What is the role of a teacher when you tutor online?

A few years ago, when I was working on my undergrad, the university I was at introduced online learning courses for their budding distance learning program. At the time, I was curious about how this would change the role of lecturers if it would change at all. 

Fast forward to 2020, and several tutors are asking me the same question as they begin to tutor online. Some believe that tutors are obsolete because course material is so readily available. 

I disagree. In fact, with so many learning tools available online, a tutor’s role is more important than ever before. 

But what is it exactly? Teaching online is different from teaching in-person, which is why I see so many uncertain tutors asking about the best ways to teach. Rather than sticking to a rigid ‘teacher-student’ dynamic, tutoring online requires a more fluid style, one where you have to juggle several different roles.

Juggling different roles when you tutor online

When you tutor online, you need to have a different mindset going in, here are just some of your responsibilities. ​ 


Learning online is great, but there is no denying that it can be hard on some students. As some of you may have realised, some students don’t work well when they are sitting alone in their room for hours on end. So when you tutor online, you need to keep students motivated. There are different ways to encourage students, this includes providing positive feedback or encouraging more face-to-face interaction.  

It is up to you to decide on the best technique to motivate your students, but it is important to maintain positive morale with them or you are going to see a drop in performance.


It might surprise you to learn that when you tutor online, you need to create an amiable social environment. 

The sociability rule applies whether you are teaching in a class with several students or in a one-on-one session.

Studies show that a positive social environment can help students learn better. There are several reasons for this, but in my experience, when the social environment is great, the vibes in the classroom are much better, creating a more pleasant environment for all. Second, it fosters learning techniques, like forum discussions, making it a more productive learning tool.

When you tutor online, you need to ensure there is a positive social environment in your virtual classroom to get the best out of your students.


When you tutor online, you are a guide as much as you are a teacher. There is a lot of learning material for students, but how do they know which is right for them? How do they know what kind of progress they are making? This is where you come in.

As a guide, you need to ensure that you are selecting the right learning material for your students and planning their progress. 

Online learning systems provide a lot of data about student performance. As a guide, you need to take a look at your student’s situation and map out their progress in a way that fits their learning style and capabilities. It is a tricky job, but LMS provides a lot of feedback on your student’s progress, which should make the whole process easier.


Yes, you read that right. As I mentioned before, the dynamic in a virtual environment is far more fluid compared to a classroom, and there are times when you might find yourself playing student. 

Whether it is contributing to classroom discussions, sharing work with your students or adapting to new features in the learning system, it is important to have a student mentality as a tutor. 

When you have a student mindset, you also set an example for your students. After all, some of the best tutors are role models for their students. What better way to encourage them to learn than by setting an example?

Let’s get started!

It might seem a little daunting at first to take on so many different roles when you tutor online. But as you and your students adjust to the new platform, it becomes much easier to take on these responsibilities. 

Teaching online is different from teaching in a classroom, and the different medium brings its unique benefits and challenges to learning, so tutors need to adapt. Quickly. It will be a little tricky at first, but in time, it will lead to a much more fulfilling and (dare I say convenient?) experience for you and your students.



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