Online tutoring in the UK: the current state of play

As some of my readers already know, I am the co-founder of Tutorhub, the specialist online tutoring website based in Bristol, UK.

I last posted back in September 2011, about the emerging web businesses starting to focus on the online tutoring market in the UK. Back then there were a few businesses: Home Tutoring Online, Brightspark, Dizeo, Maths Doctor, Exam Fox, Live Tutor and Meteor Online Learning. So in the intervening period, what has changed?

Well quite alot actually. We have some new entrants:

  1. Itutormaths, part of Nelson Thornes (along with Bond 11+), specialising in maths and focusing on group learning online
  2. Mytutor, part of AQA, focusing on maths and english
  3. Tute, which is offering homework help and online tutoring

There have been a number of changes. Exiting from the market are Brightspark, Home Tutoring Online, Dizeo and MyTutor. Whilst Exam Fox are now the Tutor Crowd.

We at Tutorhub have been working hard at working out what customers want and how best to achieve product : market fit. The obvious question, is has anyone else ‘nailed’ the customer proposition, to which the honest answer I think is ‘no’ – this is a classic ‘new product in a new market’.

There are three things that I believe we all have to get over.

1. There is a perception amongst some customers that online tutoring ‘must be’ in some way inferior to traditional face to face tutoring. We have conducted extensive research that demonstrates that this is every bit as effective. We will be expanding on this in due course.

2. The online tutoring technology isn’t particularly appealing to students or tutors, based on generic meeting based third party platforms. There are no compelling product delivery platforms out there at the moment in my opinion, which is why we will be launching a new online tutoring platform soon.

3. Pricing is a barrier. People expect online tutoring to be cheaper than regular face to face tutoring. The Tutorhub platform shows a hourly price range not that dissimilar to face to face tutoring. This does not create a compelling reason to swap from a face to face to an online tutor. Tute’s £5 for 45 minutes online tutoring, is a move in the right direction I think.

So what do I see the next 12 months bringing? I think four things:

  1. This is currently an embryonic market place, and I expect to see increased interest and take up. We are further away from a tipping point than I might like, but things are moving in the right direction
  2. New business models, clearly focusing on customer needs and expectations – what currently flies in the UK will be different to that which is working in India or the US. Once the offer is proven in the UK, then it can be rolled out internationally
  3. Differentiation based on delivering superior levels of customer service
  4. More new entrants and more exits

This is an interesting market, which I think will develop and grow. I think that we at Tutorhub have the plan to deliver the most compelling customer offer – watch this space.

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