Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When online tutoring evolves.

I'm a die hard Boston Red Sox fan, but when you heard Harry Caray, the legendary baseball announcer yell "Holy Cow!", you knew it was a Chicago Cub's home run. When Guy Kawasaki says it, you know something VERY cool is just a click away.

In Guy's blog post titled, "I'll never get on a plane again", he links to the Cisco/Musion Systems TelePresence holographic video conference with the "World’s first Live Holographic Video Feed from California, USA to Bangalore, India". It is simply amazing.

With oil predicted to be $150-$200 a barrel in the near future, beaming yourself to faraway lands, and having others beam themselves to you, becomes all the more economically attractive and environmentally friendly. Instead of hopping a flight, walk to a conference room.

It's potential application to online, personal tutoring is equally mind bending. Instead of driving to a tutoring center or making your poor tutor drive to you, you can "beam over".

But wait...online tutoring already accomplishes this, doesn't it?

Well...it does... Just not so Star Trek-like. In fact, according to Dr. John Stuppy, President of Tutorvista,
"online tutoring is as effective as face-to-face" already. His presentation at the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) 2008 National Conference points out "..(in) a study of over 300,000 students who received face-to-face tutoring versus online tutoring, there was no statistically significant difference in pre- versus post-test gains on third party norm-referenced assessments." Additional benefits sited were, an "increase in their childrens grades, sometimes after just a few weeks." and " some students are more likely to ask questions and admit when they still dont understand something".

I can't say I have seen a similar study of 300,000 students in Spain , which is the market Tutor Amigos offers it's service. But I can tell you from first-hand experience that increases in our student's grades have been achieved after just a few weeks and parents have commented how their generally shy sons and daughters are much more active and engaged when working with an online tutor, as opposed to an in-home tutor which is a popular model in Spain.

Now there are differences in how some companies deliver today's online tutoring service, which I will address in a future post. The take away is this: online tutoring, as it exists today, is just as effective as having a tutor sit next to you and do the tutoring. You don't need to wait for this amazing Cisco/Musion systems holographic technology to go mainstream in order to benefit from online tutoring, however someday this amazing technology will go mainstream. And when it does, online tutoring will be poised to be not only as effective, it may even be better.

How do you think online tutoring can be improved? Now? In the future?

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