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How I Personalize My Teaching Style Over an Online Platform

March 8, 2021

Online platforms can be very different from the traditional classroom setting, and that can be dismaying at times. This change is not necessarily for the worse—while you lose some teaching tools we had previously, you gain others in their stead.

Once you adapt your teaching style to work with this new setting, you're all set to help students out! But before we even start talking about teaching styles, it is a great idea to familiarize yourself with the online platform.

I'll be using my experiences as a Paper tutor as an example. On Paper, there are tons of handy tools apart from text chat at our disposal. They range from drawing and typing text on the whiteboard to sharing images and annotating them. It may sound strange, but at times I find the online tools to be more convenient than their offline counterparts. I cannot draw straight lines on a physical whiteboard, so the line tool is my best friend on Paper!

We already know that different students will respond positively to different approaches.

I usually experiment to see what works best for a specific student. Let them set the tone.

Are they a visual learner?

If they send in a picture and tend to respond with drawings, it is fair to presume that they are a visual learner, and we should try to guide them using the whiteboard. On the contrary, if you find them typing out math equations in text chat, they are probably more comfortable with that.

Are they feeling stuck or discouraged?

The Socratic method works great for guiding students to find answers on their own. Occasionally though, students are very lost on specific question types. What I like to do in these situations is go over a similar and simpler example in detail and then come back to their original question. This works well for me and helps bolster the student's confidence! Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool.

Are they an early-learner?

Other times I have had younger students who find it difficult to focus if they are not having fun while they learn—and that is fair! I try to find things they can relate to, and it helps them remember concepts better. For instance, a student was having plenty of trouble with a division problem in math, but when I phrased it as a problem to give out equal amounts of candy to kids, it suddenly 'clicked' for them.

Are there communication roadblocks?

It is easy to emphasize points when you are speaking out loud and are using your entire body to communicate. Over text, this does not come quite as naturally. There are two things I do to get around this roadblock. Students respond very positively to both these approaches:

  1. I break up my thoughts into digestible pieces. The less text I throw at my students, the more likely they would be to pay attention to the key points. 

  2. I will use the whiteboard to my advantage. The array of colors that both students and tutors can use on Paper's whiteboard might be my favorite teaching tool. I love writing out parts of a math equation that changed in blue or color-coding similar ideas in English and Computer Science.

I hope all that helps you find your style of teaching online. I constantly experiment with different approaches, so remember that if you stay positive and enthusiastic, you will do a great job!

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Siddhant, Paper Tutor

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