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Bramble report identifies training and technology as top priorities for online tuition

Online learning on a laptop

@bramble_io : Training and technology issues must be addressed if live online tutoring is to support student learning as effectively as possible this winter.

The recommendations are made in a new report from Bramble Technologies, Getting the most out of live online tutoring: Insights from half a million hours. 

The publication of the report comes as schools anticipate the autumn launch of the government-funded National Tutoring Programme (NTP), which will provide selected students with catch-up tuition – much of it online – to help them make up for learning lost during this year’s lockdown.  

Bramble’s report puts forward practical steps to enhance the effectiveness of online tutoring and is based on an analysis of results from its 2020 online tuition survey of more than 2,000 Bramble users, as well as data drawn from 500,000 hours of tuition on the Bramble platform.  

The 30-page report explores the dramatic shift to online tuition since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and the overwhelmingly positive attitude of students, tutors and teachers towards online learning. 

The report reveals that the strongest predictor of the effectiveness of online tuition is the tutor’s previous experience of delivering online tutoring sessions – 70% of tutors who had never tutored online before lockdown found online more effective or as effective as in person but that figure jumped to 100% for tutors who were already tutoring solely online. This gap suggests an important role for more training, said report author and co-founder of Bramble Technologies, Will Chambers. 

“If training can help tutors who are new to online delivery become as familiar with the methods and tools as those with more experience, then this will have a knock-on impact on efficacy,” he said. “It’s an obvious first step and it is encouraging to see many organisations recognising this and providing tutors with specific training and support for online tutoring, but we need a continuous and increased focus on this area.” 

The report also calls for greater clarity in discussions about the role of technology in online learning, suggesting that internet connectivity issues have a greater impact than devices on the effectiveness of online tuition and student focus. 

An analysis of responses in the Bramble online tutoring survey revealed that the biggest challenge respondents faced with online tutoring was internet connection. This proved to be a bigger problem for tutors, with 54% of them reporting internet connectivity as a challenge, versus 32% for students and 30% for parents. Getting the right hardware set up was an issue for 25% of tutors and 18% of students.  

The situation could be drastically improved through tutors taking low cost steps to improve internet connectivity, the report recommends. These include maximising signal strength through the use of wired ethernet connections and reducing bandwidth demands by closing tabs and applications and reducing data-hungry webcam use by moving to tuition sessions that are focused on an online whiteboard.  

“These measures will provide some compensation for student connectivity which is generally more difficult to improve,” says Will Chambers. 

The report includes an in-depth analysis of the topics and concepts that students most struggle with, identified in real-time by Bramble’s AI technology. The report demonstrates that the mass movement of tutoring online has created a wealth of data and insights that could enhance the live learning experience for students and assist tutors and teachers.  

“The technology that provides detailed insights like these is only now becoming a reality,” Will Chambers says. “Eventually we will be able to give tutors and schools a complete understanding of the gaps in a student’s learning across a range of subjects and how tutoring can be refined to fill them. These instant insights should support and enhance the collaboration between schools and tutors and, ultimately, inform curriculum design.” 

The report’s analysis of the Bramble user survey showed that the top three benefits of live online tutoring were consistent across all respondents: more flexible lesson scheduling, searchable lesson recording that aided learning, and helping students to relax and focus. These were followed by the use of lesson recording as a safeguarding tool and allowing students and tutors to cover more content than in person. 

“That fact that students and educators embraced online tutoring during 2020 speaks volumes for the resilience of students and the willingness of educators to embrace new methods,” Will Chambers added. 

“As well as finding live online tutoring more effective, engaging and flexible they also embraced the possibilities provided by the technology, including using searchable lesson recordings as a powerful tool for learning and safeguarding. 

“Inevitably, there are challenges too and there are clear actions that need to be taken around training and technology to further improve the live online teaching experience as we prepare for the launch of the NTP and head towards an unpredictable winter.” 

Bramble Technologies was founded by Will Chambers and Dan Houldsworth. Bramble’s online tutoring and teaching platform is designed for teaching and is currently used by more than 61,000 tutors and students in 156 countries. The experience and knowledge gained from more than 580,000 hours of online tuition has given Bramble a unique insight into how people teach and learn online.

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