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What technologies can be used for sharing business expertise online?

What technologies can be used for sharing business expertise online?

Business consultancy is a global phenomenon, but a lack of understanding of online technology could be holding some consultants back. How can business leaders use the internet to share their knowledge effectively with an international audience?

Business knowledge can of course be shared through e-books, on websites, or in pre-recorded online videos or courses. However, online tuition – defined as ‘synchronous (live) tuition provided by a human tutor over the internet to one or more students` – is another option.

Insights into using the online medium for business consultancy can come from the world of private tuition. A recent survey by The Tutor Pages of around 400 tutors found that online tuition was a highly appropriate medium for adult learners: that improved learning was more likely among adults compared to children, and that it was easier to establish rapport online with adults. Moreover, the tutors surveyed reported that they were experiencing higher demand for tuition among adult learners.

What does online tuition involve?

Online tuition usually involves text chat, audio or video (for example through Skype). It can also involve:
• an online whiteboard (an online workspace where text, graphs and images can be shared in real time). Examples: Scribblar, Google Docs
• video conferencing (which combines video and/or audio chat, screen-sharing, file sharing, session recording and online whiteboards). Examples: Gotomeeting, Webex
• a virtual classroom (similar to video conferencing, but with an education focus). Examples: WizIQ, Blackboard Collaborate
• online tuition agencies (which charge commission for sourcing students and providing a virtual classroom). Example: Tutorhub, MyTutorWeb
• online payment technology. Example: Paypal
• asynchronous elements (such as emailing or sending back completed assignments)

The simplicity of online tuition

One of the surprising findings of The Tutor Pages` survey was just how simple online tuition can be. Most tutors (over 80%) were using the video technology Skype, no doubt because it is a quality product, it is free to use, and a communication tool which most people are familiar with. Payment was also extremely simple for most tutors: the vast majority were using either bank transfer or Paypal.

Benefits and challenges

Online tuition is of course not the same as imparting knowledge face-to-face. However, there are a number of obvious advantages. With no need to travel, it is not only more convenient than in-person tuition, it is less expensive. Tutors also report that it is a more flexible option – sessions can be shorter and more frequent, for example – and it is perhaps the greener option too.

There are particular challenges, however, with online learning. Most obviously, it is harder to build rapport online. In face-to-face encounters, we instinctively pick up on non-verbal cues such as body language, posture, facial expression and tone of voice. Detecting and responding to these cues is indeed harder online. Some tutors also report that interacting online is more intense or concentrated, and that more preparation is required. Finally, there are the technological issues associated with online learning, such as connection problems or broadband speeds.

Future outlook

As technology improves – and more and more people get used to the idea of online learning – sharing expertise of all kinds through online tuition will increase. Many of those who already tutor online are convinced of its benefits, and many more are willing to try it to further their tutoring or consultancy businesses.

To read The Tutor Pages survey report on online tuition in full, visit www.thetutorpages.com/online-tuition

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