On the era of the internet, the answer to every conceivable question is available on the web in the form of a blog, online article, website or YouTube video. Thanks to the internet, students now have access to a wide range of national and international resources of information on every topic. The question then arises – when one can easily find every answer online, what happens to the role of tutors and do we need tutors at all?
Spread of the Internet and the Changing Role of Tutors
Not too long ago, educators were seen as agents of change; they were the ones who possessed the knowledge that others craved. Tutors and teachers were highly revered, for it was their efforts that would shape the next generation.
Technology has certainly changed the way students learn and interact with teachers. On one hand, the internet is a great leveller. Most of the information that exists today is now accessible to everyone, regardless of whether you are rich or poor and regardless of which part of the world you live. (Unless of course, you live in a country like China, where the access to the web is highly restricted and controlled by the state).
But as far as the role of tutors is concerned, the internet has to some extent at least, corroded the stature of the educator. A teacher/ tutor is no longer seen as an authority on a subject. Whatever a tutor says, can be quickly verified by the tutee by doing a Google search on their smartphone.
With information readily available, self-learning is the new mantra. Online learning courses and online tutoring has allowed students to access a global pool of tutors. Students can now research and learn about everything from music to math and science through online content. Some may argue that because knowledge is now just a ‘click’ away, one does not really need tutors to supplement what’s taught in school. A student who has access to a good internet connection at home and an understanding of how to research online can remove doubts through information on the web.
However, before you fall prey to such a straight-through thought process, you must consider the shortcomings of the internet.
What the Internet Can’t Teach Your Child
Although the internet may well be the mother-ship of knowledge, it cannot be the be-all and end-all of education because of these two reasons:
- It cannot replace a human guide
A tutor is much more that a conveyor of information. An efficient teacher can spot the strengths and weaknesses of their student, and steer them in a direction that allows them to harness their existing skills and develop new ones. A tutor can be an immense source of confidence for a student through encouraging words and even a simple pat-on-the-back. A tutor can inspire young minds to challenge existing theories.
In contrast, the internet can only put the information out there. The internet cannot help a student extend beyond their comfort zone, think out-of-the-box, or learn important values such as perseverance.
- Accuracy and appropriateness of information on the web is a concern
So much of the information on the internet is unreliable. That’s because unlike a published research paper, most of the content on the web has been sourced from another website. Very few websites publish genuine information from credible resources.
For students, it is often necessary to put things in perspective and correlate facts. However, the content you see online is not tailored to build such an understanding. If a young person is asked to base his /her knowledge solely on online research, they may find information that creates a bias or information that they are unable to comprehend. Some of the content may be downright age inappropriate.
With a qualified tutor, you can be sure that the person knows which sources of information are reliable. An experienced tutor, will also do a good job of correlating facts and present a comprehensive viewpoint on any given topic.
How Tutors Can Leverage the Internet to Improve Learning
While the internet has challenged the traditional role of the tutor, the fact is that changes in technology will continue to shape the education sector in years to come. In such a scenario, it is imperative that tutors embrace the internet as an enabler of instruction.
Mobile devices are an inseparable part of most teenager’s lives, and so it stands to reason that if a tutor wants to connect with his/her students, they must also use the same technology. For instance, WhatsApp is a popular internet-based messaging system that allows individuals and groups to chat and share files via their smartphones. A tutor can use WhatsApp to share assignments with a group of students in the same grade, as well as check in with an individual student on their exam preparations.
Free cloud sharing services such as Dropbox can be used to share information with students such as tuition study schedule, session summary notes, and links to relevant articles. Dropbox can also be used to encourage collaboration among students for group assignments.
The internet can make learning fun. For instance, an animated video on what is gravity can do a better job of explaining the concept to 4th graders than a text bookish answer.
To summarise, the internet has forced educators to evolve from the status of ‘gurus’ to their students to facilitators of knowledge. But tutors who do not shy away from the use of internet and other technologies, are now able to provide a more holistic education experience to their students. More importantly, even though we live in an age where everything is performed via a mobile device or accessed through the internet, the role of the tutors as enablers and motivators remains unchallenged.