Introducing micro-tutoring

Cast your mind back to that time when you’re sat there, struggling with a concept you just don’t get. It could have been percentages, or it could have been reflection/refraction. You’ve reached the point where your brain has started to fog and frustration is creeping in. Just at that moment, a teacher, a parent or a friend says, ‘are you ok?’.

You mumble a few words. It’s obvious what’s going on, so they sit down and quietly take you through it. One-to-one. Step by step. It doesn’t take long, but the fog clears and the magic words appear on your lips, ‘Ah-ha!’. You get it, the eureka moment, it ‘clicks’.

But how many times did the teacher, the parent or the friend not step in, leaving you with a legacy of frustration and reduced confidence? How many times did you refuse help so you didn’t look stupid in front of the class?

And think of the converse for a moment. Have you ever sat there whilst a teacher or a tutor continues to explain something when you’ve already ‘got it’, simply because the class isn’t finished yet or because the tutoring session lasts an hour and it’s only 20 minutes in? Not quite as frustrating, but almost.

In an ideal world, you’d get help only when you needed it. A cupboard at home, full of tutors who can step out, explain things and then disappear the moment it ‘clicks’.

OK, so tutors won’t live in a cupboard, and it would have to be a pretty large one to accommodate a tutor for every subject, but many parents naturally understand how quickly frustration can turn into low confidence and low achievement, so back in the real world, they find tutors to re-teach what’s already been covered in class and hope that it ‘clicks’.

It would take too long and cost too much to cover every subject, so the focus is on trickier subjects, like maths and science. The tutoring is generally delivered in multiple one-hour sessions, because otherwise it’s not worth it for either parent or tutor. No mention here of the person who gets the tutoring.

Why? In financial terms, it’s fairly obvious why the tutor might want longer, more frequent sessions but what about the parent? The answer lies in the effort associated with getting a new tutor; the time taken to find one, the time taken to evaluate whether they’re any good or not, the emotional cost of inviting someone new into your home. Think in these terms and it’s equally obvious why parents don’t want to repeatedly find tutors, just when their children need help. In economic terms, parents are satisficing.

But take away the effort of searching for a tutor, add in a simple way to evaluate them*, make it economic for tutors to deliver tuition in small bursts and you have a solution that works for everyone: students (who only get taught when they need it), parents (because it’s more cost effective and less time consuming) and tutors (because it creates a big new market).

We do this using a combination of real time web technology and a fundamentally different process. Call it micro-tutoring. Grameen Bank changed the way credit was evaluated to make it economic to lend in small amounts and thereby created micro-finance. Twitter created micro-blogging using real time web technology to make it effective to deliver a stream of relevant, personal, real-time information.

Tutorhub changes the way we search for tutors, evaluate tutors and deliver tutoring – making it efficient to deliver tutoring in small bursts, just when it’s needed.

Thus the micro-tutoring market is born.

* parents have no way of evaluating whether a tutor is any good or not. They rely on clues: is he/she in demand, are they recommended etc. In other words, they rely on a phenomenon known as social proof. Our recommendation algorithm delivers a superior form of evaluation.

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