Our Tuition Model: Why Zoom Lessons are not suitable for primary school children.

During the national lockdown in March 2020 we undertook extensive research into the best methods for optimal delivery of our courses. We reached out to both our external teachers, including deputy head-teachers, and contacts within academia in education such as Oxford University.

A summary of the findings from this consultation is below and we hope it will provide assurance to you on the efficacy of our online tuition model:

  1. Interactive lessons work well for adults, less for young adults and not so great for children. Interactive zoom type lessons were not recommended for children of a primary school age (our target audience).
  2. Young children are too easily distracted by other young children and lose focus on what the teacher is saying and so the lesson is not fully absorbed. Instead, children fixate on the social aspects, especially those who may not have siblings.
  3. Zoom lessons tend to take longer than the equivalent physical lesson and usually a factor of x3 or x4 than the core content merits. For instance, a 20-minute core-lesson content typically takes one hour to convey to an online group interactively. In the same period of time a child on their own, could have watched the core-content video at least twice, thereby better consolidating their understanding.
  4. Shorter pre-recorded videos provide for a more efficient transfer of knowledge and are more likely to be re-watched if the student does not understand fully, or can be watched again later for revision. Recordings of live online lessons do not facilitate revision as children will rarely re-watch such lessons due to the length, and pace being too slow.
  5. If Zoom sessions are the only option (e.g. where pre-recorded videos are not possible), then they should be restricted to five students or less to be of any value, though the lesson becomes less effective if it exceeds the one-hour mark.
  6. For primary children, the optimal length should be bite size (less than 5 minutes) with up to 2 test questions and then repeated until the lesson objective has been met (i.e. could be 4 lots of the above).
  7. It should be noted that shorter recorded video lessons can provide an advantage over face-to-face physical lessons, in that there is an option re-watching them.

The above findings relate to the provision of general education at school. However, the disadvantages of lengthy zoom sessions are even more pronounced in the provision of 11 plus training, which demands a higher standard of intense academic learning, in a more efficient timeframe.

Whilst Zoom-type lessons are being widely provided by other establishments, tutors and schools, it is mainly because it is an easier option. Creating recorded videos requires more planning, is time consuming and requires learning new software as well as technical skills and equipment.

Our Tuition Model: Pre-recorded Videos Supplemented by Live Interactive Sessions.

We took on board the above findings and have adopted a shorter recorded tutorial followed by live interactive sessions, following what we believe to be best practice for this type of course and age group.

The interactive live sessions are held weekly and attended by students who need further help. To determine which students need help, we review the plenary tests that children must do after watching each lesson video. Plenary tests assess the child’s understanding of the lesson video content.

The remedial live sessions are more focused and effective, as they are tailored to the needs of the students who have already had exposure to the lesson topics before the session and understand their weak spots. This means the session can usually be shorter than a typical lesson and kept to a reasonable length of one hour for covering 2 or 3 subjects. It also means the students are more likely to be attentive during the session.

Our online tuition model worked efficiently for last year’s cohort and when we compare the performance of our online students against those in the physical groups, have found their average scores in the weekly homework to be similar to those receiving physical lessons.

Our online model, or any other online model,  may not be suitable for all children. Children who are keen learners, can however, usually make more efficient progress with the online model than face-to-face sessions due to the timesaving factor of the lesson length and travelling time.

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