Effective Practices for Online Tutoring

Library and Learning Resources
Transfer, Articulation, and Student Services Committee

As institutions of higher education seek to support students through innovative learning and teaching methods, many colleges have begun to investigate the opportunity to provide tutoring through distance education formats. Support for student success is not limited to face-to-face interactions within the classroom. As awareness of online tutoring and its role in supporting community college students increases, many colleges have set goals to eliminate barriers in providing student success support by implementing effective practices for online tutoring programs.

Shifting demographics within the state of California and more specifically within the California Community College System have created a need for equitable processes to promote the success of students. Students who enter community colleges should be afforded the same level of support whether they enter virtually or in-person. The development of the Online Education Initiative has sparked great interest and collaboration within the system to support students’ successful completion of courses by using services such as online tutoring. Framing the need to innovate and reimagine the way institutions serve students in a continually adapting and evolving world of technology is equally valuable and important. Colleges must meet the needs of all students who may have barriers to success, such as full workloads along with course commitments and other barriers that impact diverse student populations.


The following are recommendations for the Board of Governors to consider for the support of online tutoring programs:

  1. Investigate a systemwide purchase of NetTutor or some other platform through the CVC-OEI.
  2. Ensure an adequate number of hours for all colleges beyond the consortium colleges’ allotted 500 free hours for online tutoring services.
  3. Expand Disabled Students Programs and Services accessibility for online tutoring services through the state budget process.

The following are recommendations for community colleges to consider when developing effective online tutoring programs:

  1. Design programs with input from the campus community.
    • Solicit feedback from students, staff, administrators, and faculty as an important step to ensure online tutoring programs are designed to support the entire campus community.
    • Collect recommendations from various stakeholders through online surveys, listening sessions, or a combination of the two.
    • Research and discuss available resources, budget, facilities, and technology with appropriate
      campus leaders.
    • Explore scaling-up an existing learning resource or tutoring center to include an online tutoring component, along with investigating the use of proprietary companies for tutors.
    • Compare and discuss the viability of in-house tutors, being mindful of training and ongoing professional development needs.
    • Keep students’ needs and accessibility as a focus and foundation in decision making.
  1. Collect data and assess services to improve effectiveness.
    • Online tutoring can create opportunities to electronically document students’ prior knowledge, areas of difficulty, and progression of learning. For example, programs can measure effectiveness with pre- and post-assessments that ask about the scaffolding and delivery of information.
    • Data can be collected from multiple students and may help to guide conversations content delivery and successful and collaboration with course instructors to develop classroom interventions for learning outcomes.
    • Utilizing data-driven tutoring models also supports community colleges’ initiatives, which seek to improve student retention, completion, and success.
    • Community colleges can also use student data to market tutoring programs, improve technology services, increase access and engagement, track student learning, and create professional development opportunities for faculty and staff.

The following are examples of questions to consider when collecting and assessing data:

  • Who are the students that seek help? Colleges can collect information such as demographic data, names, student identification numbers, courses, instructors, section numbers, time in and out, and activities and assignment types.
  • How, when, and how often do students seek help?
  • How do students hear about the center? Who is referring students to the service?
  • What are the students’ experiences regarding the service? Use of this data should be carefully considered so as to avoid evaluation unless such use is agreed upon in advance or contractually approved.