To give you an idea of what you can expect if you are deciding to sign your child up, we have invited a parent, Ms Eileen Seah whose 10-year-old son Damien Tan is currently on the programme, to share her experience.
Q. How do you know if TutorMe, as an e-learning service is suitable for your child?
Eileen: In this new generation where kids are already so savvy in using technology – tablets, smartphones and laptops – I think they will not have problem with learning online. I came across TutorMe when I was googling for good Chinese online lessons and Connected Learning arranged a trial lesson for my son to try it out first.
My son enjoyed the trial lesson, not to mention the fun of using the PC and earpiece, so I decided to sign him up for regular lessons.
Q. What do you need to prepare in terms of equipment and materials to get started?
Basically, we just need to have a PC or laptop with webcam and a high-speed Internet connection to support smooth video conferencing. I hear some parents let their child use a touch screen for the lessons or a tablet. TutorMe is supported on iPad but you may need to install a third-party video conferencing application.
Before starting out, you will be given guidance on how to download the video conferencing software and login details. Personally, I let my son use earphones for the lessons which I think is much better than using the computer’s speaker because I want my son to feel that it is a fun session and that he is exclusively enclosed in the session without any disturbing background noise. If you use the speaker, the student will tend to feel that it is just like any other classroom session and their mind may easily wander off.
Q. What is the trial lesson like?
Eileen: My son went through only one trial session. During the video conference where both
parties could see each other via the webcam, the teacher first gave an introduction and then got my boy to speak to get the communication going. Afterwards there was a bit of revision through my son’s school textbook.
He was asked to read the textbook and the teacher highlighted and explained the important (or more difficult words) and also emphasised the right pronunciation. In my opinion, since I got to observe the entire trial session beside my son, I feel that though it cannot cover a lot of teaching topics within the 1.5 hours, it does help to develop a friendly and comfortable rapport between the teacher and student.
Q. How much do the regular lessons cost and what is being taught?
Eileen: My son has been attending lessons since last year. He is in P4 now and takes 2 lessons per week, each lasting 1.5 hours. Other students, especially those in lower primary take three lessons a week; I think because they have shorter concentration span so the lessons are spread out.
I’m currently paying about S$190 for 8 lessons. Twelve lessons per month for P1 to P3 cost around $180, while eight lessons for P6 cost $230.
During the lessons, my son goes through reading from the textbook, writing words in his own exercise book (word, meaning, pinyin), pronunciation, linked words and making short sentences.
It is a group tuition, with maximum six students, I think. So far, my son’s group has not been big, so it still feels like having a personal tutor for now.
Q. What aspects of Chinese study does TutorMe help your child?
Eileen: My son does not recognise a lot of basic words, even common words. Of course, I did not expect a magical outcome from the tuition, but at least he should be able to read, write and communicate in Chinese effortlessly. After receiving tuition via TutorMe, he finally managed to pass his Chinese exam, scoring 50.08 marks. To us, this is really a great result. We are truly thankful for the teacher’s never-give-up attitude.
As a parent, I will also receive a detailed report every month via email regarding my son’s progess. The report will show which lessons he attended, the topics covered and how my son fared (response and understanding) for every lesson, even highlighting points such as whether he showed tiredness or lacked attention for a certain lesson.
Q. Any example of what is taught?
Eileeen: Recently my son was taught the word 豆 (bean). The teacher taught him to watch out for the difference to the word 逗 (tease) by drawing the additional strokes to the 豆. My son is able to watch the teacher draw/write on the screen ‘live’. Furthermore, he was taught to link words such as 逗号 (punctuation) as the teacher provided illustrations of different punctuation marks. In the same session, he learn link work （铃）： 铃声 、 风铃 、 门铃 .
Q: Young children tend to have short attention spans. Do you think it will be a problem for them to sit still in front of the computer for the whole lesson?
Eileen: It is true that children have short attention spans, as they are used to fast-moving technology. My son initially also felt restless during the online lessons. That is why I mentioned earlier that the TutorMe programme for lower primary is designed to have more lessons a week, each with shorter tuition hours. This year my boy is older and his concentration is much better.
Moreover his teacher will usually let the students watch a short Chinese cartoon video clip at the end of lesson, which piques my son’s interest. Usually, he rarely watches those cartoons on Channel 8.
I will also be sitting in the same room during the lesson to give him support, which at the same time allows me to see his progress.