Okay, so there are Indian and US based online tutoring websites that have achieved some level of scale and popularity. In the US, Tutor.com leads the field and in India Tutorvista is probably the best known of a clutch of businesses. Neither have taken off in the UK, possibly due I think to a reluctance to use overseas based tutoring services.
In what is a slightly different market we have homework help businesses. At one end of the market we see Cramster, based in the US, who address specific learning needs rather than long-term tutoring needs. This type of service addresses what I regard as micro-tutoring. At the other end of the homework help market, we see just about every educational publisher’s revision and study guides.
I have been looking at the world of online tutoring in the UK, and found surprisingly few businesses in this market.
A simple ‘UK online tutoring’ website search shows the top 3 as:
- Whizz.com (MathsWhizz) delivering animated lessons via an ‘intelligent tutoring system designed to simulate the behaviour of a human tutor’ for 5 to 13 year olds for £19.99 per month. So not person to person tutoring in the traditional sense.
- Hometutoringonline which offers ‘world class 1-to-1 private online tutoring’ via a ‘virtual classroom consisting of an award winning interactive whiteboard, chat and VoIP’.
- Hometutors which delivers pre-arranged online tutoring by an interactive whiteboard.
So what’s happening – are there any online tutoring start-ups worth looking at?
With a legal entity based in the UK, Brightsparkeducation has recently re-launched an offshored online tutoring model using tutors residing in India (a la Tutorvista) and seems to be making progress in selling services direct to Schools. The costs of selling anything into the public sector are significant and the effects of the UK budget cuts are yet to be understood, but there is a market there, I believe.
Whilst I am talking about new businesses Dizeo.com is worth a mention, as it offers unlimited online homework assistance as part of social networking for kids. It’s not free of course, although cheap enough with questions costing 50p each. I can only assume that the monthly subscriptions enable them to cover the tutor costs. The UK national minimum wage is £5.93 per hour, so a 50p credit is worth 5 minutes, not that long for hands-on help.
Other businesses offering online tutoring are: Examfox (which also provides a limited set of online resources and videos), Livetutor and Meteoronlinelearning.
There are a number of traditional tutoring businesses offering online tutoring as an add-on service. The Mathsdoctor has a formal technology platform, whereas many other agencies connect tutors to students, leaving them to make their own arrangements – most commonly via Skype.
Our Tutorhub.com is a different offering, we are focusing on the kid and parent mass market. Unlike these other websites, we are a homework help Q&A website, where kids can ask questions for free to other kids or pay from tuition from online tutors. Customers get to choose from tutors who offer to help with their question. The choice is theirs.
Tutorhub is using instant messaging technology , for one reason only – because kids told us that they preferred it to whiteboards and skype. Another key differentiator is that Tutorhub uses only UK based and CRB checked tutors – and its our experience that there is a large supply of teachers and under / post graduates willing to work from home and tutor kids.
I would love to hear from anyone who knows of other online tutoring start-ups. Feel free to comment here.