A Day in the Life of a Virtual Tutor

tutorLooking for a job where you can teach others what you know, have flexible hours, and work from the comfort of your own home? Joshua Riddell was looking for such a gig. He works as a full time Software Engineer for Kroll Background Screening, but he wanted to earn some additional income to help offset the costs of tuition at a school where he is currently enrolled. Joshua has held positions as both a private math tutor and a tutor at Indiana University Bloomington's Academic Support Center, but now as a tutor for Tutor.com, he can add virtual tutor to his list of tutoring engagements.

What is it like to be a virtual tutor?

Riddell explains, "With online tutoring, tutors meet one on one with students in a virtual classroom with a shared whiteboard and instant messaging. I can tutor at 3PM or 3AM and the students can connect at those times as well. Tutors can schedule hours in advance or just "float" to tutor students." Riddell tutors students in algebra, calculus, geometry, statistics, and trigonometry and most of his students are in high school or their first year of college. Riddell enjoys teaching the higher levels of mathematics because it keeps his skills sharp and he enjoys the online environment because it saves him commuting time and gas costs.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

The nature of the online environment often means teaching students with a variety of different educational backgrounds and levels. One student may know their material but just need their answers checked; another student may have missed a few days of classes and need more intensive help to catch up. Riddell notes, "It can be very tempting to just do the student's homework for them when they are not sure of the next steps, but at Tutor.com we will never send students away with just answers. Going that extra mile to ensure the student's experience goes beyond the tutoring session is the toughest but the most rewarding part of tutoring."

What type of person is well suited for a position as a tutor?

According to Riddell, "Strong communication ability is probably the most important quality an online tutor should possess. As a senior mentor to other online tutors, I have seen some tutors with doctoral degrees and excellent subject knowledge struggle with adjusting their communication and tone to meet the needs of students at various grade levels. On the other hand, I have seen some tutors that do not have any educational training possess a natural ability to communicate quickly and effectively in an online environment. Subject matter expertise and the ability to use different approaches for different students is very important as well. Having at least undergraduate level coursework in the subject areas is also important to providing the best possible experience to a large number of students."

Are there opportunities for advancement in tutoring roles?

Even though virtual tutors aren't "putting in their time" in a traditional office, there can be room for advancement. After one year of tutoring, based on his performance, Riddell was moved to a mentoring position and after one more year he was moved to a senior mentoring position. "Being able to tutor in an online environment is an art, and Tutor.com rewards those who excel in providing high quality sessions to its student base."

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