Teachers in the USA (and in the rest of the world) are underpaid and overworked. According to the Economic Policy Institute, educators earn lower salaries in comparison with professionals with similar education. Rigid hours and stress, combined with low wages, encourage teachers to quit their jobs. This problem had been acute even before the pandemic, but the coronavirus crisis poured oil into flames. According to the RAND Corporation survey, one out of four teachers resigned at the end of the 2020-’21 school year.
Teachers quitting their jobs is a severe blow to schools, but also an opportunity for startups to create solutions for a thriving teacher’s gig economy. By developing an online tutoring platform, you can provide educators with better working conditions, higher income, and last, but not least ‒ more room for creativity.
If you’re looking to learn how to build an online tutoring platform, read on. With more than 200 successful projects, we at JatApp know how to develop a solid product that will meet your business needs. Not that long ago, we created an online educational marketplace for a Cypriot-based company that currently has 70,000 unique users per month. If you’d like to learn more, check out our case study.
After reading this article, you’ll know what features edtech platforms require and how to solve the main challenges online learning platforms face ‒ attracting and retaining teachers, while providing great learning outcomes.
But first, let’s explore what types of tutoring platforms currently exist on the market.
Types of tutoring platforms and their business models
Online tutoring platforms have been on the market for quite some time, but they have become even more popular in the past two years. Let’s look at some examples that prove this.
In 2021, Preply, an online tutoring marketplace for language learning, has increased the number of booked lessons to 10 million and grown its network of teachers to 40,000 people. To compare, a year ago, the platform had only 2 million booked lessons and 10,000 teachers.
As demand for online learning grows, numerous tutoring service startups got major investments. The above-mentioned Preply has raised $35 million Series B. GoStudent, a marketplace for K-12 students, has raised $244 million in a Series C. One more example: Kahoot, a user-generated gamified e-learning platform has received $215 million from SoftBank.
Our company also has an example to prove the profitability of tutoring platforms. A project for the Cypriot-based company we’ve mentioned above is a solution aimed to connect students and tutors both locally and internationally. Our collaboration allowed the client to raise over $500K in funding and achieve 20% yearly revenue growth.
The online tutoring market is attracting more users and higher investments. This growth drives the emergence of innovations in the education sector. As for today, we can distinguish three types of online tutoring platforms ‒ marketplaces, learning pods, and speed tutoring & homework helper platforms. Let’s look at each of them.
In brief, a tutoring marketplace is a platform that connects teachers with students. Tutors create profiles on the platform, while students can search for teachers without any registration procedures. After the lesson is over, students pay a price set by the tutor. The commission fee charged by the platform varies; for example, Wyzant retains 25% of the tutor’s hourly rate and Outschool takes a 30% service fee.
To help you better understand how tutoring marketplaces operate, we will take a closer look at one of the most popular startups ‒ Preply.
We can call Preply a classic tutoring marketplace. Here is how it works: Users come to the Preply website and can immediately start looking for tutors. First, they choose a language and then use filters to specify their search. The system displays tutors relevant to user requirements, and users pick the educator they like.
If you want to become a tutor on Preply, you should register on the platform and get approved by the Tutor Success Team. Preply provides trial lessons for students and takes a 100% commission fee from every first lesson with each new student. In case a student is not satisfied with the trial lesson, Preply replaces the tutor with another one for free. Each next lesson is commissioned from 33% to 18%, depending on the total number of teacher’s lesson hours.
When kids were forced to study at home due to the mass lockdowns, parents began to look for alternative ways to continue the educational process. Some parents started organizing their children into small groups and teaching them at home. Such offline groups were called learning pods.
Online learning pods popped up on the market along with offline learning pods. These platforms deliver virtual educational programs to 5-7 children of the same age who study together live. Learning pods offer courses that either replace or supplement traditional schools.
Before you decide to invest in this type of platform, let’s see how learning pods work.
Prisma, an innovative online school for 4-8th graders, delivers a full-time, comprehensive virtual program for students.
Their yearly program consists of six five-week-long cycles. Each cycle is focused on a specific topic students have to master. Throughout the curriculum, kids participate in workshops and work on projects. They socialize in clubs, virtual learning communities, and family events.
Each cycle with Prisma costs $1,483, with a total of $8,898 for all six cycles. This cost isn’t affordable for every family, which means scaling your live tutoring platform might be challenging. Still, there are parents who are ready to pay for engaging and personalized online learning experiences unavailable within traditional remote school learning.
Speed tutoring & homework helper platforms
Speed tutoring platforms are tutoring sites that provide quick solutions to students’ educational challenges. Let’s look at Chegg to better understand how they work.
With Chegg, students can reach out to experts for help with their homework, prepare for an upcoming exam, or have an essay checked by a proofreader. Users can also use materials available on the platform, find answers to their questions in Chegg’s database, solve math problems, and purchase or rent physical books on Chegg’s marketplace.
Chegg’s online services are available via three subscription plans:
- Chegg Study ($14.95/month)
- Chegg Math Solver ($9.95/month)
- Chegg Writing ($9.95/month)
There is also a Chegg Study Pack that combines features of all three subscription plans. It costs $19.95 a month. The student’s choice directly depends on what type of help they need. For instance, if a student is not good at writing, they pick a Chegg Writing pack only, since there is no need to pay for the features they don’t actually need (math solver and so on).
For comparison, let’s look at one more speed tutoring platform called Brainly. It’s a 24/7 homework helper for students.
Brainly allows students to ask questions and receive answers from experts or top students. It has a freemium monetization model with a Brainly Plus subscription that provides an unlimited number of questions and an ad-free experience. Besides, Brainly offers a Tutor plan which enables unlimited access to live tutoring.
How to build a tutoring platform
Now, when we’ve discussed how online tutoring platforms operate, let’s focus on the platform’s functionality that can help you attract and retain teachers, as well as deliver high learning efficiency for students.
The idea behind a tutoring platform isn’t rocket science ‒ teachers connect with students online to help them with their studies. But how can you attract new teachers to join your platform when there are solutions like Preply, Chegg, and many others on the online tutoring market already? The answer is user experience and functionality ‒ your platform needs to provide a great user experience and functionality that makes tutoring easier.
When building a tutoring marketplace for our client from Cyprus, we focused on delivering a seamless experience for students and tutors. To make this platform more convenient and user-centered, we created two separate panels for tutors and learners, added convenient payment options (by integrating PayPal), and real-time chats. We believe that advanced features along with trouble-free user experience are two main reasons why the platform now attracts more than 70,000 unique users per month.
Find out more in our case study
To make your platform successful among students, you need to ensure it allows them to get the knowledge and skills they came for.
Let’s see what features will make your platform popular among both students and tutors.
Features to attract and retain tutors
To attract teachers to your online education platform, you can offer:
- Convenient scheduling and job finder tools
Scheduling tools enable teachers to set tutoring hours when it’s convenient for them and have full control over their work process.
Let’s consider the Preply Calendar as an example. Using this feature, tutors can schedule lessons, set work hours and times off, synchronize their lessons with Google Сalendar, and more. Students can see available time slots on their tutor’s profile page.
Wyzant, as another example, has a Tutor Dashboard where teachers can see their response time and rate, how many jobs are available for their subjects, and messages if there are any. The Dashboard also allows teachers to schedule lessons.
- Flexible payments
Online tutoring platforms are a primary or additional source of income for teachers so hassle-free payments are a must. In the case of Preply, teachers can set their own hourly rates. After each lesson, a student sends payment to the teacher’s account. A tutor can withdraw money at any time via PayPal. The more flexibility you can provide on your platform in terms of payments, the more attractive it will be for tutors.
- Stress-free handling of attendance issues
Juni, a platform for online tutoring, relieves its teachers from the necessity to reach out to students if the latter are late. Instead, a member of the Support Team texts a student to check-in. One more example is a global tutoring school GoStudent. If a student hasn’t shown up for a lesson 15 minutes after it started, a teacher notifies the platform and gets compensation. If you can build a platform where tutors experience minimum stress related to attendance, they will be more than glad to join it.
How to help students achieve good learning outcomes
To increase students’ chances for successful learning, you should stick to the following rules on your tutoring platform:
- Check teachers’ qualifications before letting them join your platform
GoStudent interviews each applicant to test their professional skills before allowing them to become a tutor. The TutorMe platform, on the other hand, doesn’t conduct video interviews, but they have requirements for tutors: Applicants should have previous tutoring or teaching experience, mastery of the subject they tutor, and a diploma issued by an accredited university.
By carefully selecting experienced candidates, you will gather a professional tutor community on your platform.
- Implement review and rating systems
On Preply, for example, students evaluate each lesson and send their feedback to teachers. They also have an opportunity to leave a review about a teacher. By leaving a review on Preply, a student participates in the tutor’s rating on the platform and helps other students pick the right teacher.
Wyzant offers two ways to leave feedback ‒ star ratings, when students rate specific lessons from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor), and written reviews when students write overall impressions about a tutor.
By implementing a grading system on your tutoring platform, you help students find a teacher who will help them achieve desired results.
Offer supplementary learning or substitute traditional schools?
Now that you know how to build an online tutor platform, one question remains unanswered ‒ will tutoring platforms substitute traditional schools? Let’s figure it out together.
Most platforms on the online tutoring market offer supplementary learning and don’t even try to replace traditional education. For instance, TakeLessons is a platform where students can take online music lessons, learn languages, academic subjects, and more. GoStudent, a tutoring marketplace for K-12 students, offers one-to-one classes in around 30 school subjects. However, neither of the platforms mentioned intends to compete with traditional education.
Still, there are platforms that have chosen the other road. Prisma, for example, is a full-time comprehensive platform for 4th-8th graders that can completely replace the traditional school. The platform claims that Prisma students get all the required skills to continue education in high schools and colleges.
It’s probably too early to assume that online tutoring platforms might substitute traditional education. When building an educational platform, focus on supplementary learning first and clearly define the audience your product will be useful for. Make sure you implement the features appealing to teachers and foster a learning process that allows students to gain knowledge and skills. And if you are looking for a reliable partner to build a tutoring platform, talk to our experts to discuss your project’s scope.