The Straits Times Email Interview:
1. When was the company set up? Why was TutorVista set up?
TutorVista was started in July 2005; the service in the U.S. went live in November 2005 and went live in the UK in July 2006.
TutorVista came about when I was in the U.S. in early 2005 and realized that one of the top two topics of maximum concern to U.S. citizens was education (the other is healthcare).
Everyday I could see in the media and newspapers that the education crisis was being discussed at length. The need for a solution to the education problem coupled with the fact that advancement in Internet broadband penetration made it possible to offer a mass-market, affordable solution to solve the problem.
There is a full-blown education crisis in the U.S. as evidenced by declining test scores, low global rankings of U.S. students in Math and Science, poor graduation rates, lack of basic reading and writing skills, and other well-reported problems. This situation came about because of a lack of opportunity for students to get personalized help at affordable rates and convenient places and time as well as a lack of effort by parents and students, a shortage of teachers especially in Math and Science, inadequate funding at school levels, etc. The federal government has woken up and realized that the U.S. cannot remain competitive globally unless the education system is fixed; thus the billions of dollars being pumped into the NCLB program. Private individuals like Bill Gates, Fortune 500 companies and others are also actively trying to mitigate this situation.
All studies have shown that one-on-one tutoring and test prep is the best way to increase academic performance. The problem is that tutoring is very expensive ($30 - $50 per hour) and not very convenient as it involves getting a tutor to one’s home or driving to a tutoring center. The situation for test prep is even worse – Kaplan charges around $150 per hour and well-known tutors charge even more. If only tutoring and test prep based on one-on-one coaching were affordable, convenient and effective…
TutorVista makes personalized education affordable, convenient and affordable - this goes a long way in helping solve the education crisis
2. How does TutorVista work?
Please visit www.Tutorvista.com and see the FAQ there. It describes how it works
3. Are students always paired with the same teacher?
Yes, barring unforeseen contingencies, same tutor works with the student to ensure continuity and better learning.
4. If students can log on anytime, does that mean there is always one teacher per subject per level online?
Normally yes, but almost always, students schedule in advance so that they get the same tutor and is planned. But in case of unanticipated sudden need, they would be able to get a tutor for the subject they wish to spend time on.
5. As student and tutor share the same whiteboard, do they just type? What is the process?
The student logs in, initiates a tutoring session and talks naturally with the tutor using a headphone with an attached microphone. Both student and tutor communicate using a whiteboard that is easy and intuitive to use - they can write or draw on it, with both seeing what is being written or drawn.
6. Are there any plans to expand into Singapore?
We see Singapore as a key strategic location from Tutor point of view. Singapore gives us multilingual capabilities. As we are planning to launch English-language coaching in the Chinese market, tutors from Singapore will be very important. Similarly, we do teach Chinese to Students in US. Currently we are using tutors from Hong Kong – for this too we can tap the teachers from Singapore,
Singapore is known for Math skills and the time zone is more convenient than India for teaching US students in US evening time. This makes it an attractive proposition with low number of available people being the negative factor as compared to a country like India. We already have Tutors in Singapore and are looking to recruit 100 more from Singapore this year.
7. How many Singaporean tutors are there?
Just a few right now but we have plans to increase the number by 100 in 2007.
8. What sort of training do tutors need?
The tutors undergo weeks of intensive training and pass stringent certification exams. Our tutors adhere to national and state academic standards and curricula. Our competitive exam tutors for SAT, GRE, GMAT and other exams are all top scorers in that exam.
9. How is the training conducted?
Entire recruitment, training, certification, deployment is done over the net and online
10. What is the profile of these teachers?
Typically tutors have a Masters Degree in the subject or a Bachelors Degree in the subject AND a degree in education
The majority of tutors have between 5 to 10 years of teaching experience
11. Why do tutors sign up?
TutorVista tutors sign up to pursue a great opportunity to continue the teaching profession which they love. This can be done either full time or part time and from the convenience of their home so they can choose based on their availability and interest. There is no travel need or cost or inconvenience.
This is highly stimulating and satisfying unlike a clerical, repetitive, mundane job. Also, tutoring utilizes their high qualification and teaching experience
12. What are the workings hours like for tutors?
Either full time or part time; we have four different options, 3 hours or 4 hours – 6 days a week OR 7 hours for 5 or 6 days a week.
13. Are tutors paid on an hourly basis? How much are they paid?
They are normally paid monthly and get average of US $300 per month for full time work from home.
14. How did you come up with the idea for such a company?
See answer to question 1.
15. Did you have problems at first convincing students that tutors in Asia would be able to help them? How did you overcome these initial problems?
No not at all. There was instant acceptance since Asians are know for academic pursuit, focus on education and a high degree of academic achievement orientation.
Initially, we did a survey of 25 parents/students and not a single one had any reservation.
Thanks to Asians already occupying in US and UK senior positions, having good academic track record, this was easy.
One of the parents said , they would NEVER allow heir son to be coached for sports by Indian coach but education – Indians and Asians were automatic preferred choice!
16. How many students does TutorVista have at the moment?
We currently have over 2,000 students.
17. Where do these students come from?
Mostly from the USA and UK.
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.