Interview with Susanna Loeb (Part III): Tutoring Strategies and the Effectiveness of Remote Learning

Interview with Susanna Loeb (Part III): Tutoring Strategies and the Effectiveness of Remote Learning

Across the country, education leaders are scrambling to address the pandemic’s detrimental impacts on student learning. One of the biggest questions school districts are trying to answer is how to find the most effective tutoring strategies to combat learning loss

Dr. Susanna Loeb, director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, and her colleagues propose high-impact tutoring as the most promising, evidence-based solution. A second concern is whether online tutoring is proven to be as effective as in-person tutoring sessions. 

In our January 2022 Pearls of Wisdom webinar (embedded below), Dr. Loeb shared her thoughts on these vital questions with Pearl CRO Nate Casey.  We’ve summarized the webinar discussion into a three-part blog series to highlight Dr. Loeb’s key points. In Part I, we discussed the benefits of high-impact tutoring. In Part II, we reviewed Dr. Loeb’s work with the National Student Support Accelerator at the Annenberg Institute.  And now, in the third and final part of our webinar recap, we’ll be discussing the best tutoring strategies and comparing the effectiveness of online vs. in-person tutoring. 

Finding Effective Tutoring Strategies

In the webinar, Dr. Loeb revealed that she’s been “working with districts across the country to test the effectiveness of different approaches to tutoring (…) and to better understand the challenges of implementing high-impact tutoring to overcome those challenges.” 

Among the initial findings from the Annenberg Institute’s research was that “the desire to increase scale comes with a push to decrease quality.” That problem, in turn, quickly cascades into other issues such as assigning too many students per tutor, offering too few tutoring sessions per week, and providing insufficient coaching for tutors. 

By contrast, “high-impact tutoring focuses on quality,” by decreasing the number of students, increasing the frequency of tutoring sessions, and supporting tutors with training. Dr. Loeb noted, though, that “building tutoring into the school day can be tricky. Schools need to be creative to do this well.” 

The most effective tutoring times, her group found, were during homeroom or intervention periods, electives, or before and after school. However, having in-person tutors on hand during these times isn’t always easy, which is why the advantages of online tutoring options are being further explored.  

It is important to note that the problems with K-12 remote learning during the first year of the pandemic were not because online instruction is less effective; the issues were related to curricula not being designed for online lessons, teachers who lacked experience teaching online, and the use of platforms that weren’t designed for teaching in the first place. Online learning also suffered during the first part of the pandemic because of poor internet access and too few modern devices in the hands of underserved students.  These issues don’t necessarily apply to online tutoring, especially if the right tutoring platform is utilized. 

For High-Impact Tutoring to Work Online, Convenience Is Key

Accessibility is a crucial ingredient to making high-impact tutoring work. It also happens to be a key feature of online learning. Indeed, accessibility is one of the leading reasons why college students look for online degree programs. Per Inside Higher Ed, the Department of Education cited that “51.8 percent of students took at least one online course in 2019-20.” Among other benefits, there are no commutes involved, which saves time and energy.  

“Tutoring is an excellent way to increase equity in schools,” stated Dr. Loeb. “However, it can only do this if the students who need it the most get it. That is why it is important to offer tutoring as part of the school day for students who need it the most.” 

When attending tutoring sessions becomes a hassle, students and parents lose interest because access isn’t convenient. Convenience, therefore, is key — but scheduling in-person tutoring isn’t always convenient. That’s where flexible online sessions come into play. Online tutoring removes such barriers to access. So why aren’t more schools doing it?

“Most research on high-impact tutoring looks at in-person programs,” Dr. Loeb told us, noting EdResearch’s “Design Principles Series.” She added, however, that “we’ve seen a lot of virtual school work and virtual tutoring as a result of the pandemic and the initial evidence is very positive. Virtual tutoring can be very effective.” 

Dr. Loeb noted that tutoring during the day “can be virtual even if students are in school. Students would be in classrooms on computers, perhaps with a teacher monitoring the class while the tutors come in virtually.” She raised the idea that in-person sessions might be “ideal” when they “allow [tutors and students] to get to know each other better.” But even the most ideal scenario can’t be effective when all parties don’t show up. Strong tutoring relationships help address students’ academic needs, but this requires attendance and enthusiasm from all sides. 

The Importance of Tutoring Software

Reviewing benefits of online tutoring platforms and software like Pearl, Dr. Loeb pointed out that they “offer the possibility — through audio and video recordings of sessions, for example — of studying the interactions between students and tutors to see what is working and what isn’t.” This capability can greatly help tutors adjust their methods so their work is more effective with each student. 

“Technology-based programs could learn about students’ needs and make those tutors great on the academics while the students benefit from a much more diverse group of educators,” she said. “I’m excited for the learning that we can have from the tutoring that is going on at scale. I am excited about models that use new technologies so that the relationships can be even better and so that the tutor can focus on student needs.”

On How to Attract and Retain Tutors

Schools must not only ensure that tutoring sessions are convenient for students, but for tutors, as well. 

“Districts across the country are having trouble finding teachers, substitute teachers, and, relevant for us, tutors,” Dr. Loeb said. “They need to think about how they can attract and retain the tutors they need.” 

Perhaps the best way to entice qualified tutors is to offer remote work opportunities. This seems especially true given the fact that so many workers have fled the labor force during the “Great Resignation” and are looking for online work they can do from home. 

“A rural school looking for high school math tutors may be better off with virtual tutors,” Dr. Loeb said. “I wouldn’t rule out online tutoring, especially given the new evidence that it can be effective.” She went on to note that “it may be difficult for schools to find tutors with the skills they want — maybe they want tutors who speak a language other than English or tutors with strong high school math skills. In this case, they may attract tutors with these skills if they use online tutoring, but not if they use in-person tutoring.”

She also highlighted the difference between teacher and tutor education and training. “One of the great things about tutoring is that many people can be excellent tutors. Many people with less teaching experience or no teaching experience can also be exceptional tutors, especially if they get some initial training and have some coaching and oversight while teaching.” 

Final Thoughts

It seems certain there are many potential tutors out there just waiting for the right opportunities to come along where they can teach online. The challenge is integrating them into the school day and providing them with the most up-to-date resources so they can establish positive academic relationships with the students they tutor. This includes the right software (like Pearl!) to facilitate such positive learning experiences. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Part III recap of Dr. Susanna Loeb’s webinar with Pearl’s Nate Casey. If you missed them, don’t forget to check out Part I, How High-Impact Tutoring Helps At-Risk Students Impacted by COVID-19, and Part II on the Annenberg Institute’s National Student Support Accelerator. 

You can also watch the entire webinar below, and be sure to sign up to be notified of upcoming webinars!

6 Signs You Need Tutoring Business Software 

6 Signs You Need Tutoring Business Software 

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to devastating learning loss among student populations around the country while creating a chance for entrepreneurial tutors to rush in and save the day! The year 2021 saw tutoring become a hot side hustle for some and a full-time business endeavor for others. Now, in 2022, many tutors are continuing to offer their tutoring services as part-time gigs, while those with broader goals are launching highly-profitable, scalable tutoring enterprises. 

No matter how big or small your tutoring business is, at some point, you’re going to need professional software to help you stay organized and manage your tutoring enterprise. Here are 6 signs you’re ready to take things to the next level with professional tutoring business software.

1. Your inbox is clogged

Your tutoring business must stay on top of communications to maintain a professional reputation. If you’re struggling to keep track of important messages with clients via email, it’s probably past time to move on to a better way of doing things. 

Pearl’s tutoring business software lets you keep all your business messaging in one place, so you never lose track again! 

2. You’ve missed appointments with students 

Each time students miss scheduled tutoring sessions, that’s a loss of revenue for your business. Of course, you can set a policy to charge for missed appointments, but that might lead to frustrations with clients. 

The simplest way to address this issue is with a built-in reminder system that keeps students, parents—and you—on time and on schedule. Pearl lets you book, view, and manage appointments quickly and send calendar reminders for upcoming tutoring sessions.

3. You need an easier payment management

Are you tired of wasting time with manual accounting for your business tax purposes? Want to get rid of the hassle of checks or cash payments, but need a more efficient way to manage credit card payments for your tutoring sessions? 

At Pearl, our tutoring software offers easy-to-use storefront payment management features that help you do all these things and more!

4. You’re struggling to keep track of student progress

Tutoring is a financial investment for clients, and sometimes clients wonder how effective their sessions are. The fastest way to show them is through progress tracking, which helps your business demonstrate the value of your tutoring services. When clients see their return on investment, you’ll retain them longer. 

Pearl was built by tutors for tutors, so we’ve built progress tracking tools right into our tutoring platform.

5. You need more virtual classroom features

Many tutors conducting online lessons rely on video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Meet to connect with students. Unfortunately, such tools weren’t built for educational purposes and often lack essential features you may need to share information or hold your students’ interest. 

Pearl’s tutoring business software includes more engaging video conferencing with whiteboards and screen sharing conveniently built into your dashboard.

6. You need the ability to review lessons 

Both clients and tutors love the ability to record sessions for later viewing. This capability allows students to go back and review material while enabling tutors to look for areas where students might be losing focus during lessons. 

Too many tutoring entrepreneurs try to scrape by without the proper tools at their disposal, leading to wasted time, points of frustration, and potential loss of customers. 

Pearl takes the headache out of managing your daily operations so you can focus on the things that are most important—such as teaching students effectively…and growing your tutoring business! 


To schedule a demo and see Pearl in action, get in touch with us today by filling out this contact form.

What Is a Virtual Classroom?

What Is a Virtual Classroom?

The recent COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of virtual classrooms across the globe but what exactly is a virtual classroom? The concept of remote learning has evolved significantly over the years with the rise of affordable personal computers and internet service. These days, students of all ages from anywhere in the world can easily engage in learning activities within their own home thanks to the rise of virtual classrooms and virtual classroom software like Pearl. 

Just like traditional classrooms, a virtual classroom utilizes a trained educator to share information and knowledge with one or more pupils. 

A virtual classroom is still a classroom — it simply doesn’t require anyone to be there physically! Instead, participants meet online by using webcams, microphones, and an intermediary software program. 

While the role of the teacher is obviously indispensable, the virtual classroom software used is also critical. Why does the virtual classroom software platform matter? To answer that, we need look no further than recent K-12 experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To minimize exposure risk, schools around the country issued students devices so they could learn from home. However, many K-12 districts soon discovered that student engagement lagged during the remote lessons, leading to significant learning loss. This was due, in part, to the overuse of no-frills video-teleconferencing software like Zoom, instead of educational software specifically designed to bolster the remote learning experience. 

An empty room isn’t automatically a “classroom,” and a student’s mere attendance, be it physical or virtual, doesn’t mean they’re prepared to learn. Experienced teachers know that to effectively teach a subject, a suitable learning environment has to be established first. Teachers must take the spaces they’re given and transform them into learning environments, then find creative ways to grab and hold student attention, elicit responses, and keep them engaged. 

Video conferencing apps like Zoom give teachers nothing to work with, but tutoring software like Pearl offers teachers a features-packed virtual classroom specifically designed to boost student participation. Tutoring platforms like Pearl dramatically reduce the effort teachers have to put into transforming their virtual classroom into a proper learning environment. Instead, they can focus all their attention on the actual teaching part of their job.  

Made for online educators by online educators, Pearl’s virtual classrooms offer all the bells and whistles educators want, plus many handy administrative features as well. 

With Pearl, tutors can: 

  • Easily share materials, including documents, slides, or videos 
  • Pull up virtual whiteboards that let participants write or draw (providing a valuable layer of physicality in a virtual setting)
  • Share screens to quickly display content students need to view live in-class
  • Record screens to capture tutoring session elements for later review

Pearl is much more than a virtual classroom platform, though. Pearl also offers helpful scheduling features that allow tutors to view and manage their lessons at a glance and even send out session reminders to students. Furthermore, user management functions make it a breeze to keep things organized from one control panel. There’s even a storefront for teachers who offer professional tutoring services and need to manage client payments. 

As educators, we created Pearl because we saw a need for an all-in-one tutoring software to help educators do their jobs better in this era of hybrid and online learning. Naturally, when tutors have the tools they need, they can better serve students who’ve suffered a tremendous learning loss due to the disruption caused by COVID-19. 

If you’ve ever dreamed of a remote learning platform that can “virtually” do it all, Pearl might make your dream come true! Get in touch with us today to learn more about how you can manage and grow your tutoring business.

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