Sep 12, 2019 in Tutoring

Tutoring without any borders.

Winner of TutorPreneur Hero Award explains why online tutoring is the best career he's ever had.

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Dr. Atul Rana is an Online Tutor who has won several awards including the TutorPreneur Hero Award and The Online Tutor of the Year 2017 by The Profs. He found tutoring completely by accident 13 years ago, and once he started tutoring online, he couldn't get enough. He now works as a full-time Online Tutor. He has over 2 years of experience as Teacher professional development training, Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and previous careers in Engineering, finance and software design. Let's get to know a little more about Atul Rana:

WikiExpert: We see that you are a firm believer in online tutoring and you strongly believe in the power of online tutoring. Can you tell us why you feel this way?

Atul Rana: Online tutoring helps students and Tutors connect in a way that has never been possible in history before. Across cities, countries, and continents. Students actually learn better, Tutors have far better tools for teaching and parents can find the Tutor that is a perfect fit for their child.

WikiExpert: Tell us how kids, teens, and adults can benefit from online tutoring? And why its a better option than physical tutoring sessions?

Atul Rana: The online learning environment removes many social protocols and the social pressure involved with in-person tutoring. To a young child, a Tutor is an image on a screen, not a huge human right next to them watching everything they write out. The Tutor is in their most relaxed space at home and so is the student. 

Paradoxically this distance can make learners more at ease. Students articulate their thoughts with more clarity as they convey the information to the Tutor. The Tutor gets more insight into their thought process this way as a result. This effect, called the ‘self-explanation effect’ is very pronounced in online tutoring.

Then there are the resources, both student and tutor are on screen so you can cut and paste any resources you want, watch a video, explore Google Earth, use dynamic geometry like Desmos or just about use any of the vast learning tools on the internet.

And finally, when it comes to finding a Tutor, parents are no longer limited to the constraints of local geography supply and demand economics. They can choose the very best Tutors online rather than play the lottery and find someone ‘down the road’.

WikiExpert: What is the best part of tutoring online?

Atul Rana: Tutoring online has transformed mine and my students lives. By cutting out travel time and truly committing to being good at online tutoring, I doubled my income in one year. I’ve educated children in remote locations who would have never found a local Dyscalculia specialist. Just connecting to other countries is profound, I have seen sunsets in Singapore and sunrises in San Francisco all on the same day. I can relocate anywhere in the world if I had to. And the feeling you get as an Educator when your student does well in life is immeasurable. I am living in a dream situation.

WikIExpert: How do you envision the future of tutoring?

Atul Rana: Tutoring seems to have a terrible public image in North-Western cultures being named ‘Shadow education’. I expect that to change as Eastern cultures have long seen it as something valuable. As tutoring goes more free-market globally, there will be more price points, more choice, better technology to make learning more accessible and efficient. Those few online tutors who have seen the power of global connections know online tutoring is a game-changer. And we haven’t even got into true virtual reality and AI-assisted tutoring yet.

WikiExpert: What is still missing for parents/students totally adopt online tutoring?

Atul Rana: Lack of enough excellent Online Tutors to turn the tide. To trust and believe in online tutoring, parents and students need to experience truly excellent online tutoring. And while that has improved in recent years, many if not most are still dabbling in it. Tutoring online requires superb teaching skills specific to the online environment and superb technical problem-solving skills. It takes a long time with a sustained, deliberate effort to master the delivery of high-quality online tutoring. Proper training courses to train up Online Tutors are lacking.

WikiExpert: Should governments help and support more online tutoring?

Atul Rana: Online tutoring raises a number of issues in the context of the global gig economy. Who is regulating it globally? Does it count as import-export of services? When it comes to technological disruption governments tend to react after the disruption has happened as we know from AirBnB, Uber, Facebook, etc. After the free market has made its choices already. For now, though it is difficult to say how governments should or should not be involved with online tutoring.

WikiExpert: I see that you offer math, physics, chemistry, and biology tutoring? Is there anything else other than these subjects that you teach?

Atul Rana: I am passionate about helping those who have Dyscalculia, a learning difficulty in arithmetic and therefore in other maths areas. That’s really my niche in a way.

WikiExpert: Tell us a little about your journey about being an Online Tutor? I see that you accidentally discovered online tutoring and have been doing ever since. Please tell us about your journey and how did you discover it?

Atul Rana: My father worked in the Indian embassy so I lived in various countries. After the U.K. my parents moved to Romania and Hungary. As a result, I started chatting to my parents online with late 1990s webcams and desktop computers. Using technology became second nature to me very early on.

In 2011 I was doing a lot of residential live-in tutoring in North Yorkshire and couldn't keep up with my London students. One Client started to complain and so as a gesture of goodwill, I offered a discounted online lesson while I was in North Yorkshire during a break with my other students there. It worked like a charm, I was shocked by how much like ‘real-life’ online tutoring was. Later that year, I got a student who was too ill to go to school but was just about ok at home to do online lessons. I taught her 4 days a week for a whole summer. That summer I learned to deliver tutoring online and my student had that amazing glow that they get when they know they have cracked something. I knew then that online is just as good as in person. She not only went back to school but passed her maths with flying colors and made a full recovery. After that, I found other Online Tutors online and got advice from them on the tutoring and business side of things. The rest is history.

WikiExpert: What was the most rewarding part of your career?

Atul Rana: There is a quote that goes “As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person”. And this is why I love tutoring so much, you can make an enormous difference to one person at a time and change their lives for the better in unimaginable ways. 

WikiExpert: What is the funniest or weirdest thing that has ever happened to you during a tutoring session?

Atul Rana: My sister likes to sing in Hindi and often my tutees hear that through the thin door. I once asked a tutee of mine who knows a little bit of Hindi if he could understand the singing to which he said “yes,'' I told him “she is enjoying herself so we might as well let her keep singing”. 

It is strange that some think that online tutoring is impersonal if anything you get a glimpse into family life even more online. I’ve heard arguments between family members in the background before, met pets, seen babies and even been shown around various rooms of the home on camera!

WikiExpert: You are the founder of Indie Tutors, please enlighten us on how other Tutors can benefit from joining the Indie Tutors community?

Atul Rana: Indie Tutors is a collective of mostly British Tutors who are talking to each online, sharing resources, teaching ideas, teaching videos online, etc. One of the biggest benefits of online tutoring has been for other Tutors to connect with each other and form a community. It is unimaginable that from the beginning of time until recently, Tutors were isolated from each other and working all alone. So much incredible knowledge locked in each mind. I have learned more about tutoring in the last 3 years from other Tutors than I did in the previous 10 years being all on my own.

We currently have a Facebook presence and twitter account which brings together Tutors to discuss anything tutoring related, to confer with each other, to share stories and learn from each other.

WikiExpert: You have won several awards including the Tutorpreneur Award, The Profs, and more! How did that feel? Tell us a little about these awards?

Atul Rana: Thanks! Not since my university days was I nominated for awards so it is good to get tutoring related awards. As I mentioned earlier, I am just glad that I am even meeting new Tutors in the first place. I am humbled to be recognized as a Tutor in such communities. And I learn from every single Tutor that I have ever met.

WikiExpert: You continue to grow your skills and education? What are you working on right now or do you have any plans for the future?

Atul Rana: I am a firm believer that unless you are growing, you are actually going backward. I am a student myself and am always learning something. I read about 4 education-related books every year and other social science ones. I also go to around 6 full days of maths conferences or workshops in a year.

This month I started my own YouTube channel as a Tutor. I’ve already published two videos with another Tutor showing some teaching methods. I have been meaning to do this for years and have finally gone for it. I am more than happy to share education ideas for free.

WikiExpert: What is the highlight of your career?

Atul Rana: I certainly have some great stories having worked with a huge range of people from various backgrounds. I have worked with the children of some famous people but can’t mention those here obviously. In any case, the highlights have to be all the lovely letters, emails, text messages and gifts in the post I get from Clients. When I am having a bad day all I need to do is to look at some thank you notes and then be reconnected to what I love doing and why.

Now let's get to know more about Atul: 

WikiExpert: You have lived in many countries such as Yemen, India, Kenya, and more before settling in London? Tell us a little about your experience living in all these countries and which has been your favorite so far?

Atul Rana: I lived in these countries before the age of 15 as part of my father’s job. I am incredibly fortunate to have experienced such a breadth of the world at such a young age. I never feel that I truly belong to any of these countries, a concept that is now known as being a third culture kid.

This has helped me connect with other expats all over the world so well. I can totally relate to them. I had a somewhat uprooted childhood moving schools and losing friends. So now I am able to provide consistency and presence to my tutees. I had one tutee who moved from Singapore to India and is now preparing to move to the UK. Through his school years, I have been with him online as a constant.

My favorite country has to be in Kenya. As a child, you had instant access to rich wildlife and beautiful weather. There is something otherworldly about watching a sunset in Kenya.

WikiExpert: If you could move to another country again, which country would it be?

Atul Rana: India most likely. It is one of the fastest-growing economies and much of my extended family is there already. You can’t go wrong with the food either.

WikiExpert: When you're not tutoring and helping other Tutors, where can we find you? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Atul Rana: I sing and play guitar in a rock band. While I am not doing much with the band at the moment, I still perform as a solo artist. So you will find me on one of London’s open mics in the evenings or recording songs at home and publishing them on my Instagram. I am also taking beginner Argentine Tango lessons, it is quite a learning curve.

WikiExpert: You have also worked as a software developer in the past? What made you leave this behind and take on online tutoring as a full-time career?

Atul Rana: I worked in a software development team designing economic cost models for 1.5 years. Before that, I had already started tutoring and kept on tutoring a little during my job. The job was cool but I felt more alive and present tutoring than I did in my job. I took a huge pay cut and left my job to pursue tutoring full time. The software development work came in so incredibly useful when I started tutoring online. Problem fixing technical issues, understanding software/hardware, being on the phone with customers, debugging problems, etc. All soft skills that were transferable to online tutoring and later on working with the BitPaper devs. I really am grateful for that work experience.

WikiExpert: In your opinion, what has been your biggest success to date?

Atul Rana: I had one student 10 years ago who was written off for getting any GCSE pass grades. He had a brain injury as a baby and while he had mostly recovered and good enough to be in a mainstream school, he had some processing issues. With no special needs education training at the time, I took him on and he ended up getting a B grade in maths, his highest grade in any subject. Later on, he took an AS level in maths, much harder than GCSE maths. With sheer grit and determination on both mine and his part, he got a C. We just went for it and never stopped when things got tough.

WikiExpert: If there was anything that you could change about your life, what would it be?

Atul Rana: Now that’s a deep question. I am not really a person of regrets, life throws things at you and you adapt and make the most of what comes your way. If I need to change something now, the power and responsibility to do so rest solely with me.

Want to see more of Atul Rana, book a session with him now!

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