Online Tutoring Grows in Popularity

Photo Courtesy of SXC

Photo Courtesy of SXC

Grace Shay ’10
Managing Editor

Photo Courtesy of SXC

A Staples student’s typical after-school schedule often includes hours of athletic practice, extracurricular clubs, family chores, and homework. For some, it can be challenging to find extra time while balancing all these obligations. Squeezing in a face-to-face session with an academic tutor can cause a student’s schedule to become even more hectic.

Online Tutoring

As a result, some students have turned to online tutoring services, like www.Tutor.com, to provide quick, specific help on homework and test preparation.

Jennifer Kohn, vice president of Corporate Communications at Tutor.com, said that “instead of making an appointment with a local tutor for help in one subject, once a week, we empower students to get help 24/7 in any subject. No more schedules and no need to rely only on local teachers/tutors.”

This service was founded in 1998, and offers help in more than 16 subjects, including Advanced Placement courses and SAT/ACT standardized tests.

“The benefits [of online tutoring] range from the convenience and flexibility of getting professional tutoring right from your own home on your own schedule, to the anonymity of the service which helps many students feel more comfortable,” said Kohn. “They are not embarrassed to ask ‘dumb’ questions or admit to not understanding a concept.”

In addition, in a town where traditional tutors can charge fees of $90 to $150 per hour, Tutor.com’s pricing provides some financial relief. For example, this program offers a $35-per-hour plan. Students pay only for the time they use, so a typical 60-minute session could be used weekly in small increments until the time is used up.

Some online tutoring services, like Growing Stars (www.growingStars.com) have used the 24/7 power of the Internet to bridge “dedicated and highly qualified teachers in India” to “average American people who cannot afford face-to-face one-on-one tutoring at $40-60 per hour,” said Biju Ayyappan, Marketing Manager of Growing Stars. Growing Stars charges $15 per hour, with the goal of helping “students understand the concepts better, and thus help them achieve better grades in school. It is one on one with a highly qualified teacher and hence highly effective.”

Ayyappan cited convenience, flexible timing, proactive tutoring, and highly qualified teachers who are all “post graduate degree holders or above,” as some of the benefits of online services.

Nonetheless, the online tutoring industry has faced some obstacles.

“As in all other industries, we also have non-serious players in the industry who are giving a bad name to the otherwise noble work we are doing,” Ayyappan said. “Besides, there is still some doubt about the effectiveness of online tutoring. People need to taste it before they get convinced.”

The Best of Online and Traditional Tutoring in One

Some traditional tutoring centers, like the Westport-based Freudigman and Billings Educational Solutions Group, have chosen to merge the best of online tutoring with pre-existing services.

Co-founder Trey Billings said that “we really wanted to offer people the same relationship we had in person but to create more convenience and availability.”

Freudigman and Billings offers its students access to the same tutors, whether they’re online or in person, and some online tutors are “former tutors who have moved away from Westport,” said Billings.

Billings acknowledged that online, it is often “harder to get [and build] a connection” between tutor and student, so Freudigman and Billings uses a special interactive site to connect the tutor and the student that “solves this problem of online tutoring,” Billings said.

Morgan Singer ’11, who uses Freudigman and Billings’ online service, said that “it’s really easy” to use the interactive site “because you are talking to the tutor, and there is this feature on the online tutoring station which acts as a whiteboard.” The tutor and the student can “both write on it and access it even when the session is over,” Singer said.

“Also, another benefit is that unless your tutor has another online session after you, you can go over the hour [time limit],” said Singer. “If I am being tutored in person there is always someone after me. But, online I’m not always necessarily confined to the hour time period and we can go over if I really need the help.”

Singer had nothing but praise for the online service. “And as for the drawbacks, there aren’t any that I can think of,” she said. “It’s so useful!”