Accounting students, struggling with a problem in the middle of the night, can now get live help from one of the new online tutoring companies.
Based in India and the U.S., these firms employ tutors from around the globe, using a combination of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), instant messaging (IM) and a virtual white board to which the student and the tutor both have access, Reuters reports. Smarthinking.com provides tutoring through individual accounts, college and institutional accounts and its partnership with the publishing company, Houghton Mifflin, Co. TutorVista.com, a company based in Bangalore, India, offers accounting tutoring to individuals, and to celebrate its recent launch in the U.S., charges $99.99 for unlimited access for one month.
“We’ve changed the paradigm of tutoring,” said Krishnan Ganesh, founder and chairman of TutorVista, Reuters reports. TutorVista has 1,200 students enrolled in all of their programs so far, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, and hopes to enroll 4,000 students by next fall.
Smarthinking has signed up more than 500 institutions, including the U.S. Army, Capella University, and the University of Texas Telecampus, who purchase a block of time and offer students free access to their tutoring service from a personal computer or a college lab, the Washington Post reports. Students who purchase an accounting textbook from Houghton Mifflin receive 10 hours of Smarthinking tutoring for free, which they can access from Sunday through Thursday, from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET and Friday and Saturday, from noon to 6 p.m., the Smarthinking Website says.
Students who sign up for Smarthinking tutoring as individuals, pay approximately $35 per hour.
TutorVista math tutor Suresh Basappa, 28, holds a master’s degree in math and an MBA. He earns $300 to $350 per month and enjoys “sharing his love of mathematics with his students," the Inquirer says. TutorVista tutors, who speak British English, receive training in American English and teaching methods and learn what is taught in certain states, the Inquirer reports
Smarthinking tutors come from around the world, the Washington Post says, and 80 percent have graduate degrees in their discipline.
Offshore online tutoring is just beginning to come into its own and is part of what Don Knezek, chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education, calls “the globalization of education,”, the Inquirer says.
Education officials in the Philippines, Jamaica, India, Malaysia and Costa Rica want to train their teachers to U.S. education standards, Knezek says, according to the Inquirer. But for now, the appeal to parents and students of online tutoring is the cost. “In India in the tutoring biz, you get the same quality of skill for less than half-price.”
Kaplan Inc., one of the oldest and best-known American tutoring companies, does not yet offer online tutoring. Annette Riffle, the general manager of the Kaplan Premier Private Tutor Division, told the Inquirer that face-to-face tutoring built the kind of rapport that allows the teacher to adapt his teaching methods to the student’s needs. Kaplan charges $1,999 for 20 hours of one-on-one tutoring in the student’s home.
Basappa, the online tutor, wrote to the Inquirer in an email that his biggest challenge is “you have to understand the individual only by the ways he speaks.”
Burck Smith, chief executive and co-founder of Smarthinking, says that the rise in demand for online educational services, including tutoring, comes in part for the increase in the number of non-traditional students who don’t have time to look for campus resources, the Post says. In addition, schools use these services as a way of attracting students.
Most of the new tutoring companies, including Growing Stars, and market leader Tutor.com, which uses North American Teachers, are concentrating on elementary and high school students who need help with English, math and writing. Some hope to take advantage of the millions of dollars available to tutoring firms under the No Child Left Behind Act, Reuters says. Nancy van Meter, a director of the American Federation of Teachers, said that tutors needed to keep in touch with classroom teachers and “we believe there is greater difficulty in an offshore tutor doing that.”
“The big test is whether the kids are actually learning. Until you answer that, I don’t know if you can pass judgment on whether this is a good or bad way to go,” said Diane Stark Rentner of the Center on Education Policy in Washington, Reuters reports.