When conducting online tutoring, a teaching platform is used. This is basically an online software that allows files such as worksheets and tests to be uploaded on to a shared screen that is seen by both student and tutor. The shared screen usually comes with tools for editing/ typing/ drawing shapes/ annotating so that both parties can work collaboratively. Many of these teaching platforms also come with integrated video software so you don’t need to have Skype on separately. All in all, making the experience a very interactive process.
With so many providers out there, we review some of the online platform providers available. Please note this is purely a discussion of the online whiteboard programme as many offer integrated account software to go with it. These integrated account software are essentially a management programme, giving users the ability to store client details, record timing of lessons and initiate billing etc.
Many cool functions (especially the graphing function. You just type an equation, drop it on to the graph and it plots it automatically). Tutor Trove also allows you to delete single pages from your uploaded file (Eg. If you load a test paper on, you can remove the cover page so the student doesn’t know the year group/ age printed on the front, perfect for those who may be doing work that is below age-related expectation). Furthermore all the work is automatically stored and stays there once you log on again, meaning tutors and student can just pick up where they left off in previous sessions. We like the function of being able to see which page your student is at and the ability to ‘drag’ them to the page you’re on. Perfect for students who may be prone to messing around. You can use a graphics tablet with Tutor Trove to teach things like column addition or subtraction but be aware, it’s not a very smooth operation and can make the writing quite ‘laggy’. This is a paid programme, and one of the gripes we have with this is that the lessons are charged the minute both tutor and student arrive on the whiteboard. Now if I go on the whiteboard 10 minutes before a lesson is due to start to make sure it’s all set up, and the student does the same but the lesson doesn’t actually start until the set time, you’re going to be charged that extra 10min. Similar problem if both tutor and student forgot to log out after a session.
This programme is similar to Tutor Trove in many ways: the layout, the editing tools and access to Scribblar via an emailed link. Like Tutor Trove, you can upload files onto one whiteboard, rather than under multiple tabs and the work is automatically saved, ready for you upon your return to this whiteboard a later stage. There are slightly more Maths based tools such as their WolframAlpha function. Using that tool, you can search for information from topics such as Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Technology and a small page of notes will become available. Although the bank of information available on WolramAlpha is not huge, it’s still good for anyone tutoring at a more advanced level. Other functions include integrated Skype function and the ability to save the chat transcript. The squared paper/lined paper background is also quite handy.
WebEx comes with lots of basic functional that you might need like drawing, typing, adding in files to be viewed, laser pointer etc. However, it’s designed for meetings generally so tuition-specfic functions like graphing do not exist. Also, it’s takes a while to get to the online whiteboard as you have to click through several pages before getting to it. Tutors ‘invite’ students to meetings first, which triggers an automatic invite email. This has to be done fresh every time you use it so could be rather annoying if you’re having regular online tutoring every day. At the end of each session, the pages are automatically turn into a saved file and the ‘meeting’ is closed. You can not go back into that meeting once it’s closed, you have to restart a new session inviting participants from scratch. This means as a tutor, you can only upload the work that you intend to use a few minutes before you are due to teach. This is the same for students if they’ve got work they want to show you. You do get to record the session though, which can be saved for reviewing later, and the function to share your desktop screen is also rather handy.
WizIQ share a lot of similar functions with WebEx. For example, recording the session and ability to share desktop screen with the student. Files uploaded become separate tabs (3 files = 3 whiteboard tabs) which means you may not always ‘see’ where your student is and what they are doing on the screen. (You may be on Tab 1 but your student may be on Tab 3). Like WebEx, you can’t remove single pages from an uploaded file so every page will be on show. WizIQ does, however, have a unique integrated media player for sharing Youtube video and the ability to allow 1000s of students to be on the same whiteboard at one time. The software also has the ability to give ‘rights’ to students. Full rights allow the student to draw (edit, annotate, highlight etc) on the whiteboard. Removing these rights reduces a student to a silent spectator. Perfect for large conference type tuition. Otherwise though, the functions that you’d need for 1:1 tuition are quite similar to WebEx.
The programme comes with a lot of the basic editing functions but the appearance of the whiteboard is quite dated. GroupWorld is available from its website, which does not look particularly secure and the ‘demo’ section includes a list of previously recorded sessions that anyone can watch. These videos are not tutorials on how to use the programme though! Instead, they appear to be the live recordings of unsuspecting users who are trying out GroupWorld themselves.
Unfortunately, Twiddla only supports text files that are in PDF form and the functions available are not particularly wide-ranging. However, it does have basic editing tools and the ability to upload your files to be shared and seen. Invite on to the whiteboard is via a URL link or email invite. Overall, not a bad product for a free whiteboard with basic functions.
The product seems quite slow to run and took several seconds to connect to server on the few occasions it was used. However, basic editing functions are all there as well as the ability to upload files. Vyew also allows you to share your desktop screen. The whiteboard does come with small adverts on the side that keep changing, which presumably pays for the basic software to be free to users.
So many different boxes and looks quite complicated. Designed for an adult audience, this software may be a little too difficult for the average 1:1 tuition with a primary aged student. The programme has a huge amount of functions but maybe too much for what is required.