In The Spotlight: James Rantell

In The Spotlight: James Rantell

What gave you the idea to tutor online?

My association with online tuition dates back to mid-1995 when I was working at the University of London Institute of Education. In those days it was referred to as Computer Mediated Learning and was rather crude compared to what we now refer to as online learning. This was largely due to the lack of high-speed broadband. At the time I was responsible for setting up and maintaining the technical infrastructure to enable courses to run in this way. It was a few years later that I became a freelance tutor and a few years further down the line still that the then names Fox Tuition (now Bigfoot Tutors) contacted me and invited me to become one of their tutors. All the rest, as they say, is history and I’ve never looked back.

What do you enjoy about tutoring online?

The obvious comment here would be the flexibility and convenience that one gains due to not having to travel. Which also means that timetabling lessons and tutorials is much easier. Working on the internet also means that one can teach students from all over the world without moving from one’s desk. Also, because sessions are conducted entirely in front of a computer I am able to make use of the full gamut of available computer based teaching aids and resources which can make lessons that much more enjoyable to deliver and for the student too.

Is there anything about it you don't enjoy?

Not really. As long as the technical infrastructure is functioning well I generally find it an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

How is it different from teaching a class full of students?

It is quite different. For example one occasionally has a student that is not very responsive and thus not very willing to answer questions or engage in discussion. In a classroom situation one can always switch to another student to try and help get things moving.

What do you like to do to relax?

Much the same as many of the academics I know. I enjoy listening to jazz and classical music and reading. I particularly enjoy reading biographies of famous mathematicians and literary figures. When the weather is good I also enjoy a stroll in the local woods which I almost live in the midst of.

Have you got any tips for other online tutors?

Always prepare sessions when possible and then you always have a ready source of material available for future lessons/tutorials on the same or similar topics; keep records of sessions for each student; be aware of how to deal with commonly occurring technical difficulties; keep up to date with all the available teaching resources out there on the net, most of which is free.