Tutoring online naturally involves fielding a lot of student questions.
Some days, in fact, it feels like that’s all you do.
And these calls for help can be problematic.
They can take forever to answer.
They can be repetitive and exhausting.
And they can get in the way of the other core business of tutoring online.
When you’re feeling harassed and pressured, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that student questions can actually be a good thing!
That’s because with a little guidance from their online tutors, students are more likely to:
- Have a positive e-learning experience
- Feel supported rather than lost and angry, and
- Do better overall.
That’s good for your students. But it’s also helpful for you.
Happy students and higher course completions underline that you’re doing a great job tutoring online.
But how do you remember that, when you have 1,000 emails to answer, and an endless To Do List?
I’ll tell you how.
How Student Questions Can Make Tutoring Online More Efficient
1. They show online tutors the tip of an iceberg
It’s unusual to get a completely unique, out-of-left-field student question.
More often, there are probably other students out there with the same query.
They want to know the answer, too, but are too busy (or too embarrassed) to ask.
That creates a golden opportunity for you to clear up confusion across the course.
If you post the answers to common student questions in an Announcement or discussion board thread, you let the whole course know the answer (without revealing the identity of the student brave enough to ask in the first place, of course).
A simple FAQ page can achieve the same result.
2. They help online tutors to build rapport with students
How you handle this opportunity for one-on-one interaction is so important.
If a student is asking a question, they’re frustrated and anxious. They already feel a little like a failure because they can’t find the answers they need independently.
So reassure them.
Tell them it’s normal to ask questions, and need occasional clarification.
When you adopt a reassuring and supportive tone, you help them relax and become receptive to your answer. You set the scene for them to ‘hear’ you fully – and silence their fearful mental noise as they question their ability to learn online.
Students can then take the next step through the course with more confidence.
3. They enable online tutors to make e-learning relevant
An effective way to answer a student query is to offer a real-world example.
By providing a fresh context, you give them a new, clearer perspective on their problem.
If you can relate course material to the student’s workplace or industry, that will certainly be helpful.
Or you can use a generic real world scenario to answer the query in a way that’s relatable and relevant.
I always use an example scenario that’s light years from the adult education topics I teach – a fictional course called Cake Baking 101.
By talking the student through the process of measuring dry ingredients, mixing a smooth batter, and baking for the right amount of time, I can draw parallels with the different processes in my own course materials.
4. They can help online tutors make students feel valued
Students are surprised and delighted when you thank them for an insightful question.
I often thank my students when they’ve helped me clarify an important point that their fellow students will also need to know.
This makes online students feel heard and valued.
They’re not just student number 123456 in the course. Their opinions and experiences matter.
And naturally, they respond positively to that message.
5. They show online tutors the weak spots in course materials
If you’re getting the same question over and over from your online students, or if many of them are struggling with the same topics, that tells you something.
It may be time to fine-tune parts of your course materials to provide more clarity.
Revisit those sections of your course materials that seem to be triggering all the questions. Would some simple changes make the materials easier to understand?
By refining your materials from time to time, you help your students to become more confident independent learners.
Student questions start important dialogues.
They provide online tutors with essential first-hand information.
You can use that information to make tutoring online easier and more successful – for both you, and your students.