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Your new private e-tutor @low costs.

By R SUBRAMANYAM.

Bangalore -November-10,2005.
A little help is always welcome, specially for students aspiring for better grades in schools. Expensive private tuitions being a deterrent, many are forced to plod through the syllabus, much at disadvantage over classmates paying for extra coaching.

A low-cost option is now available to students seeking specialised tutoring. Made possible by the ubiquitous Internet , e-tutoring or online tutoring is fast becoming a trend. Joining the bandwagon, not surprisingly are technology entrepreneurs wishing to benefit from the first-mover advantage.

Like in software and BPO services, India's advantage is the large pool of talented teachers, who are willing to provide private tuitions to students in English-speaking countries like the US and the UK.

E-tutoring is not uncommon in the US. Reports indicate that close to three million students are expected to study online attracted by the low-cost and flexi-timing features.

The business potential of online tutoring has attracted tech entrepreneurs such as K Ganesh, who co-founded CustomerAsset, one of the earliest call centres in the country.

TutorVista, a start-up founded by him will offer online coaching for students in the US. "We are combining domain and functional expertise with technology, process and global teaching resources to coach students," he says.

The advantage of e-tutoring is the ability to provide tailor-made and structured teaching at the place, time and pace the student is comfortable with ? and at a very affordable cost.

Growing Stars, a Fremont, California-based company with a subsidiary in Kerala, is yet another example of a recently-started online tutorial venture. Over 20-plus teachers from a base in Kerala coach students in the US. Growing Stars claims to have over 160 students right now.

The Cost Benefit

Though there are well established companies like Sylvan that offers online tutorial services in the US, a large pool of experienced teachers in India and the low-cost advantage gives the local guys an upper edge.

Ganesh says that TutorVista's fee structure of $20 per hour is far lower than the $50-$70 those personal tutors in the US charge. Growing Stars, on its website, also says that its $21 hourly charge is far below other options in the US where the hourly rates vary between $30 and $110.

Nasscom, the national body for software service companies, says that e-tutoring offers immense business potential in India due to the vast crop of teachers, especially in core subjects like mathematics and science.

Nasscom says that the first e-tutoring businesses started less than three years ago and there are many Indian teachers coaching US students in mathematics, science or English for a fraction of the cost that private tutors in the US charge.

The Challenges

Attracting parents to the homesite and gaining their confidence on the capability of the tutors are two major challenges that e-tutoring companies face.

To prove the competency of its teachers, TutorVista offers four hours of free tutoring and a counsellor to check the ability of the student and assess the help required.

Online tutoring firms say that the demand for private coaching in the US is growing, partly fueled by the US Government's No Child Left Behind law, which requires schools to test students in math and reading every year from third grade through eighth grade.

About TutorVista

TutorVista's mission is to provide world class tutoring and high-quality content to students around the world. TutorVista is the premier online destination for affordable education-anytime, anywhere, in any subject. Students access TutorVista from the convenience of their home or in school and use TutorVista's comprehensive lessons and question bank to master any subject with access to a live tutor around the clock. The TutorVista idea: help students to excel in school and at competitive examinations. The management team consists of professionals from education, training and Internet fields whose expertise spans eLearning, instructional design, technology-based learning, professional services management, and Internet technologies. For more information, go to www.tutorvista.com.

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