There are some 40,000 tutoring companies in the U.S. While most of these are face-to-face operations, many offer online tutoring. The problem is that most of the online services don’t have a particularly good reputation — not among students, not among parents, and most damningly perhaps, not with the Better Business Bureau.

The $8 billion-a-year industry presents a big opportunity for a smart company. Plenty of online tutoring companies are trying to find the secret sauce that creates a quality experience. First, it must provide an easy experience technologically. In other words, it can’t be difficult or cumbersome to locate or request a tutor or to engage in a tutoring session, nor can the tools tutors need be antiquated. Second, and most importantly, it must offer quality tutors — those with knowledge in the subject matter and experience teaching and tutoring.

One young startup, TutorCloud, which just graduated from the Imagine K12 education start-up incubator this summer, is trying to do just that.

First, the technical piece: TutorCloud offers an online classroom with both video chat and a whiteboard. While some people may balk at the idea of online tutoring sessions, co-founder Blair Silverberg argues that many students are already using video chat to talk to their peers as they study. Facetime, Skype, Google + Hangouts, and Facebook video chat are already becoming the go-to tools when students are looking for help.

TutorCloud also offers an intuitive interface to search for the appropriate tutors. The tutors all have profiles and reviews for parents to get further insight into who will be working with their child. The tutor’s availability is also listed so that it’s easy to see if it’ll be possible to schedule tutoring sessions. Once a parent requests a tutor, TutorCloud sends a text message to the tutor, notifying them of the request, and TutorCloud sets up a conference call so that the tutor and the parent can talk. All this is designed to happen within 15 minutes because, as Silverberg points out, when a student needs help, she or he often needs help now.

While TutorCloud does offer a technical solution to the problem of online tutoring, the second piece — and the bigger challenge perhaps — is maintaining a selection of high-quality tutors. According to TutorCloud, 90% of the tutors listed on the service are students in Ivy League schools, and they have experience tutoring offline.

But it isn’t simply a matter of finding the smartest Stanford college student to tutor your kid in calculus. As Silverberg argues, tutoring should be akin to mentoring, and as such, it’s a relationship that benefits from more than just subject matter expertise. He says students are far more determined to learn when they share an interest with their teacher or tutor, so the profile information about the tutors isn’t just about their college majors but also their background and their hobbies. TutorCloud also works directly with some schools, matching alumni tutors to current students. Not only do they then have this commonality, but it’s possible for a struggling student to see that someone else from that high school is successfully tackling college.

That points to what may be the bigger mission of TutorCloud. Because tutoring can be done online and at a rate far cheaper than some of the offline options, it may open up opportunities for kids and parents to seek help who otherwise wouldn’t. There’s no visiting learning centers that identify you as a struggling student. Parents can feel comfortable monitoring the tutoring sessions. And the college students who tutor can set their own rates and hours.

The challenges ahead for TutorCloud are to help these college students become excellent tutors and teachers, and to help convince the public that an online tutoring experience may actually be better than one that’s face-to-face.

Can Online Tutoring Work as Well as Face-to-Face? 6 October,2011Audrey Watters
  • It will be interesting to see how well these college students can do at professional tutoring.  The technology isn’t anything new–this same technology has been in use for at least five years with online tutoring, and other companies, like Tutor.Com, using primary college graduates, not students.  I think the biggest differentiator here is the emphasis on mentoring.  Let us see how they can do in an already competitive market.

  • Ko0149

     i think this will not be work for student
    face to face is better than this
    MY BLOG:

  • The degree to which online tutoring is effective depends on the student and what kind of learner they are.  Some students need that personal interaction.  Online tutoring also requires a certain level of understanding regarding the technology that will be used, which not everyone has.  

  • There’s no technical reasons why online tutoring can’t work as well as face-to-face. The problem is getting over people’s misconceptions about it.   I’m an online tutor who has worked with 100+ students, almost none of whom had done online tutoring before –  well over 60% come back for return sessions once they’ve tried it. The convenience is unbeatable. 
    As you mentioned I think the real scarcity right now is in  quality tutors. Even assuming you know your stuff, it takes a looong time to get good at teaching. You have to care. It has to be about more than money. Bottom line: there’s a big difference between presenting the material and teaching it, and it takes time to learn the difference between the two. 
     That being said, geography is no longer the obstacle it once was to bringing students and tutors together. There are great opportunities in online tutoring. This problem will get solved, it’s just a matter of time. 

  • Thanks for the great comments! It’s interesting that the basic technologies for online tutoring have been around for a while but their quality today and the comfort that students have with them for the first time is truly outstanding. Many of our students are doing their homework on Facetime with their ipads when they are not working with their tutors.

    The other really interesting development here is the comfort that most internet users have today with legitimate online identities. Thanks to data sources like Facebook, internet users have lost much of the skepticism that they used to have when interacting with strangers online. This was the missing ingredient holding online mentorship back and it is why and Tutorvista decided to pursue an anonymous model where students did not ever know who their tutors were. On TutorCloud, we hide personally identifiable information initially but when both the family and their tutor are comfortable working together, we allow them to exchange their information. 6 years ago when the previous generation of online tutoring companies were founded, this would not have been possible.

    One other thing I wanted to mention is about college-age tutors vs. credentialed teachers. We now have both credentialed teachers and college students on TutorCloud and we see that there is no strong preference for one over the other with our families. It depends on the specific case. For example, often times younger students who are struggling with reading will prefer to work with a credentialed teacher where high school students prefer a college-age mentor. Our vision for TutorCloud is that learners will be able to find the best person for them regardless of whether they are a college-age tutor or a credentialed and experienced teacher. We provide the tools to find the right person and interact seamlessly and otherwise stay out of the way!

  • We at faced with a problem that the major part of online tutoring is done by Skype. It is hard for websites that provide their own interactive whiteboards to compete with Skype in quality and usability(especially keeping in mind free plugins available like Idroo). That’s why we developed a marketplace for online tutors where they just list their offers, being free to choose convenient tools for tutoring.

  • You have a brought up a very good details, thank you for the post.

  • Manish kumar verma

    Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post.Primary School Tutors……..

  • Eduniche

    It is the specialty of online tutoring that one can get constant touch with tutors with help of video conferencing .

  • Clark Smith

    Online tutoring is one of the best example of learning . One can enroll here easily with low cost .

  • I don,t think so that Online Tutoring work as well as face to face. Because the physical attraction and understanding also with collaboration matter’s much and you cannot adopt these things Online tutoring….

  • cisshanu

    Get children tutoring services online to give your child best tutoring services from the best teachers online who will give you classes according to your schedule and time. Comfortable, convinient and safe tutions online.

  • cisshanu

    Reduce the pressure of performance by maximizing preparation. We are here with one on one, online tutoring services for kids with state standardized study material, taped lessons and much more. Let us play our part in your kid’s future.

  • lorie monroe

    I heared about the market of online tutoring.I was very surprised by the fact that there more than 40000 companies in the us itself.This thing clearly shows the dominance of online tutoring in today’s era.

    Visit emath360

  • Katie McWhirter

    Without a doubt online tutoring is effective and essential for today’s learners.

    Skooli ( is a dynamic, open online tutoring environment, with a very simple mission: to match students with the best tutors for their personal learning needs. Whether students need help with a difficult topic, want to take their knowledge to the next level, or are just cramming for finals, Skooli’s online tutors can help anyone perform their best.

    And without the constraints of a typical tutoring job, Skooli offers qualified teachers the chance to become ‘edupreneurs’.

    Created by experienced and knowledgeable experts in both education and tech industries, it’s designed to be a student-focused learning environment that meets the demands of students in a digital age. Skooli’s platform caters to many learning styles.

  • Tutor Pace

    It’s stuffed with innovatively brilliant ideas, liked this article, enlightened me a lot about producing news ideas in my forthcoming posts (

  • One on one online tutoring is a great alternative to face to face because it saves time,money and also can learn in our convenience! I have been using for a long time and i am very much impressed with their assistance.

  • Yes by the online software that would student will attend online classes from home with the help of whiteboard software.
    If you want so you can visit to our site to see online classes.

  • yes online tutoring work compare to face to face because its really consume the time to student home or institutes…

  • Brett Montrose

    It sounds like TutorCloud offered a great online tutoring service. Unfortunately though, I just tried visiting its site to learn a little more and noticed it’s been taken down. It’s never a good thing to see a progressive ed-tech startup have to call it a day. 🙁

    If anyone is looking for an alternative to TutorCloud, though, it’s worth checking out Skooli. They’re a one-on-one online tutoring service with professional tutors and probably the best virtual classroom I’ve seen. They’ll get students started with 60 minutes of free tutoring, too, so there’s a chance to take the classroom for a test drive before committing for any longer period of time.

    Register and start free trial:

  • John Frazee

    I’ve done a lot of tutoring and I’ve found online tutoring to be just as helpful as in person, and it’s much more convenient when cramming for a test. I’ve found that ( is a great resource for instant online tutoring. I’ve been using them for most of the semester and it’s really been helpful.

  • Mary

    Great read! I agree that the quality of tutors is essential for student success. I don’t believe that face-to-face tutoring should be replaced by online tutoring, but instead utilized as an additional resource for any student that needs extra attention, or simply can’t get the face-to-face interaction.

    I heard that many students have had great success with Smarthinking ( There tutors average nine years of teaching or tutoring experience, and ninety percent hold master’s or PhD degrees in their fields. Using a pedagogical approach Smarthinking tutors try to help student understand content and ideas verse do the work for them. Many institutions purchase Smarthinking and offer “X” amount of hours for each student to use. Or students can purchase hours directly from Smarthinking.

    Also, imperative in online tutoring is the on-demand access. Companies succeed by offering live, on-demand assistance when the student needs it. Smarthinking is available 24/7, and the learner can interact in a live drop in session, schedule a future appointment, or even submit a question and get a returned response within 24 hours. TutorCloud needs to be applauded with its 15min response time- great feature in an online company.

    Small tip for everyone looking for an online company. Make sure that the company you are using is geared for your type of student. Some online companies target higher education and some K12. Do some research on the company, who they target, what subjects they offer, and the quality of their tutors before you decide on one.

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