advance, students are then able to spend more time working on more challenging topics in the tuition sessions if this knowledge is secure. If not secure, I can immediately target misconceptions or areas where improvement is required.
From time-to-time I work on the following areas with my students:
- Developing effective study skills to ensure that students make the most of their time outside of sessions. This could include time management, organisation skills and developing self-discipline.
- Improving exam technique and working on revision strategies. Many students leave it too late to learn these skills, meaning that they struggle to develop the strategies into habits that they can take into the exam.
Here is a list of the minimum equipment required to participate in an online tuition session:
- A laptop/tablet/computer with broadband internet access.
- Speakers and a microphone (these are generally built into most laptops/tablets).
This equipment allows basic communication between the tutor and student using video conferencing software. I am able to share my screen to model and discuss example by writing on my graphics tablet.
Unfortunately, with a minimal setup, interactivity between student and tutor is limited as it is difficult for the student to write on the screen. However, this can be overcome very easily (see the 'optimal equipment' section).
Pen Input Device (Graphics Tablet)
Having pen input device makes a significant difference to the quality of tutorials. They provide students with an effective means of communicating mathematically with the tutor.
For a laptop/desktop PC, I recommend the Wacom One. I am able to lend these to students for a deposit of £35, which is fully refundable when tuition ends. They can also be purchased for £35.99 (at the time of writing) on Amazon.
Alternatively, if you have a tablet, such as an iPad Pro or Microsoft Surface this could simply be a stylus pen.
Headset with Microphone
Although usable, the microphone and speakers on a most laptops are not always high quality. Many people are perfectly happy with the audio quality, but some may prefer to invest in a headset with microphone. The quality of these depends on what you are willing to pay, but almost any headset would be an upgrade on a typical laptop microphone and speakers setup.
Before deciding whether to upgrade, my advice would be to see if you are happy with the audio quality during your initial consultation.
Unless you are using a desktop computer, you will most likely have an integrated webcam. Although not essential, many students do feel that using a webcam enhances communication between student and tutor. Almost any webcam is suitable and they are available from as little as £18 on Amazon.