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Tips for Engaging And Motivating Students In Online Tutoring Sessions

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Tips for engaging and motivating students in online tutoring

In a survey carried out by Duffin in 2019, it was found that 52% of graduate students in the United States expressed that their online college-level education provided a better learning experience when compared to their traditional classroom education. Additionally, as many as 6 out of 10, 63% of the students in the US use online learning activities daily. 

This surge in online learning can be attributed to various factors, including flexibility in schedule, affordability, convenience, and valuable academic output. 

However, online tutoring has its own set of challenges. One big challenge is engaging and motivating students in online tutoring.

If you are a tutor looking to drive student engagement in online tutoring sessions, you must not miss this guide! 

In order to provide the best online tutoring platform possible, we interviewed our expert tutors and distilled the most effective tips for engaging and motivating students in online tutoring sessions.

But first, let’s briefly understand why driving student engagement in online tutoring is challenging.

Why engaging and motivating students in online tutoring is challenging? 

Engagement is a crucial aspect of effective learning. According to a survey conducted in 2020 by Barnes and Noble Education on 432 college students across the U.S., 64% of the students reported facing challenges in maintaining focus and discipline during online lectures. Additionally, they expressed a lack of motivation to sustain distance learning over an extended period.

The reasons why it is challenging to maintain student engagement in online tutoring may vary from one person to another. 

However, one of the most notable differences between online and in-person tutoring is the mode of interaction. In online tutoring, the physical cues of traditional classrooms are absent. Simply put, this lack of physical interaction sometimes makes students feel disconnected or less engaged. 

Tips for engaging and motivating students in online tutoring sessions:

Here are some of the most popular tips teachers can employ for engaging and motivating students in online tutoring sessions.

Build rapport with students

Dr. Rebecca Glazier, a University of Arkansas at Little Rock professor, has written a book on building rapport with students. She says it can be challenging to build a positive connection with students in online tutoring, but building rapport is essential to derive the full benefit of online learning.

Building a solid rapport with students is fundamental to facilitating engagement and motivation. Establishing rapport simply means providing the students with a positive connection and a welcoming environment and making them feel attended. Here are a few tips to build rapport with students:

  1. Understand your students personally: Ask about their interests, hobbies, and life goals. Show honest interest in their success. 

Tell them, “You’re a brilliant person. I knew you would excel in this.” “We will do this together.” This helps in creating a comfortable learning environment and makes the students feel valued.

  1. Make eye contact: Having eye contact fosters a deeper understanding and natural communication between two people. Looking at their eyes for a few seconds from time to time may help you understand their facial expressions. It will also help them grasp your lectures better. 
  1. Offer additional assistance: This could involve providing additional resources such as links to video and text that can enhance their learning. You may also offer homework help.
  1. Ask for feedback: Ask your students to regularly share feedback on your teaching style. Ask them if they have understood the lessons clearly. If they are in any doubt, provide them with necessary clarifications.

Set clear expectations

Setting clear expectations at the beginning of each session can guide students in the learning process. It advises them to plan their actions accordingly. Once you have developed coordination with your students, it’s your duty as a tutor to be clear on what you expect from your students and how it should be done. Follow these tips:

  1. Lay down your expectations: These expectations could be about behavior, participation, or learning outcomes. For instance, you could set expectations about timely submission of assignments, active participation in discussions, and adherence to online etiquette.
  1. Practice consistency: Make sure you and the students meet the established expectations. If a student is not meeting expectations, address the issue constructively. Guide them politely on how they can improve.

For example, if you want them to join the session on time, and you find a student delaying repeatedly, politely address them, “Kindly join your classes on time.”

  1. Set deadlines: You must set a suitable deadline for the assignments and tasks assigned to the students. This makes them feel responsible and instills a sense of self-discipline. 

Make your class interactive

According to Murray’s study, over half of U.S. educators, specifically 54%, firmly believed that game-based learning is vital in education.

Making your class fun and motivating for students by using interactive activities and technology is an excellent way to catch the students’ interest in the subject. You can use these methods to boost the interaction and engagement of your students:

  1. Include games, quizzes, or discussions: These activities make learning fun and allow students to apply what they have learned.

For instance, you could use a game to reinforce a concept taught in the session or a quiz to assess their understanding.

  1. Leverage technology to your advantage: Numerous online tools (e.g., kahoot, iSpring, Edpuzzle, etc.) can help engage your students.

For instance, chat features, video conferencing, screen sharing, and interactive whiteboards can contribute to a more engaging learning experience. These tools make learning interactive and cater to different learning styles. 

Offer positive reinforcement

Providing immediate feedback and positive reinforcement on students’ work can help them understand where they are going wrong and how to improve. This can also motivate students as they can see their progress and improvement over time. Here’s how to implement the same: 

  1. Be Patient and Understanding: It’s important to acknowledge that each student may adapt to online learning at their own pace. Some might quickly adjust, while others might take a bit longer.
  1. Be flexible: Flexibility is also crucial. Be willing to adapt your schedule to meet with students at times that work best for them. This shows that you consider their needs and are committed to their learning.
  1. Be specific with your praise: You can praise your individual students by highlighting what they did well and how it contributed to their learning.

For example, instead of general praise like “Good job,” you could say, “Great job on your presentation. Your explanation of the concept was clear and concise.” This shows that you are paying attention to their work and appreciate their effort.

Use real-world examples

You can also incorporate real-world examples and scenarios into your lessons to make the learning more relatable and exciting for students.

  1. Cite instances: For example, if you are teaching a maths concept, you could use examples from finance or engineering to show how the concept is used in those fields. This can help students see the practical applications of their learning and increase their engagement.
  1. Tell stories: You can also explain a particular concept to a student using the story-telling method. Share your real-life story to build curiosity in the students and help them retain the concept.

Encourage peer learning

As an online tutor, you must encourage students to learn from each other by setting up group projects or discussion forums. Encouraging students to collaborate on projects or discussions can foster community, making the online learning environment more engaging. 

You can do this by encouraging student interaction, sharing personal experiences, and celebrating successes together. These tips will help promote collaboration among students: 

  1. Break the ice: For example, start each session with a short icebreaker activity to help students get to know each other better. Ask them to open up about their life with their classmates.
  1. Create group projects: You could create a group project where students work together to solve a problem or make a presentation. This can help students feel more engaged and motivated as they can learn from their peers and share their knowledge and ideas.
  1. Use webinars: You can also conduct webinars to learn and teach a particular topic with the help of other group members.
  1. Make learning groups on social media applications: You can make separate groups on WhatsApp, Messenger, and so on to share learning material and exercises with the group members. The group members can contact each other, collaborate, and solve their assignments.

To sum it up…

Engaging and motivating students in online tutoring sessions can be challenging but crucial for effective learning. By implementing these strategies, tutors can create a compelling and enjoyable learning environment for their students. 

Remember, every student is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. By implementing the tips for engaging and motivating students in online tutoring, you help your students learn and instill a passion for learning. 


How can I effectively engage my students during online tutoring sessions as a tutor? 

You can engage your online students in the sessions by:
1. Asking them about their general life updates. 
2. Asking thought-provoking questions on the previously taught lessons. 
3. Incorporating multimedia content like videos and interactive quizzes to maintain their interest and participation.

How can I encourage the involvement of introverted students?

Encouraging the involvement of introverted students requires creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment. Here’s what you can do:
1. Offer opportunities for individual work and smaller group settings to alleviate social anxiety. 
2. Respect their need for quiet reflection and encourage them to share their thoughts in writing or through online platforms. 
3. Provide ample wait time during discussions to allow introverts to process their responses. 
4. Celebrate their contributions and strengths, fostering a sense of validation and belonging. 
5. Consider alternative methods of participation, such as written reflections or one-on-one discussions. 

Are there specific online tutoring tools that can enhance student engagement and motivation? 

Yes, there are various online tutoring tools that offer interactive features like virtual whiteboards, screen sharing, and chat functionalities, which can make sessions more engaging and foster active participation among students.

How can parents or guardians support their child’s engagement in online tutoring?

Parents or guardians can play a pivotal role in supporting their child’s engagement in online tutoring. 
1. Firstly, parents should establish a quiet learning space with the necessary resources. 
2. Regularly communicate with the tutor to stay updated on their child’s progress and address concerns. 
3. Encourage a consistent routine and provide positive reinforcement for active participation. Actively involve themselves in their child’s learning by discussing topics covered and offering additional help when needed.

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