“How I tutor online” – IB Maths and Physics


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April 7th, 2020

“How I tutor online” – IB Maths and Physics

In this blog, we talk to Alan (one of our most experienced online IB tutors) about how he teaches Maths and Physics online and the platforms he finds work best.


Alan is one of our most experienced online tutors. He holds a PhD in Physics, and previously worked as a research scientist. He is a qualified teacher and taught internationally for many years in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He now works as a professional online tutor, focusing on Maths and Physics at KS5, particularly the International Baccalaureate (IB). He primarily teaches students in the Middle East and Europe, for around 25 hours per week.

He kindly gave up some time recently to speak to us and talk us through how he teaches online.

Video feed

Alan conducts the video side of his tuition in Zoom. He makes sure he has a backup Skype account for every student, but very rarely needs to use this.

He finds that Zoom can take a short while to achieve a good connection – perhaps up to thirty seconds on occasion – but following this, the connection is very stable.

As Alan only teaches one-on-one, Zoom is completely free. (At the time of writing they have a 40 minute limit for meetings of 3 or more on their free account).

Software used for teaching IB Maths and Physics

Alan uses the Microsoft OneNote platform as a whiteboard and for storing work. He feels that as he has quite a structured, organised teaching style, this is the best platform for the way he likes to teach and the demands of IB Maths and Physics. OneNote can work via internet browsers, meaning students can access their work without having to download a specialist program, and he has never had an issue with someone not being able to access it. Given the need to write equations and proofs in both Maths and Physics, he likes the feel of the whiteboard in the program and finds that it best matches his requirements.

He makes a folder for each of his students inside this program, and shares this with parents as well as the student. Inside this folder, he makes a separate sub-folder for each lesson, then uploads work here. All work conducted during the lesson is saved into this folder, containing all the student’s notes and comments.

All this means that the parent can easily see what is happening, and that they have continuous access to their child’s work and current progress.

How he conducts the lesson

During the actual lesson, Alan shares his screen using Zoom to show the OneNote platform, which the student can also view in real-time.

Inside OneNote, he uploads relevant documents (past exam questions, images, videos etc as appropriate), then talks through them with the student. All uploaded materials can be annotated, and all annotations are saved inside that lesson’s folder.

After the lesson / homework

When set, Alan uploads homework tasks inside the folder for the relevant lesson. He asks the student to complete their homework here as well, which is also graded inside the platform. Again, this allows parents to track what is going on and to see the student’s performance and progress at all times.

Other notes

Alan has adapted his style to the software available, and come to the conclusion that he needs to keep things simple and accessible to all students. He feels that the combination of using Zoom and OneNote allows him to do this. He was keen to note that Zoom, in particular, wasn’t perfect. On rare occasions, the connection can drop, but will always reconnect within a few seconds. He finds that students sometimes mute themselves by mistake and that the remote control feature (where a student can be given control of the tutor’s computer) often always work.

That being said, he stressed that he has experimented with a number of different platforms, and found that this approach was best for him. He likes the hybrid approach of combing one platform for the audiovisual component with another for storing and displaying work. In his opinion, being constrained in one system means that

Alan also stressed the importance of building rapport and making the student feel confident. One interesting tip is that he recommends not using a camera if the student doesn’t want to. As he usually teaches teenagers between 16 and 18, he sometimes finds that they don’t always want to share their video feed. By not insisting on this or making this a big deal to, he finds he sidesteps an issue which has no bearing on the teaching he can offer.


By being able to combine all the elements above, Alan feels that online tuition is superior than in-person tuition for many students. He likes the “feel” of the software packages he uses, and finds them intuitive and easy to get started with.

Thanks for your time Alan!

More about Mike

Mike is resident geek at Owl Tutors. He is passionate about education, technology and can usually be found reading about the latest developments in teaching. He runs the in-house training for our tutors, and is our resident nerd, spending ever-more time building and coding our various websites.

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3 responses to ““How I tutor online” – IB Maths and Physics”

  1. Susie says:

    Thank you this is useful. I have a question, can I use One Note for an external student? I am a private tutor and my 365 account is connected to my university as I am also a student. Can I use this to teach a student outside of the university or can I sign up as an individual? The add student/ teacher drop down is currently picking up staff/students and not giving an option to add external students. Sorry if this is a little basic. I am just getting used to the new normal! Many Thanks

    • Owl Tutors says:

      Hi Susie

      Thanks for reading!

      To be honest, we aren’t sure. We would recommend following some tutorials online (YouTube etc) and seeing how you get on.

      Best of luck

      Owl Tutors

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