One-on-one vs group online teaching

Deciding whether to choose one-on-one or group online teaching? Need to know the advantages and disadvantages of both before you start? Here is how to choose and guide the learning process based on the individual characteristics and learning style. Below are 7 recommendations for organizing one-on-one work format in VEDAMO e-learning platform.

One-on-one working sessions presuppose the use of specific approaches and strategies to a great degree different from the ones in group work. The learning process is highly personalised and is subordinate to the interests, difficulties and tempo at which the learner progresses. The tutor guides the learning process by taking a full account of the learner’s individual characteristics.

“The one-on-one working format requires a higher concentration in the interaction both on the part of the learner and the tutor.”

In order for the student to be able to acquire the study content it has to sufficiently adequate to their needs and interests and at the same time sufficiently varied and interactive so as to compensate for the lack of interaction with the other students. One of the main advantages of the VEDAMO Virtual Classroom is that it provides a sufficient number of tools and possibilities for this condition to be fulfilled.

The one-on-one working format requires a higher concentration in the interaction both on the part of the learner and the tutor. This leads to a higher degree of responsibility for the learning process on both sides.

At a first glance, it might seem that when working one-on-one the tutor needs a much less amount of preliminary preparation than when working with groups – it is not necessary to develop adapted materials to meet the different learning styles in the group, there is no need to manage the group interaction, the learning process is personalised by default, etc. Such statements are rather misleading.

“The tutor must be well-acquainted with their student’s learning style and knowledge proficiency before the course begins.”

In the one-on-one form of learning the tutor must be well-acquainted with the strong and the weak points of their learner. Before the course begins, it is advisable that a learning style test and a current knowledge proficiency test are administered to the student.  These would help the tutor develop the best strategies, approaches and study materials for the specific learner which would take about the same time as for the group-work format. The Virtual Classroom enables the learner needs diagnostics to happen effortlessly and in the course of the working process (instead of just pre-testing it). In the course of work the tutor can differentiate and dynamically reorder the study content in accordance with the demonstrated in the learning process strong and weak learner points.

“The one-on-one learning process requires an extraordinary amount of flexibility from the teacher and it is hard to follow a pre-developed formal curriculum.”

In the one-on-one work format there is also interaction management be it slightly more different than the in-group one. The one-on-one learning process requires an extraordinary amount of flexibility from the teacher. Due to the requirement for strict planning of the study process in accordance with the specific learner needs it is hard to follow a pre-developed formal curriculum. The tutor needs to consider the learner’s individual learning tempo and be ready to change the planned activities and content according to the specific situation.

“One-on-one lessons frequently take place with a tempo dictated by the student and their needs.”

In the one-on-one work format tutors almost always have to adapt the study materials according to the specific learner but they also can use resources recommended or developed by the learners themselves.

One-on-one lessons frequently take place with a tempo dictated by the student and their needs and not according to a pre-planned and officially regulated framework or structure. There is flexibility in terms of each session’s duration based on the specific educational aims and not on a pre-planned formal curriculum.

Although almost all techniques applied in group learning are applicable in one-on-one learning, the way and the reason for their application change. For example, in language learning it may be the case that the longer reading comprehension and listening comprehension activities break the lesson time balance and have to be adapted. Other techniques happen to be more suitable for one-on-one lessons, like for example reading aloud longer texts.

“Blending synchronous with asynchronous virtual instruction allows learning to be additionally personalised.”

VEDAMO offers the full set of tools necessary to the tutor for the implementation of effective one-on-one work. Blending synchronous sessions in VEDAMO Virtual Classroom with asynchronous self-paced learning in VEDAMO Learning Management System allows learning to be additionally personalised – the student is able to learn at a convenient time and suitable tempo while they take part in learning from the comfort of their home setting.

The main advantages and disadvantages of the one-on-one format of learning can be summarised as follows:

Advantages of the one-on-one format:

  • The tutor’s full attention is directed at the specific student. This implies more opportunities for direct communication, more and more personalised  feedback, a better understanding of learner needs.  The specific learner’s needs are taken into consideration when setting educational aims, determining the learning tempo, and personalising the study materials.
  • The learner has at their disposal a lot more opportunities for using the teacher as a resource – ask them questions, practice skills they find important, etc.
  • The tutor is free from the many challenges of group work – different levels, group dynamics, absent students, etc.

Disadvantages of the one-on-one format:

  • No possibility for in-group support.
  • Sessions can be exhausting, both for the learner and the tutor due to the higher concentration in interaction.
  • The tutor may feel pressed in results accomplishment due to the higher degree of responsibility.
  • The tutor may encounter difficulties in the structuring of an effective learning curriculum.
  • It might be difficult for the tutor to measure learners’ progress without a preliminary framework of reference and the possibility of comparing their results with the rest of the group’s results.

Here are some recommendations for organising one-on-one work format in VEDAMO e-learning platform:

  • Discuss with your student their needs and expectations. It is especially important to know what your learner wants to achieve within the course as a whole and in each particular session in specific. Negotiate the main priorities.
  • In case that during the course their needs change, discuss their priorities again. Thus, you are able to allot the necessary time to catch up with any omissions in knowledge and compensate weak points in each learner’s preparation.
  • Explain to your student what you are doing and why. Share with them the goals you set and how your work contributes to their accomplishment. Encourage learner questions.
  • Be extremely flexible. In the one-on-one work format you have to be extremely flexible when it comes to session times and duration as well as with the course’s aims and materials. Be ready for changes at a learner’s request.
  • Try applying different methods and techniques. Many of the group-work educational methods and techniques can be adapted and applied in the one-on-one learning (discussions, brainstorming, role plays and simulations among others). Part of them, however, will require your active participation in terms of the performance of the educational activities.
  • Set clear limits. The one-on-one format can lead to infringement of your personal space. From the very beginning you have to decide the extent to which you would allow the student in it. Humanisation of learning may be productive but the invasion into the personal space of the other may be a source of inconvenience both for you and your student.
  • Offer and require regular and constructive feedback. Experiment with different ways of providing feedback.
  • Assign homework and provide additional self-study resources on VEDAMO LMS. Homework has added value in the learning process. Use homework as a means for your learner to cover the activities that there is not enough time for during the synchronous session in VEDAMO Virtual Classroom. Assign tasks based on in-depth new information comprehension and exploration and practice of specific aspects of the study content.   Make sure the self-study topics are interesting for the student so that they are motivated to accomplish them. Maintain a level slightly lower than that of your student. Without the dynamics of group work you may get misled and resort to activities which are easy-for-your-learner and which do not contribute to their progress. In view of building new knowledge and skills you need to offer a gradual complication of the study material and a possibility for overcoming challenges.

Dr. Veronica Racheva is managing VEDAMO’s training programme. Veronica is a PhD in Theory of Education. She graduated from the Doctoral School at the Institute of Education, University of London and has a specialisation for a Virtual Teacher from the University of California, Irvine. Currently, she is a CEO of a Bulgarian K12 online academy, based on VEDAMO e-learning infrastructure. She is also a lecturer in E-learning at the Sofia University, researcher and author of scientific reports.
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