Online tutoring is something that we are becoming more familiar with in the education world. It’s been around for a number of years, but only really taken off with the growth of broadband internet and improvements in communication technology.

What started off as just a good idea, has been transformed into a multi-billion-pound industry, with many thousands of tutors lining up to support students up and down the country – and indeed all over the world.

In January 2012, The Telegraph reported that the international online tutoring industry was valued at £8bn. Remember that this would be in addition to the value of traditional face-to-face tutoring. Some tutoring sites out there now have almost 10,000 tutors to their name.  It seems as though people from all over the world are getting involved.

It’s a figure that’s rising all the time, the growth of the private tutoring market as a whole is predicted to blast through the $100bn mark by 2018, according to a prediction made by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. back in October 2012.  The exact numbers depend on which report you read, but almost all of them concur that online tutoring is expected to experience double digit growth year-on-year.

From a business point of view, that’s no bad thing – it becomes a potentially attractive market to enter.  However, from a purely educational standpoint it might be interesting to look into why this is happening.

Why might students be more inclined to find a tutor online?

  • Convenience… Lets start by getting the obvious out of the way – you can receive online tutoring at home, at times that suit you. Forget the trip to the tutor, just log on and get help straight away.
  • More students requiring help… This is a distinct reality – we constantly hear about so-called grade inflation and the need to make exams tougher.  For some reason we seem to forget that we’re all human and we can’t possibly know everything.  Of course, that is always going to be forgotten in our ‘exam factory’ reality of education.  You go in, you sit the exam and you then get spat out the end.  With all the pressure on exams and remembering facts and methods, it’s not getting any easier for students. OK, so kids have been scoring higher in the examinations they sit – but still, the rate of take-up on tutors has also increased.  Makes sense.
  • …But there aren’t vast amounts of tutors to actually sit down with…
    If double digit growth in the tutoring industry is an accurate projection, is there a corresponding increase in tutors each year?  Probably not. I think that there are are likely to be a combination of reasons. Firstly, more money is also being made because existing tutors are taking on more students. But supply is also increasing – maybe more slowly, as we are also seeing groups of teachers previously excluded from tutoring lots of students, maybe because of their location, also entering the market.
  • They’re available anywhere in the world
    In theory, online tutoring is available 24/7 – you’ll always be able to find someone online somewhere in the world to help you with a wide range of topics.  If you stick to purely face-to-face tutoring, you’re confined to one person to help you at a set time, which isn’t so convenient.

Coincidentally, I have also been reading recent research entitled “Best Practices in Online Tutoring’ by Cherie Mazer, who’s been writing a report on online tutoring in conjunction with a US-based tutoring company.  Mazer has been looking in more detail at reasons why they’re seeing an increasing uptake in the USA.

The results were very interesting – to summarise:

  • Increase in demand: Undergraduate enrolment is soaring in the USA, despite some uncertain economic times.  Between 2000 and 2012, the number of students on ‘degree-awarding’ courses increased from 15 to 21 million students.
  • Age: Students are older than before – in the September 2012 intake of students, 42% were aged 25 or older.  The rate of growth in this group of students is actually outpacing those of a more traditional university age – 18-24 years old.
  • Standards: It would appear that there are quite a lot of students who don’t quite fit the bill.  At the end of High School, 31% of all high-school graduates failed to meet any of the benchmarks recommended by ACT – one of the tests administered to students wishing to apply to university in the USA.
  • Keeping up: More than one third of students currently at college in America reported that they were taking remedial courses, designed to help them keep up with the pressures of university education.

Whilst the USA saw an early uptake in online tutoring via the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’, and the availability of Government funds, it’s also clear that the standards are getting higher and that some students aren’t quite managing to maintain the pace.  Help is at hand, however, through the likes of online tutoring. We are also seeing older students, some of whom will have access to their own finance, and be willing to invest it in supplementing their education.

We have written already about why the online tutoring market is taking off now in the UK. I am inclined to think that an increase in spending on online tutoring could also be partially down to increases in university fees.  Students realise that, with the increased cost of going to university, there has to be a greater result out at the end.  All the more motivation to continue parting with money to help those grades along.

The trends are pointing upwards for online tutoring – all behind economic, social and, naturally, educational factors.  I can’t really see it regressing any time soon.

I hope that you have found this article interesting. Please feel free to tell us what you think about the growth in online tutoring in the comments section below.




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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.