16 Jan 2020

Online Tutoring: How It Works And Why More Parents in The UK Are Choosing An Online Tutor For Their Child

Online tutoring is growing increasingly popular with families wishing to take advantage of all the benefits of extra tutoring from the comfort of their own home at a much more affordable price. However it you’re new to online tutoring it can be a little difficult to imagine how it works, and why it has become so popular. Here, we hope, are the answers to all your questions!

What is online tutoring?

As its name suggests, online tutoring is a form of additional tuition or subject support that takes place over the internet, with the tutor and student(s) communicating through the use of voice chat software such as Skype or an equivalent. One to one online tutoring is the most common and effective way to use the internet for tuition but it is also possible to do online group tutoring.

The best online tutoring tends to be provided by companies who specialise in this way of teaching, and are able to control aspects like the interface that the tutor and the student communicate through and the quality of the lessons delivered online. While some private tutors will offer online tutoring, it tends to be sporadic and as an ‘additional’ offer to their face to to face tutoring business so is not recommended.

matr online tutoring lesson example

Matr’s online classroom connects pupils with their tutor over the internet

How does online tutoring work?

Note: As one to one online tutoring is what you are more likely to find, this is what we choose to focus on. Group tutoring works similarly, but there are some key differences. 

In terms of content, an online tutoring lesson is broadly the same as in-person one to one tutoring: the tutor and student will have a session of between 30 minutes and two hours, focused on one subject. The end goals of the set of tutoring lessons will most likely have been agreed earlier e.g. SATs revision for improved performance.

As an online service, the lessons take place over the internet. The most effective way to share the lessons with the student is through an online classroom which companies like Matr have created specifically for this purpose. This software lets tutors and students interact with each other in real time, in a similar manner to a face to face lesson.

Matr’s online maths lessons are designed to be ‘written’ on, highlighted and adjusted by the tutor and the student. The tutor can also draw from a bank of 270 lessons and additional maths questions to further personalise the lesson for the student.

Online maths tuition lesson


Without a bespoke online classroom online tuition risks becoming a poor substitute for the real thing, with lots of waving of sheets at a laptop camera. Not recommended!

Why might you consider online tutoring for your child?

“We did the tutoring for 6 months and really saw the benefit of breaking the concepts down, step by step, to make them less overwhelming! This helped my son greatly in the SATs” – Amy, parent of a Matr student

Unlike face to face tutoring which, at prices ranging from £25 to £60 an hour, is too expensive for many, online tutoring is well within many family budgets. At Matr parents pay as little as £9.99 per online maths tuition lesson including additional homework and worksheets.

In fact there are three main reasons that parents turn to online tutors to support their children.

  • Firstly, you might consider tutoring if your child is struggling with a particular subject at school. A tutor could help them get up to speed, but also help them in a more long-term way: by helping them become a more confident learner.
  • Secondly you may want a tutor to help stretch and challenge your child. High attaining students, especially at primary school, may find themselves bored and unmotivated in their classes because the classwork is too easy but the teacher is too busy with the other 29 children to find them appropriately challenging extension work. For these children online tutoring is especially beneficial because as well as providing them with the one to one attention they may not get in class, it also provides them with a new and interesting method of learning, which is more like to keep them engaged with the topic.
  • Finally, many parents seek tutoring for their children in the run-up to exams. At primary school this tends to be online tuition for Key Stage 2 SATs, and at secondary it’s for GCSEs.

Convenience of online tutoring

Of course the other reason you may consider online tutoring while your child is still at primary school and dependent on you to ferry them about is the convenience it offers. Not only are you usually able to get a tuition slot that works for you but you don’t even have to leave the house! Matr’s KS2 maths lessons are between 35 minutes and one hour, for example – meaning you can slot them in whenever is best for you, and without the hassle of travelling somewhere for the lesson.

What age group is online tutoring suitable for?

Tuition of all kinds can benefits students of any age, and online tutoring is no exception. As with many things, the earlier you start the greater the impact the tuition will have. In a subject like maths, where learning is cumulative and one topic builds on another, if learning gaps start to appear at primary school it’s essential to fix those gaps early on. If you don’t, the child who doesn’t know their times tables in year 4 will find it extremely difficult to understand more complex fractions work in year 6 or algebra in secondary school.

“We have had a fantastic start with Matr! Our 7 year old daughter is very comfortable with her tutor and her confidence is growing every week” – Soraya, parent of a Matr student

Confidence is key

One of the many overlooked benefits of tutoring, whether online or offline is that students thrive on the individual attention from their tutor, and this not only helps them to make progress more quickly, but also helps them build confidence in the subject.

Building confidence early is key – the earlier a child gains confidence in a subject, the greater the impact it will have on their learning. So tutoring at primary school can give children skills they can use all the way through their schooling.

At Matr, we provide online maths tutors for children as young as 6. Provided they have learnt to read and can recognise their numbers they can benefit from additional maths support. In fact a key part of the training we give our tutors in delivering their online maths tuition is on building rapport and enthusiasm from young children. So you’ll likely see lots of emojis appearing to reward your child for effort during a lesson.

A child who feels safe and secure in their maths, will develop the resilience to tackle more challenging problems and ask questions if they’re struggling. That’s when progress is really being made!

When is it best to start online tutoring?

Once again, starting tutoring earlier is better – even if you’re thinking of getting a tutor for your child for an exam like the Key Stage 2 SATs.

Most schools (depending on their curriculum structure) will teach topics in the Autumn term that act as ‘building blocks’ for the topics learnt in the Spring and Summer terms.

example scheme of learning from white rose maths

Schemes of work like White Rose Maths use earlier topics as ‘building blocks’ for later topics.

Starting with an online tutoring programme early on in the year will ensure your child is comfortable with these ‘building blocks’ before they have to move onto more difficult topics.

Research by the charity National Numeracy has shown that at primary school, knowledge is absorbed and retained quicker when it’s reinforced outside school – when children can practise it soon after they first learn it.

So if you begin tutoring early it is more likely that your child’s class teacher and tutor will be covering the same topics at the same times, making it easier (and therefore quicker) for your child to make progress.

Is online tutoring effective? Does it work? 

One to one tuition personalised to the needs of the individual child is one of the most effective ways to achieve rapid progress for a child. There is plenty of research to back this up. Set up correctly, with appropriate lesson content, links to the national curriculum, and through a bespoke online classroom, online tutoring is just as effective as face to face tutoring.

Over 50,000 children have now taken advantage of Matr’s online tutoring and in a trial with a group of them, pupils were seen to make over 28 weeks progress in 14 weeks i.e. they achieved twice as much learning as they would have done without the one to one maths lessons. So online tutoring definitely works!

As parents, investigating the online tutoring options available to you, most organisations should be able to provide you with regular reports from the online platform which will enable you to keep up to date on your own child’s performance and how effective the online tutoring is proving for them.

What are the benefits of online tutoring?

“It was really cool! My tutor was really nice and when I made a mistake she really helped me correct it. I enjoyed having the headset because I thought it was very helpful. It helps you concentrate because you can’t hear the sounds around you. It’s just a fun way to learn maths!” – Olivia, Matr student

Price is usually brought up as the main benefit of using online tutoring, but this is far from its only plus point. Other benefits include:

  1. Online tutoring is more convenient for parents and children
  2. You get a greater range of top quality tutors online
  3. Algorithms can match the right tutor for the specific needs of each student
  4. Online learning is fun and engaging for children
  5. Children are always learning in a place of safety and comfort – their home
  6. The best online tutoring sites provide training for tutors so they know exactly what to teach and how
  7. Online tutoring is cheaper, both in the cost of lessons and that you don’t have to travel to the tutor’s house
  8. Online tutoring is safe and secure – tutors can be vetted professionally and all lessons are recorded
  9. Use of the computer and online classroom will improve technology skills for children
  10. Access to a bank of online lessons means the tutor can always access activities appropriate to the child

Find out more about the benefits of online tutoring here.

What else should I consider?

While online tutoring has many benefits, there are other considerations you should make before choosing a tutoring type. These include:

  • Internet connection – is your web connection stable enough for your child and their tutor to communicate clearly for their whole session? Does someone use it all the time, which might cause slow down?
  • Reviews from other parents – while you may not be able to meet your tutor before your lesson, an online tutoring company’s rating and reviews on sites like Trustpilot are a great indication of the quality you can expect.
  • Qualifications – make sure your chosen company hires tutors that are qualified to teach their subjects. Matr hires qualified STEM graduates to teach our maths lessons, for example.

Online tutoring tips for parents

It can be difficult to know how exactly to help your child with an online tutoring lesson, especially if you’re new to the concept. Here are a few tutoring tips to get you started.

Check your internet connection

Not just that it’s working and stable, but that no-one else uses it for anything too intensive. Streaming services and online games can slow your internet down and cause problems for an online tutoring session, so keep them to a minimum.

Help with setup

Even the most tech savvy kids can slip up sometimes, and knowing what to do and how to fix any minor issues can save both you and them a lot of stress – not to mention saving lesson time that might have been lost!

Keep an eye on progress

Online tutoring companies usually produce more detailed progress reports than their in-person equivalents, and these reports are a great way of keeping track of how your child is progressing.

What other tutoring options are there?

Finally, as you look into the options to give your child more academic support you may want to consider alternatives to online tutoring such as one to one tutoring and tuition centres.

One to one tutoring

As its name implies, one to one tutoring is about having a tutor teach a single child. Sessions can run between half an hour and two hours, covering subjects from GCSE History to A level Mathematics.

One to one tuition can help a student make greater progress than group-based tutoring or schooling alone, but it can also be relatively expensive: tutors can charge anywhere between £20 and £50 per hour depending on experience, and agencies may charge a fee on top of this.

Matr, like other online tutoring companies, uses a modified version of one to one tutoring, retaining many of the benefits at a lower cost.

Read more: One to One Tutoring: Is It Worth It?

Tuition centres

Tuition centres usually involve groups of students being taught by one tutor at a company-owned building. The individual lessons are generally cheaper than one to one tutoring, but about the same cost as the more affordable online tutoring options. The trade-off for tuition centres however is that your child will not receive (or only sometimes receive) individual attention from their tutor.

Extra tuition from tuition centres is also less easy to organise. For obvious reasons the lessons take place at set times, and you are unable to reschedule. With travel time, this can make them a real time sink – especially if the nearest centre is far from you.

Want to find out more about other kinds of tutoring? Try our Guide to Primary School Tutoring.