Virtual assistance

Online tutoring offers a flexible alternative for busy families

Iva Stavri founded LingoStars during the pandemic. Photo Credit David Chang Photography

Daniel Aram-Ali has received French tutoring in-person and online, and prefers the latter.

The Ottawa resident works sessions with LingoStars Tutoring into his busy schedule—“and I can [do] my lessons from anywhere,” Aram-Ali says. “I don’t have to go to a specific place. That saves me time that I can use for other things. My grades in French have improved and I feel more confident when I speak or write tests,” he says. “It is a lot more comfortable meeting with my tutor online. I can learn without feeling nervous because I am in my own environment.” As a bonus, having his tutoring sessions online has “also helped me to better manage my time between studies and other activities.”

“The convenience and flexibility of scheduling is a big advantage for everyone,” says LingoStars Tutoring founder Iva Stavri. “Students receive tutoring classes from the comfort of their own homes, which reduces the travel time and makes it a lot more convenient for those with a busy schedule. They can join our sessions from anywhere, even if they are away or on holidays. There are no restrictions or geographical barriers in terms of connecting with an online tutor and tutee.”

A graduate of French and Spanish studies at York University, Stavri, who offered in-person tutoring in “students’ homes, libraries, offices (for adult students), coffee shops, etc.” since 2016, founded LingoStars Tutoring as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her students, who live in the GTA, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver, range from kindergarten age to adult learners who reach out for help to prepare for government exams or for career advancement, business or travel purposes.

After the restrictions lifted, online tutoring services continued to accommodate busy families. “Students still needed to prepare for exams, children still needed to continue to learn, adults wanted to do something useful with their free time,” she says. “Virtual tutoring provides a safe and health-conscious alternative to in-person interactions while continuing to give students the same support.”

Tutoring options include one-on-one sessions and small groups of up to three students that are matched based on their language proficiency level or school grade. Small groups, says Stavri, gives students individual attention, the opportunity to ask questions, to practice and to express themselves freely without intimidation during conversations.

“Speaking in a foreign language is intimidating and most students tend to hesitate to speak in front of larger groups as they’re scared of making mistakes,” Stavri says. “Keeping our groups small helps provide a more intimate and comfortable environment. I find this helps boost students’ confidence and allows them to practice and improve their language skills.”

While Joaquin Pineda agrees that online tutoring may offer flexibility in scheduling and “wider access to a pool of tutors and expertise, regardless of location,” the educational consultant and franchise owner of Tutor Doctor Ottawa still believes that in-person tutoring is the more effective way of learning.

In addition to being “more cost-effective,” because “students learn and progress faster,” Pineda says “the tutor can build a strong, one-to-one relationship with the student.

“In-person tutoring allows for direct, face-to-face interaction between the tutor and the student,” Pineda says. “Being physically present can help maintain the student’s focus and engagement, making the learning experience more dynamic.” 

Stavri says online tutoring still offers a connection. “It’s virtual, however, that doesn’t mean the quality of interaction or lesson isn’t the same,” she says. Online tutoring also allows the incorporation of technology and access to resources. “There are so many tools and platforms including video conferencing, screen sharing, interactive whiteboards and shared document editing, educational virtual games and resources,” Stavri says. “All of these tools help enhance the teaching and learning process as well as the students’ engagement.”

In the end, parents’ reasons for choosing one tutoring method over another for their children is personal.

“Overall, I appreciate the fact that online tutoring offers a versatile and effective way to obtain educational support,” says Stavri. “It doesn’t only break down barriers… having a learning session from the comfort of one’s home can serve as a motivating factor for individuals or their children. It minimizes excuses and encourages them to take the opportunity to learn something they may have been interested in for a while.”


The pros and cons of online tutoring


Health and safety Minimizes exposure to potential illnesses

Scheduling flexibility Easier for students and tutors to find mutually convenient times

Cost-effective Reduces or eliminates commute expenses

Access Can be done from anywhere, and can work with specialized tutors with a variety of expertise from anywhere in the world

Customized learning and instant feedback Lessons tailored to individual learning styles based on needs

Incorporating technology Tools such as video conferencing, interactive whiteboards and worksheets, collaborative platforms, screen sharing, gamification, and virtual books/videos make lessons more engaging and interesting

Recording capability Allows students to review the lessons and reinforces the concepts learned at their own pace



Technical issues Internet connectivity glitches or platform/device malfunctions

Distractions Family members, pets, outside noise etc.

Lack of in-person interaction In-person facilitates non-verbal cues