Just a tap away
Finding the right tutor is no longer a matter of chance. Online tutorial services with their army of teachers are a godsend for students in small towns and big cities alike, says Smitha Verma
It's close to midnight but Akshiv Tyagi is wide awake. The Class XII student doesn't want to sleep before he finds the solution to a complex calculus problem. He picks up his smartphone, taps on an online coaching app and browses through the tutors available online. He chooses one, types out his problem and within a few minutes help is at hand. He closes the app, finishes his work and goes off to sleep.
Nowadays, finding a tutor to help you with your tutorials is as easy as ordering a midnight snack. All you need is a smartphone or a computer with an Internet connection.
According to a report by Mumbai-based private equity fund Kaizen Management Advisors, the Indian tutoring market was estimated at $11 billion in 2014. Industry body Assocham says it is growing at a rate of 35 per cent every year.
"Some studies put the online tutoring market in the United States to be six per cent of their total tutoring market. We don't have any concrete estimates for India. But two per cent of tuitions at our India website are online," says Ashish Sirohi, director, Eduwizards.
Eduwizards was founded in India in 2007 and is now a multinational corporation, with offices in India and the US. The company, which was till now providing online tutoring mostly in the US, is now expanding in India. "We launched tutoring in India to capture the $11-billion opportunity for both home and online tutoring," Sirohi adds. The company has 15,000 registered tutors in India and 30,000 registered students.
This is just one of the players. Last December, the much acclaimed US-based Khan Academy made its India debut. Khan Academy Hindi will cover the syllabus prescribed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training for mathematics and, eventually, science. Initially, the videos, practice exercises and tutorials will be available in Hindi and later in other regional languages.
Then there is Vedantu, a Bangalore based start-up launched by four IITians in 2014, catering to school students. Apart from the usual school subjects, Vedantu also offers summer courses for vedic maths, android systems, master chess, logical thinking and puzzles. Mobile tutoring platform HashLearn Now, another Bangalore start-up, has been described as the WhatsApp of IIT tutoring. The app contains thousands of free practice questions for joint entrance exams.
Mind the gap
Tuitions have been an intrinsic part of the education system in India for many years now. Yet, finding a tutor who suits your requirements, timings and budget and is also in your city or neighbourhood is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Under the circumstances, e-coaching with its personalised attention, 24/7 tutor-on-call service, modest fees and convenience is a godsend for students in remote towns, as well as urban centres.
Take the case of Aditi Nair, a 14-year-old student of Kendriya Vidyalaya from Delhi. When Aditi decided to opt for extra help after school hours she didn't want to be a part of group tuition classes.
"In Class VIII, I had joined a coaching centre and I always felt hesitant to clarify my doubts. But home tuition was an expensive option. So the following academic year I joined Vedantu. I have now been with them for two years," says the Class X student.
According to Aakash Chaudhry, director, Aakash Educational Services (AES), accessibility is the biggest benefit for a student going online. AES has seen a "rapid adoption" of its programmes, particularly in smaller cities and towns where students do not always have access to good quality education, he says. AES, which offers professional coaching for medical and engineering entrance exams, enables students to attend live classes taken by their expert faculty from Delhi in a programme called Aakash Live. With Aakash iTutor, students can access recorded video lectures.
"I think the biggest advantage for students is access to high quality teachers without the constraints of distance, location and time. Students from more than 250 cities and towns have taken sessions on our platform," says Vamsi Krishna, Vedantu co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO).
Nair points out that she can choose tutors according to her budget after checking their educational background and student reviews. Eduwizards has a choose-your-own-tutor market place model that offers hourly prices ranging from Rs 300/hour to Rs 800/hour.
Clearly, online tutoring in India, which started in the mid 1990s, has gathered momentum. Driving this trend is the growth of Internet and the smartphone market in the country.
"The mobile phone is the most convenient way for students to connect with tutors," says Jayadev Gopalakrishnan, CEO & co-founder of HashLearn Now. At HashLearn Now students can subscribe to monthly plans starting at Rs 333 per month for unlimited sessions.
So how does it work? In most websites, each teacher is free to set a per hour cost which can vary from Rs 100 to Rs 700, depending upon his or her expertise. Vedantu takes a small percentage of each transaction and the major portion goes to the teacher.
"On our platform teachers' earnings have gone up to Rs 1 lakh per month," Krishna says. At Eduwizards, Indian tutors can also provide online tutoring to international students and earn in dollars.
Raj Kumar Mishra, a 31-year-old engineering graduate from Delhi, has opted for online teaching as a full-time career. "I work from the comfort of my home. I am not answerable to anyone and can start and end my day as per my choice," says Mishra, who takes online classes through Eduwizards. He teaches mathematics and science to senior school students for around eight hours per day and earns between $10/hour (Rs 680) and $25/hour (Rs 1,700).
For some tutors such as Poornima Lodha from Bangalore, it is a medium that helps them earn extra money and follow a passion for teaching. "I have been a part-time teacher since my college days. So when I started working, I chose online tuition as it saved time and earned me more money," she says. Lodha works with Vedantu and teaches students from Singapore to Shillong six hours on weekdays and 14 hours on weekends.
The only limiting factor, as Krishna points out, could be the low and fluctuating bandwidths in India hampering Internet connections. But more and more companies working in this area are evolving ways and technologies to address the challenge.