Effective Practices for Online Tutoring

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Sharp Tutor
The key to implementing strategies that maximize student satisfaction is attention to practical, manageable approaches that faculty can integrate within their instructional load.
1. Effective Practices for Online Tutoring
[Planned Adoption Spring 2019]
The Academic Senate for Community Colleges
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The Transfer, Articulation, and Student Services Committee 2018-2019
Committee Members
Conan McKay
Tanya McGinnis
Lynn Fowler
Graciela Sae-Kleriga
Arthur Guaracha
LaTonya Parker
Karen Chow
Teresa Aldredge
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Table of Contents [Page numbers to be added in final document.]
Justification for the paper
How to use this paper
The value of tutoring
Audiences for online tutoring
Fully online students as well as f2f students
Tutoring designed for all students
Who is served by tutoring? Does anyone get priority?
Synchronous versus asynchronous online tutoring
Enrolled versus non-enrolled. Is proof of enrollment needed?
How to address students with Learning differences in the online tutoring environment
Benefits for various student populations
Face 2 face students
Fully online students
Students in hybrid courses
Opportunity for access to publisher-sponsored content of support instruction
Basic skills (705 and Guided Pathways)
Online Literacy: Important and necessary skills students need to take full advantage of online
tutoring opportunities
Online preparatory courses
Readiness tutorials and modules
On-campus orientations
Student interfaces/resource available and online tutoring systems/resources
Proprietary services (Pearson Online Tutoring from Smart Thinking)
Homegrown sites
OEI-Net Tutor
Defining the distinction between an online tutoring center versus simply
putting resources online
Use of Skype and other video conferencing for tutoring a well as other
campus services (counseling and group tutoring)
Restrictions/Parameters Around Use of Services
Number of visits allowed per assignment?
ADA compliance
For hearing and visually impaired students
Learning disabled (CCCCO definition and guidelines)
Legislation (fed and state) and accreditation standards
Handouts in accessible formats
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Relevant standards to consider
Expectations of accreditation around online student services
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The following document was created by the Academic Senate for California Community
Colleges Transfer, Articulation, and Student Services (TASSC) committee. This paper aims to
assist community college faculty with the development of effective practices for online tutoring
programs. As such, this paper contains multiple sections that include (1) Audiences for Online
Tutoring, (2) Benefits of Online Tutoring, (3) Online Tutoring Literacy, Skills, and Practices, (4)
Online Tutoring Interfaces and Resource, (5) Restrictions/Parameters Around use of Services,
(6) ADA Compliance, and (7) Accreditation. The following paper should be use to develop,
enhance, and identify areas of concern for online tutoring programs.
Audiences for Online Tutoring
The California Community College (CCC) system serves 2.4 million students at 114 community
colleges. These students largely commute to campus, work off-campus in part-time and full-time
employment, and have family responsibilities. These factors complete for students time and can
impact students’ enrollment decisions, use of campus services, and ability to study. To positively
support students, colleges have created multiple methods of course delivery. This includes: (1)
traditional face-to-face classrooms where students attend lectures, (2) hybrid or blended
classrooms where a specified number of courses hours are supplemented with online learning,
and (3) online courses where students do not meet in a physical classroom and course learning
can be accessed anytime and anyplace. The CCC can further support students by offering
flexible resources such as online tutoring services.
According to the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC), “the goal of
online tutoring is to create a virtual tutoring environment for students that emulates a face-to-face
experience which can help a student achieve success in a given class” (Smith, 2012). As such,
online tutoring was designed to meet the needs of community college students who are enrolled
in traditional face-to-face, hybrid and fully online learning opportunities.
Community colleges can utilize two types of online tutoring: synchronous and asynchronous.
Synchronous tutoring occurs when both the tutor and the student are communicating in a real-
time online chat. In asynchronous tutoring, the tutor responds to a student's request for help,
usually within 24-48 hours (Brown, 2012). Both tutoring types offer opportunities and challenges
for students. For example, synchronous tutoring allows for direct real-time communication
between the tutor and student. For this to occur, the tutor needs to be available at various hours to
meet their students needs. Coordinating an online tutoring time can become an added challenge
for both individuals. Asynchronous tutoring is a flexible option for students. However, it requires
clear communication from the student in how the question is asked so that the tutor can
effectively respond.
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Benefits of Online Tutoring
Online tutoring provides multiple developmental opportunities for all students enrolled in face to
face, hybrid and online courses. This includes the organization of information, development of
ideas, and citation of sources. Online tutoring can also create opportunities to electronically
document students’ prior knowledge, areas of difficulty, and progression of learning. For
example, tutors can implement pre- and post assessments, scaffold the delivery of information,
and model how to solve problems in each session. Moreover, data can be collected for multiple
students in each course and help develop overall classroom interventions to improve content
delivery and learning outcomes. Utilizing data driven tutoring models also supports community
colleges initiatives (i.e. Guided Pathways, AB 705, etc) which seek to improve student retention,
completion and success.
Online Tutoring Literacy, Skills, and Practices
Online components to education, such as online courses, degrees, counseling and tutoring are
becoming more prevalent. The number of students taking online courses has increased
dramatically in the last five years. It is because of this growing trend that learning centers have
found it essential to incorporate technology and other online resources to adapt and meet the
needs of students. Online tutoring allows students who cannot make it to campus to receive
assistance, providing equitable opportunity beyond the boundaries of the campus.
Effective skills and practices for both the tutor and tutee are critical in the success of an online
tutoring program. These skills and practices may vary depending on type of platform, program,
and subject matter being tutored. However, there are some basic skills and practices that are
required for any and all types of online tutoring.
Asynchronous Tutoring vs Synchronous Tutoring
The asynchronous form of online tutoring entails interaction between the tutor and tutee that is
time-displaced. Students submit their work and/or question, then waits for a response. Because
this type of tutoring is limited in vocal discussion, tutors initial response should be in a friendly
positive tone to establish a trusting relationship. By doing this, the tutee will read the feedback
as constructive an gentle. (Sabatino, 2014)
Synchronous tutoring occurs online during an interactive, real-time chat, often using a program
that has an on-screen, file-sharing, or whiteboard with microphone and speaker so that tutor and
tutee are able to hear each other. (Sabatino, 2014)
The Tutee: Necessary skills students need to take full advantage of online tutoring
Aside from basic computer literacy, the student should be well versed in the platform being used
for online tutoring. In order for the student to get the most out of the tutoring session, he or she
should have knowledge of expectations, best practices and answers to frequently asked questions
prior to the tutoring session.
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This pre-tutoring information can be made available via handouts and published on the learning
center’s website. However, a more proactive approach can entail on-campus orientations or
online readiness tutorials/modules. Incorporating the completion one of these prep sessions as a
requirement before online tutoring can ensure a higher result of success for both the student and
the tutor. Best practices should include, but not limited, to the following:
● Do not wait or hesitate! Participate in a tutoring session early in the semester. Seek
assistance immediately after you first begin to experience difficulty in class. If you seek
tutoring the day before an exam or when you feel that you are in danger of failing, it may
be too late.
● Test your technology. Be ready with a webcam and speakers or a headset, if applicable.
● Choose a location. Prior to starting your session, plan ahead and choose a quiet location
that allows you to concentrate and hear and communicate with the tutor.
● Read all pertinent material and try to work all parts of the assignment prior to the tutoring
session. This will allow you to ask specific questions and pinpoint exactly where you
may have difficulties.
● Gather course materials. Have at hand textbooks, notes, assignment guidelines, the
syllabus, and other relevant information.
● Set reasonable goals about what can be accomplished. It is not realistic to ask questions
about a semester’s worth of material in one tutoring session,
● Be patient (particularly during busy times such as mid-terms, final exams, etc.).
● Assume responsibility. A tutor’s role is to help and guide you, not to do the work for
The student should be prepared to actively participate and contribute to the tutoring session.
According to Sabatino (2014), the following set of criteria can be used for an online tutoring
● The student provides information about the assignment;
● The student explains any concerns with the assignment and/or writing;
● The tutor and student determine the focus of the tutoring session;
● The student asks questions about his or her writing or assignment;
● There is a shift in the role of tutor and student;
● The student responds to feedback given by the tutor about the student’s paper or
● The student makes revisions, corrections and/or additions to the assignment
● The tutor and student develop a plan for future revisions and/or tutoring;
● The student self-reflects.
The Tutor : Important and necessary skills tutors need to provide effective online tutoring
Effective interaction and collaboration cannot happen without the skillful support and
moderation of trained tutors. Tutors should be encouraged to spend less time on direct instruction
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and more on facilitating constructive inquiry (Garrison et al, 2000). Tutors should learn to be
good judges of when to guide, when to facilitate, when to question, and when to provide direct
instruction. Research also suggests the online tutors should adopt both proactive and reactive
strategies (Wong, Chin, Tan & Liu, 2010).
According to Feng, Xie & Liu (2017), when it comes to creating an online tutoring program, one
method is to design a structure of how guidance is to occur; also known as “learning scaffolds”.
According to their research, successful scaffolding of online tutoring can be divided into three
targets: social, teaching, and cognitive. Although all three targets should be utilized, the
beginning of an online tutoring session should focus primarily on developing a social presence.
This could involve a welcome or introduction, kind online discussion etiquette, and positive
motivation and thoughts on a student’s progress and efforts. The mid phase of an online tutoring
session should focus on the teaching presence. This includes focusing on the assignment and
study material, providing learning support and explaining the links between learning activities
and learning objectives. Finally, each tutoring session should focus on the cognitive presence in
the final phase. This target can be reached by guiding students through self-reflection, exploring
their own thinking and practice, and check for understanding.
Digital Badges
The term “digital badges” dates back to 2010 (Gibson et al, 2015). From the perspective of
online tutoring, badges have the potential to motivate tutors, encourage reflection, and recognize
skills that online tutors have acquired through practice (Hrastinski, Clevelan-Innes & Stenbom,
2018). The badges created can be targeted goals individualized to meet the needs of a particular
campus, student population, and/or subject matter discipline.
Badges are earned when the tutor provides an example of a particular skill by submitting a copy
of a chat discussion or transcript taken from an actual online tutoring session. The following are
three examples that a tutor may use. The first badge focuses on the tutor skill to encourage
discussion. Here, the tutor is encouraged to have conversations that emphasize discussion rather
than direct instruction or lecturing. The tutor should ask questions and give the student time to
explain their ideas. The second badge example is the tutor skill to encourage reflection. Here,
the tutor’s conversations are to conclude with reflection of what she/he has learned. Finally, the
third badge focuses on the tutor skill of providing emotional support. Here, the tutor’s
conversations should illustrate encouragement that can help a student turn possible frustration
into a productive dialogue.
Allowing a tutor to reflect on their own tutoring skills, while earning “digital badges”, can be a
valuable training method and provide for quality assurance and promote progression in their
skills and practices.
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In educational settings, instructor/tutor-made videos can be used to supplement and reinforce
previous instruction and aid students in mastering complex materials (He, Swenson, & Lents,
2012). Supplemental video lectures can complement classroom lectures, illustrate how to think
through and solve problems, provide clarification, or give students an opportunity to review
content they did not understand at their own pace and as often as needed to establish mastery of
the material (Brecht, 2012).
With the invention of mobile devices, faster computer processors, and increased bandwidth,
virtual tutoring has become more effective. Video creation is now possible for almost anyone to
do with small digital video recorders, phones, or tablets. And these videos can be quickly and
easily distributed on popular online services such as YouTube and Vimeo.
Video recordings are inexpensive and can be easily shared in online tutoring in which the student
learns from observing others learn. Research indicates that watching a video of a tutor helping
another student solve complex problems has shown to be effective. For example, when second-
year physics students viewed a video of a simulated conversation between a student and tutor
about quantum mechanical tunneling, they performed better on a post-test than others who had
viewed alternative videos on the same topic in a traditional lecture format (Muller, Sharma,
Eklund, and Reimann, 2007). Asking students to solve physics problems collaboratively while
watching the video showed to be even more successful (Chi, 2013).
In all types of online tutoring, whether synchronous or asynchronous, there should exist a set of
established guidelines for structure, expectations, roles and responsibilities and training for both
tutors and tutees.
Online Tutoring Interfaces and Resource
Colleges may offer students the option of accessing both a proprietary online tutoring service
such as Smarthinking (linked through MyPortal or other student registration management
platform), as well as CVC-OEI’s NetTutor (linked through Canvas online course management
platform). De Anza College currently offers students access to online tutoring through both
Smarthinking (accessed through MyPortal) as well as NetTutor (linked through Canvas). Other
available proprietory online tutoring options, quoted from https://www.onlineschools.org/online-
Online Tutoring Options
As you might expect, there are a number of dedicated online tutoring services out there. Some
reputable brick-and-mortar tutoring companies geared toward primary and secondary learners,
such as Top Notch Tutoring, have even begun to supplement face-to-face work with online-only
services. And many web-based college programs provide complimentary tutoring for enrolled
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students; these institutions include Walden University, Kaplan University, and Strayer
In addition to these options, students and parents may choose from a wide selection of online,
private tutoring companies. Here are three of the nation’s leading providers below and included
information related to their tutorial offerings, cost, platform, and relevance for different types of
This company offers a wide range of tutorial services aimed at K-12 students.
Courses cover four core subjects ― math, science, English, and social studies
as well as advanced placement (AP) courses and SAT tutorials. Tutor.com
has the following features:
● A user-friendly, synchronous platform
● An interactive whiteboard
● Chat functions
● File-sharing capabilities.
● There are three payment plans available:
The cost for tutor.com services are listed as follows:
● One hour (per month): $39.99
● Two hours (per month): $79.99
● Three hours (per month): $114.99
The allotted time can be applied to any subject, and unused minutes may be rolled over to
other courses. All three plans include 24/7 access (including mobile devices) and do not
require any long-term contractual obligations. A money-back guarantee is offered to
clients who are unsatisfied with Tutor.com services after a six-month window. Students
belonging to families of active military service members may qualify for free tutorial
The tutors who work for this site include licensed teachers and professors, graduate
students, and certified experts in their respective fields. The courses are specifically
designed to help students achieve higher grades, complete their homework, and build
This company specializes in tutorial services for college students and advanced high
school-level learners. Courses cover nine different subject areas:
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● Writing
● Reading
● Mathematics
● Science
● Business
● Spanish
● Nursing and Allied Health
● Computers and Technology
Courses in English, ESL, and Spanish adhere to an asynchronous format, while the
remaining subjects are taught using a live whiteboard that directly connects tutors and
students. The price structure does not follow a month-by-month format; instead, students
pay for a predetermined number of hours; any unused minutes expire after four months.
Additionally, students pay to have tutors review materials they have written.
Smarthinking services are priced as follows:
● One hour of tutoring: $35
● Four hours of tutoring: $120
● One essay submission: $19.95
● One long essay submission: $34.95
● One SAT long essay review: $9.95
According to the company’s website, the average tutor has taught professionally for more
than nine years, and 90% have an advanced degree in the subject they teach.
[De Anza College’s Writing and Reading Center currently has an institutional contract
with Smart Thinking which allows currently enrolled students to access up to 5 hours of
tutoring per quarter with Smart Thinking:
This site specializes in individualized tutorial services for K-12 students.
Courses for elementary, middle, and high school learners are divided into
four categories that include more specific subjects:
● Mathematics: Algebra, Computation and Analysis, Probability and Statistics,
Estimation and Measurement, and Geometry
● Language Arts: Listening, Literature, Reading, and Writing
● Science: Astronomy, Biology, Botany, Chemistry, Ecology, Geology, and Physics
● Social Studies: Economics, Geography, History, Politics, and Sociology
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Learners can also choose from two different tutorial formats. The eTutor Independent
Program uses a self-guided curriculum that allows students to learn at their own pace;
students receive individualized instruction, and parents may request report cards to track
their child’s progress. The eTutor Guided One-2-One Program features coursework
similar to the independent program, but requires students to interface with their tutor for
at least one hour per week using real-time software.
Prices are determined by two factors: the tutorial format and the age of the student.
Elementary learners who enroll in the independent program pay monthly tuition of $149,
while middle and high school students in the self-guided program pay $249 per month.
Elementary students who use the One-2-One format must pay $249 per month, while
middle and high school students in the program are charged $399 per month.
Colleges may also develop their own local online tutoring service/site, but the effort and expense
involved in doing so appears to be prohibitive. The California Virtual Campus - Online
Education Initiative (CVC-OEI) provides tutoring resources to augment other tutoring
services/resources that local colleges may have. The OEI-Net Tutor site (https://cvc.edu/cvc-
oei-student-experience/tutoring/site) has multiple links to the resources. As of this paper’s
publication, there are two services available:
1. The Net Tutor online on-demand service, where students can connect to a live
tutor. Net Tutor also has an Online Tutoring Handbook with recommendations
for faculty on how to encourage students’ effective use of the service.
2. The LSI WorldWideWhiteboard tutoring platform, which provides all California
Community Colleges a free system-wide license for use and training of the
platform which can be used for students, faculty, and staff to collaborate and tutor
Online Tutoring Center versus Online Resources
An online tutoring center would be a service/site/link accessible to students through the
college’s website, online course management platform (such as Canvas), or registration
management platform (such as MyPortal). The online tutoring center would provide students
fully online, on-demand, synchronous access to a live tutor. This differs from putting resources
online on a college website, where students access such resources to help increase academic
success, but are not accessing fully online, on-demand, synchronous access to a live tutor. Some
very popular online resources for asynchronous tutoring/teaching videos are Khan Academy and
Video Conferencing and Campus Services
Existing proprietory video conferencing services may be leveraged to deliver tutoring as well as
other campus services, but the logistics of using such services would have to be set up locally.
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Through the California Virtual Campus - Online Education Initiative (CVC-OEI), California
Community Colleges have access to the following services:
LSI WorldWideWhiteboard tutoring platform: Provides all California Community
Colleges a free system-wide license for use and training of the platform. The platform
can be used for students, faculty, and staff to collaborate and tutor online.
Confer/Zoom https://www.cccconfer.org/: The California Community Colleges has set
up a systemwide account and access for faculty and staff to CCC ConferZoom. Use of
this service is feasible for faculty-student or staff-student online one-on-one or group
tutoring or other synchronous services such as counseling, but because students currently
may not set up free CCC Confer accounts, it is not feasible for student-student peer
● College of the Canyons’ faculty resource distance learning webpage for
CCC Confer:
● Chabot College’s pilot project using CCC Confer for online tutoring:
● De Anza College, the Student Success Center tried to use CCCConfer for
tutoring several years ago, and had big challenges with training tutors, as it
was not user-friendly. It has improved since then, but further attempts to
use updated CCCConfer platform has not been attempted due to the effort
involved to schedule and train in-house student peer tutors.
Restrictions/Parameters Around Use of Services
In Progress
ADA Compliance
Online tutoring programs should have an understanding of challenges students might encounter
in online tutoring. This includes English as Second Language learners or students working in
noisy or quiet environments. Colleges must also ensure their online tutoring services are
designed to support all students, including those with disabilities. Online tutoring services should
include assistive technologies that can be integrated to support students who have vision,
hearing, learning, attention, and mobility limitations. Programs should consult with their
Disabled Student Offices when designing online tutoring programs to ensure their services are
compliant with state and federal regulations.
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According to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC),
accredited institutions are most successful when curriculum, programs and services foster student
learning and achievement via data informed program design, implementation, and assessment.
The ACCJC recommends four standards as a framework to promote student success (2014).
These include: Standard I: Mission, Academic Quality and Institutional Effectiveness,
and Integrity; Standard II: Student Learning Programs and Support Services; Standard III:
Resources; and Standard IV: Leadership and Governance. While all standards are important, the
following section will focus on the second standard of Student Learning Programs and Support
Standard II: Student Learning Programs and Support Services
Effective online tutoring programs goals and outcomes should be aligned with the overall
mission of the institution to ensure high quality programming, student learning, and adequate use
of resources. Moreover, online tutoring programs should support the fields of study specific to
each institution. This includes developing strong channels of communication between online
tutoring programs and academic departments to ensure that the goals, learning outcomes,
expectations and standards are understood and aligned.
Online tutoring programs that are designed using short- and long-term goals, learning outcomes,
and a continuous assessment of services create opportunities for a highly successful
comprehensive program review focused on student development and achievement. For example,
colleges can collect student demographic data (i.e.gender, age, major, course, enrollment status,
units completed, degree goal, grade point average, etc) and affective outcomes detailing students
feelings and attitudes of services (availability of tutors, program hours, validation, technology,
etc.). Community colleges can use student data to market tutoring programs, improve technology
services, increase access and engagement, track student learning, and create professional
development opportunities.
The CCC serves a diverse group of students with a diverse range of needs. To help students
achieve their goals, programs and services must be aligned with system wide initiatives,
informed by data driven pedagogy, and assessed regularly to ensure student learning and
achievement. This paper sought to inform community college stakeholders on effective practices
for online tutoring. As research continues to grow in this field, so too should programs and their
development of services aimed at supporting students both inside and outside of the classroom.
15. Effective Practices, 14
Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (2014). Accreditation Standards.
Brecht, H. (2012). Learning from online video lectures. Journal of Information Technology
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Brown, Jennifer (2012). Synchronous Online Tutoring: Tips And Tools To Start Your Own
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Chi, M. T., (2013). Learning from observing an expert’s demonstration, explanations, and
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Chase. New York: Psychology Press.
Feng, X., Xie, J., & Liu, Y. (2017). Using the Community of Inquiry Framework to Scaffold
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16. Effective Practices, 15
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