Although virtual tutoring has many benefits, it also presents unique challenges. As a tutor, maintaining focus and productivity during tutoring sessions can be a daunting task. However, with the right approach and strategies, you can ensure that each session is efficient and productive for both you and your student. This article will explore some key strategies for managing your time effectively while tutoring online.

1. Set clear objectives

Before each tutoring session, establish clear objectives outlining what you aim to achieve. Whether reviewing specific concepts, completing assignments or homework, or addressing areas of difficulty, having a roadmap in place will help you stay on track and make the most of your time.

I find that it is best to clarify with students exactly what it is they’d like to do in their sessions. Some students need help reviewing and understanding the content, while others have solid knowledge but struggle to apply information to exam questions. Some students may like to do both in the lesson. Planning the content and setting goals beforehand will help keep the lesson on schedule.

2. Prioritise tasks and teach in ‘chunks’

Identify the most crucial tasks that need to be accomplished during the tutoring session and go through them accordingly. Start by addressing the high-priority topics that your student struggles with the most. This will ensure that the essential learning goals are met, even if unexpected interruptions occur later in the session.

Rather than attempting to tackle entire topics in a single lesson, it can be more beneficial to divide complex topics into smaller, manageable segments. Approaching more complex topics bit by bit allows for better information retention and understanding as students can digest the material more effectively. When kids grasp concepts more quickly, it frees up more time to explain additional content!

View of laptop during online tutoring session.

3. Set realistic expectations for lesson duration

“Could we please cover the whole OCR A Level Biology specification before my exams next week?”— a question I have heard far too often, especially close to exam time!

This may be feasible for some, but if you are aware certain timelines are impossible to meet, let the tutee know. Recognise that online sessions may require greater flexibility in terms of duration. Set realistic expectations for lesson duration based on the complexity of the material and the individual needs of the student.

4. Establish pacing guidelines

Maintain a steady pace throughout the session to ensure you cover all planned material within the allotted time frame. Be mindful of time constraints and avoid dwelling excessively on specific topics. You will find some students love to chat, and although they can be lovely to talk to, it is your responsibility as a tutor to redirect their attention back to the material and keep them on track. Encourage active participation from students to keep the session engaging while staying mindful of time management goals.

You can also help to build time-conscious habits among your students by emphasising the importance of punctuality and time management skills. Encourage them to come prepared for each session with questions or topics they’d like to address. This will help to maximise the efficiency of your time together.

Female self-employed online tutor talking to student.

5. Incorporate breaks wisely

Recognise the importance of incorporating short breaks into longer sessions to prevent burnout and maintain focus. Use breaks strategically to allow students to recharge, process information, and return to the session with renewed energy and concentration. In lessons longer than an hour, I always offer my students the opportunity to take a break, have some water and stretch their legs, even if it’s only for a minute or two.

If you don’t already do this, give it a go, and I’m sure you will notice the positive impact of a short break on your tutee’s concentration and focus. Remember, it is more beneficial to take a 5-minute break halfway through the session than to have the student spend the last 40 minutes of the session distracted and lacking attention.

6. Evaluate and adapt

Communicate openly with your students regarding time management expectations and goals. Discuss any challenges or concerns either of you may have regarding pacing or session duration, and work together to find solutions that meet both of your needs.

Make it a point to periodically evaluate the effectiveness of your time management strategies and be willing to adapt them based on feedback and observations. Keep in mind that every student is unique, and what works for one student may not work for another. An open-minded, flexible approach is key to improving time management in lessons.

Effective time management is crucial for successful online tutoring. From setting clear objectives to incorporating smart breaks, these strategies will help maintain productivity whilst avoiding burnout. By being flexible and adapting to each student’s unique needs, tutors can make the most of their session time and ensure a positive learning experience for all.

Sayna W. profile picture.

Sayna W.

Sayna is a dental student at the University of Bristol. She has a keen interest in the sciences and has been tutoring Science GCSEs and A Levels for just over 4 years, covering all exam boards. Sayna is currently a tutor at PMT Education.