And an Apple (iPad) for the Tutor: A Guide to Finding Effective Online Tutoring

If you’re a parent of a student with a learning disability and are looking for effective tutoring, you’re probably already aware of the challenges of finding a tutor that’s right for your child. When it comes to tutoring for learning disabilities, you want to find a solution that makes sure your child gets the supportive attention and individualized learning they need to not only succeed, but thrive.

But in today’s hectic world, between hobbies, school, extracurriculars and more, it can be hard for students and their parents to squeeze in the time to find the extra help they need.

Luckily with today’s technologies, finding the best online tutor for students has never been easier or more effective. Not only is online tutoring by its nature highly flexible, it can let people find the very best, most experienced tutors from across the country so they are no longer limited to whoever is nearby.

Why consider online tutoring?

Better Pricing Options

If you are only considering in person, one to one tutoring, then let’s face it- your options are limited to whatever tutors are currently within a reasonable driving distance. Sometimes that can mean that tutors can command a higher price for their services simply due to the fact that options are limited.

The beauty of living in a more connected world is that with online tutoring, you can find and get help from tutors from pretty much anywhere. That means not only can you select tutors that are perhaps more experienced and a better fit than your local tutors, but there’s a better chance of finding an affordable tutor who fits your budget.

Find the Best Tutors for You

When it comes to tutoring, students often have different needs and learning styles that need to be addressed. So when you look for an effective tutor, you want to find someone who understands and has experience in helping a student with a particular need and can adjust their teaching style accordingly. Someone who isn’t just a subject matter expert but understands how to support and encourage a student with a more limited attention span, for example.

The nature of online tutoring allows parents to effectively shop for tutors that fit their students particular need and comfort level.

Tech to Keep Kids Interested…and learning.

When you work with a tutor in a real life, face to face session, you’re sometimes limited to whatever technology they have at hand. With online tutoring, a tutor can bring whatever tools they need into the session digitally, letting them accommodate various learning styles with video, audio, file sharing and even cool animations.


The modern world is a busy place, and modern parents and students are even busier these days. School, sports, jobs, socializing, extracurriculars – they fill up a schedule quickly and can make it hard to fit in a few hours of tutoring a week.

With online tutoring, you can find a tutor in any timezone that’s convenient for pretty much any busy schedule. Further, this flexibility can be really helpful if your student has a particular time of day that they’re most effective and attentive, or if there’s a time of day they find most challenging.

Some online programs allow for what’s called asynchronous tutoring, which allows a student to submit work or questions to an offline tutor, who can then work on it and respond with feedback or an answer at another time. So if your child is having a day where face to face interaction would be difficult, they can still get the help they need.

Finally, but because the tutoring takes place online, there’s no commute or waiting for a tutor due to traffic. Your student can get the best tutoring right from your home computer, even while sitting in their pyjamas.

How to Find the Right Tutor for Your Student

Consider the needs and learning style of your child

You’ve probably heard it a million times from a million different teachers and educators: every student learns differently.

A good tutor should be able to design their lesson plan around this, being skilled at what is called multisensory teaching.

Multisensory teaching involves teaching in a way that involves and engages more than one of the student’s senses at a time. If you’ve ever listened to recorded instructions, or if you remember a particularly boring teacher from school reading from a text and droning on, that would be unisensory and that kind of approach doesn’t always work for all students. Some kids like to learn by touching and doing (tactile/kinesthetic  learning a visual), others by seeing an example in action (visual learning style).

A good tutor should be able to quickly assess and modify their teaching style to accommodate their student.

Another thing to consider is how much tutoring a particular student needs. Online tutoring is usually pretty flexible as is, but some companies take it a step further.

Many have pay-as-you-go plans and some even bill by the minute, so you can budget your tutoring sessions down to the minute. While the flexibility might be great, if your student needs a couple hours a week these by the minute plans (designed for shorter sessions and schedule flexibility) can add up and sometimes be more expensive per hour than regular plans.

Which subjects does my child need help with?

Does your child need help in one subject or many subjects? Depending on the answer your student may need a single, very knowledgeable tutor or several tutors.

Many online tutoring companies hire hundreds or even thousands of professional tutors and teachers, letting them offer tutoring services in a sometimes staggering number of subjects. Today you can get private one to one tutoring online from subject matter experts in anything from Chemistry to English to learning the oboe.

When does your child learn best?

As a parent you’ll probably know what time of day your child is most receptive to learning. That is, you’ll have to consider extracurriculars and the amount of downtime your child needs to maximize their attention and learning.

For some it’s in the early afternoon, for others it’s the evening after dinner or even before school. The beauty of online tutoring is in it’s flexibility, so it’s best to make use of it!

A Comfortable Student is a Successful Student

Students learn best when they’re in a comfortable environment. Online tutoring lets students meet their tutor from the comfort of home, an environment in which they feel safe, potentially reducing anxiety and defensiveness.

Can I fit this tutoring into an IEP or 504 plan?

If you have a student with a learning disability, or a student that is simply struggling in school, they may have an individualized education program/plan (an IEP) or a 504 individualized accommodation plan. Very basically, these are like a map that lays out the challenges, goals, support and educational plan that a student with learning disabilities needs to succeed in school, as well as any accommodations that they are guaranteed to receive by law.

Due to the fact that online tutoring allows you to find and hire tutors from basically anywhere, it’s quite easy and important to find tutors that have experience with these kinds of plans (not just a familiarity). Remember, with online tutoring you are not limited to whoever is nearby. There are a lot of good tutors out there, you have the power so don’t be afraid to bring it up in order to get the best option for your student.

Some questions to ask an online tutor:

  • What experience do you have fitting your tutoring into 504/IEP plans?
  • How long have you been working with students with these plans?
  • Do you have any particular qualifications, certifications, or credentials?
  • Students often learn best with multisensory teaching, what do you do to bring this into your lessons?
  • How do you handle disruption or attention issues?
  • How can we set up communication between us to assess progress and concerns?

What technologies will be used for online tutoring?

One thing to keep in mind when talking to your potential online tutor is what technologies will they use to be in contact with your child. Different tutoring companies use different technologies and you should consider what might be best for your student.

Skype, Zoom and other free programs

Some online tutoring companies, especially smaller ones or individuals, use Skype, Zoom or another chat program to do their lessons. You probably have them or another program like them already on your computer and what they lack in sophistication and teaching tools, they make up for in being…well, easy to use. And free/cheap.

Free to join, free to useSometimes (like Zoom) security can be an issue
Simple to use and easy to set up and get started…you’ve probably used something like it beforeNot a whole lot of tools available for the tutor beyond calling, video, screen-sharing and some very basic collaboration tools
Works on pretty much any device, anywhereSometimes the sound and video aren’t that great quality or lag
Sometimes have the ability to record

Online Classroom Technologies

While there is some simplicity in something like Skype or Zoom, to get the best online tutoring experience the larger and more dedicated tutoring companies tend to use one of the various online classroom technologies that are out there (or their own).

A screenshot of a student learning in an online tutoring classroom
Online Classrooms, such as this one from Skooli, are packed with helpful tools to improve the learning experience.

These digital classrooms are much like video conferencing software. They are web-based learning environments can have powerful, learning enhancing teaching tools like:

  • Digital whiteboards – for collaborative and interactive visual/tactile learning
  • File sharing – to work on projects together
  • Audio/visuals – for better face to face learning
  • Screen sharing – lets students and tutors work on documents together or bring in external learning tools, like youtube videos or website content
  • Session recording and playback – for revision and parental supervision of tutoring
  • Even code editors – for teaching coding
They often have excellent tools that make the online tutoring experience more like real lifeUsually the companies that use them charge more per hour
Video and Audio are usually of higher qualitySometimes more complicated to get started, you have to log in through the company and sometimes download a companion file
Run on dedicated servers that mean they run faster and with fewer problems than other chat/VOIP programsThe tutors need to be familiar with it to use the tools effectively and need to be able to ensure the student doesn’t get distracted
They are usually recordable by default so you can review things later
Can be more easily monitored for safety and security

When considering finding online tutoring, make sure you consider what you think would work best for your student. If you think your student will benefit from multisensory learning and/or requires more intensive, long term tutoring we would recommend finding a tutoring service with a digital classroom. In these environments they can benefit from the various tools and resources available to the tutor and get an experience that is more like meeting a tutor in real life.

If your budget is an issue, on the other hand, or your student just needs a little help here and there, online tutoring over a program like Skype might be a possibility to explore, even if it is a little more barebones.

What should I ask when trying to find the best online tutoring?


It may seem like it should go without saying, but figuring out how much the tutoring service or tutor will charge you is an important factor.

A tutor can be the most fantastically qualified and charismatic subject matter expert but it may not help if they can only see a student once or twice a month.

Generally speaking, experts recommend around 2 hours a week, and the cost can quickly climb if your child needs more intensive help.

Pay as you go online tutoring? Make sure you do the math!

When you’re going through the many, many online tutoring companies out there you’ll be surprised at the different pricing structures they have. Some are pretty traditional, bill by the hour tutoring. Others, however, may offer pay by the minute plans that offer a great amount of convenience – after all, isn’t it nice to only pay for the exact amount of minutes you actually use (past a minimum, of course)?

Well, in order to figure it out, you have to do some math (oh no!). The important thing is to try and compare like to like. That is, you need to multiply it out to figure out how much these companies charge per hour.

For an example, let’s compare a tutor on Wyzant charging their median price of about $45 by the hour) to a tutor on Skooli. Wyzant usually charges between $30-60 per hour, depending on the skills of the tutor, so we’ll take the midpoint of $45/hr, and Skooli charges $0.82/minute for a minimum 15 minutes).

Session TimeWyzantSkooli
15 minutes$12.30
30 minutes$24.60
45 minutes$36.90
1 hour $45$49.20

As you can see, if your student doesn’t need intensive tutoring sessions, say they need help with a few concepts they’re having a hard time with, by the minute tutoring makes sense. If your student is having a hard time in a particular subject, or more than one subject, and you think they’ll need several hours of tutoring a week a per hour service may, in fact, be the more affordable option.

Remember, it always pays to do the math.

Qualifications and experience

Online tutoring allows parents and students to find tutors from all walks of life. Some are teachers with years of experience, others are subject matter experts or full time tutors with Masters degrees or even PhDs in their fields, and some are recent college graduates.

What level of experience is best for you really depends on your comfort level and preferences, but in general you should look for teachers who:

  • Have credentials (a degree or experience teaching) in the subject matter
  • Have experience teaching online and with the platform they intend to use
  • Have experience teaching to the student’s grade level and age
  • Familiarity with different learning styles

If your student has a learning disability or special needs, it’s also important that they have the appropriate specific experience and knowledge as well.

How can or will they measure your child’s progress

It’s important that any tutor come up with some kind of learning plan for the student based on their strengths and weaknesses. You can ask to see or hear of examples of it, and if they issue written reports you should be able to ask to see a sample to make sure they are helpful and easy to understand.


When you look for tutoring online or in person, communication is key. You’ll want to be appraised of progress on some kind of regular basis to make sure things are going smoothly and effectively.Effective communication will also help you discover any issues that need to be addressed before they become big problems.

Background checks

Any tutor that deals with students should be able to pass a background check, especially if they work with children, regardless of whether the tutoring is in person or online. Not to be paranoid, but it’s always better to be safe.

Any reputable online tutoring company will do some screening on the tutors that work for them. They’ll try and make sure, to one degree or another, that the tutor has some working knowledge of what they’re supposed to be teaching.

Be aware, however, that for whatever reason not all tutoring companies require full criminal background checks on job candidates. We recommend you find ones that do background checks as a matter of course or at least make it easy to do an extensive check on your own as a service.

After all, better safe than sorry.

Cancellations and make up policy

Sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes a student and teacher just aren’t the right match, we get it. That said, online tutoring is still tutoring and you will be paying someone for their time. Often companies will charge a fee for a sudden cancellation.

Some companies are very flexible regarding cancellations and make up classes, others leave it as a matter between student and tutor.

Make sure you fully understand the policies before you sign up.


Once you’ve found a tutor, you still have to make sure they’re right for the job. They might have all the knowledge and qualifications but still not be a good fit for your child’s needs. So here are some questions to ask before finalizing any agreement.

  • What is your track record? If the tutor is an experienced one they should have a list of accomplishments to present.
  • How do you measure progress? They should be able to provide a lesson plan and a set of goals they hope to achieve.
  • What is your policy on cancellations or makeup sessions?
  • How many students do you work with at a given time?
  • What if my child doesn’t improve?
  • What can I do to reinforce my child’s learning?

Check out our list of the best providers

With dozens of options available online, deciding which tutoring service to use can be a little overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the providers we think are best for students with learning disabilities.

Check out our guide to The Best Online Tutoring Services