How do you choose a tuition provider?

A lot of UNISA students seek help with their studies. Thus, there is now a large supply of people and organisations who offer services to UNISA students.

Question is… what is the right solution for you?!

What are your options?

Here are some different types of assistance available to you:

  • Face-to-Face classes on a campus (Full-time; Part time; Crash or Exam courses)
  • Private or company-based tutors
  • Discussion forums (Eg: MyUnisa; StudyNotesWiki; Facebook groups etc)
  • Study groups
  • Online learning platforms (Eg: Together We Pass; Tabaldi)

What are your expectations?

  • Make sure that you know what you need and expect from them before you sign up. The greatest frustration will come from expectation gaps. You want one thing, they provide another, you feel angry that your needs aren’t met. Here are some of the things you should ask yourself:
    Are you just after notes? Spots for the exams?
  • Do you want explanations of everything in the syllabus? Just the tricky parts? Question-based sessions rather than theory?
  • Do you want to be spoon-fed or challenged?
  • Do you expect to cover everything within the sessions and have no ‘homework’
  • Do you want to learn enough to just pass this exam? Or are you looking to build a good foundation of knowledge for your future exams or career?
  • Are you happy to be in a class of others? Or do you prefer one-on-one attention, so that you’re not held back by others?

None of these are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but they will influence your expectations about how you want the sessions to turn out. Different providers will cater for different needs, and will focus on different components.

How disciplined are you?

You have to be honest with yourself here. Some students need more structure and more of a classroom environment, and some students can get on with their schedules alone.

If you’re one of those who spend more time revising your study schedules (because you’ve fallen behind!), than you actually spend studying… then your discipline might be a little rusty! You may need external support to keep you on the straight and narrow. If your discipline levels are higher, that same support may frustrate you instead of assist you.

Can you handle the truth?

You want to learn, grow and improve your knowledge and future career. This is not achieved by telling you what you want to hear, or offering shallow motivation. Sometimes we need to be encouraged and sometimes we need a wake-up call.

There will always be people out there who will tell you what you want to hear. This makes you feel great, but it’s short-lived. You need honesty in this process. People who are prepared to tell you that you need to up your game. Find a provider with people who are prepared to be unpopular once in a while in the attempt to push you a little further than you’ve gone before.

Trust is important here. If you trust the provider you’ve chosen, have the maturity to trust their advice if they’re giving it to you. Just because you don’t want to hear it, doesn’t mean it’s not true! Have the maturity to hear the message and apply it if it’s relevant!

What should you look for in your tuition provider?

One solution CLEARLY doesn’t fit all students. What should you be thinking about when you make your choice?

Relevant experience

As with all professional services, this is a key component of your selection. Your concern here is whether they can provide you with the knowledge you require, at the level you require. The easiest way to measure this is generally by asking how many years they’ve been doing this, and what their background is.

Relevance is important as well. Make sure you’re comfortable with how their experience meets your specific needs, rather than count the years or fancy titles. One year’s relevant experience may be better than ten years in a different field. It also helps to ask the opinion of people you know that have attended that providers’ classes. Some lecturers be be geniuses in their respective fields, but lack the ability to effectively communicate this to their students.

Integrity

It’s easy to compromise this a little when you’re under pressure. Taking answers for assignments, taking or buying notes and material from other students who’ve attended classes somewhere. You need to carefully consider the integrity of your service provider, and yourself! At Tabaldi for example, we are very strict in this regard. We would rather go the extra mile to help explain something so that the student understands than just supply a quick answer. At the end of the day you have to remember that one day you will be required to use these skills. What is the point of buying the answers only to fail at your job one day because you don’t know what is going on?

Student Tutors

I’ve seen loads of tutoring services popping up from students. These make me a little nervous… there is a big difference between being able to DO something yourself, and being able to TEACH someone else how to do it! One of the key elements of your learning is to build a solid foundation for the next year’s studies, and the one after that. If your tutor hasn’t finished their studying, they may not be in the best position to know what your knowledge needs are. They can only assist you in passing this exam. Trust me… bad habits can get you through one exam, and be a stumbling block in the next!

Another thing to consider is that good lecturers over the years learn to approach a problem from multiple angles. It often happens that one way of explaining a topic does not make sense to a student. However drawing on their wealth of experience a good lecturer will often be able to frame the topic in a different way that makes sense to the student.

This is not to say that it may be the wrong choice for you… but please be careful!

(Also… you’re studying in English. Your exam is in English. You plan on working in a business world that relies on English. You can’t get away from that, like it or not. If your tutor can’t speak, or write, in decent English… I’d be very wary!)

Advice from others?

Ah… This is tricky! One of the best ways to evaluate your options, is to speak to others who’ve walked the path before you. With the increasing communication available through social media, this makes your lives a lot simpler. It’s easier to source past students etc, and get their opinions. Great idea.

HOWEVER… be careful to filter out the information you receive! Getting opinions from people is great, but make sure you know their position before you base decisions on those opinions.

Were their expectations the same as yours? For example… Did they go in expecting only questions, and they’re unhappy because the sessions were mainly theory? This may leave them with a bad taste, but it might be exactly what you’re after. So delve a little deeper. Is their opinion based on first impressions? Second-hand information? How many of the classes for that semester did they actually attend? If they failed, they can hardly blame the provider if they never bothered attending classes!!! If they never followed the instructions, methodologies, homework requirements of the provider… then who is to blame for failure?! Do they stand to gain anything from your decision? If so, how objective is their advice?

So, references can be extremely useful, as long as you match them to your expectations, and filter out opinions that may be tainted with misinformation, or bias.

Resources?

Here we come to an all-too-real restriction on our choices. The resources available to you will definitely influence your decisions. If you plan on carrying on though, don’t let these restrictions eat at you! (I spent many years bitterly glaring at the lucky students who were studying full-time, not realizing that I was gaining experience in an entirely different way, which they’d never have!!)

Match your choices to your resources. Don’t over-commit, or you’ll add frustration and stress to your life. (Which you hardly need!) Be realistic about your finances, your time, transport and your discipline. Find a solution that fits your life.

Make sure that you factor in all the costs when looking at tuition providers. It is not only the cost of the tuition that you need to be aware of, but transport costs, additional material costs, as well as the opportunity cost (time spent travelling) associated with travel. (This is one area where digital products such as ours makes a huge difference for many students!)

Conclusion
This is not a comprehensive checklist for you. Your own experience, knowledge, needs etc are crucial. All I intend to do is create a little more guidance and conscious thought in this tough decision.

Remember, what works for you may not work for your friend, what worked for me may not work for you! You’ve got to find the right answer for yourself, and live with the results!

I would love to hear about your experiences sourcing tuition providers. Leave a comment below, and lets learn from each other.

Good luck!

 
 
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