The problem is two-fold: First, tutoring is expensive for students and their parents - especially good tutoring. Second, good tutors are hard to find and don't usually have time to fit in with students who do the bulk of their work last minute or late at night. My model solves these problems by providing free resources to get students started, tutoring for when they get stuck, flexible time lengths of tutoring sessions, flexible work hours for tutors, and a more satisfying tutoring experience for tutors and tutees.
How it works
Students log on to a website/app where they can screen share and video/voice chat with a tutor. A tablet device with a drawing program which can insert pictures is ideal for this. Students upload a snapshot of a question or just ask their question and tutors do their thing.
The innovation is in the payment structure and "cueing up": Teachers/tutors are logged on and available, visible to the students, and students join a cue to get help. Since sessions are aimed at running for a few minutes, like when a student asks for help from a teacher in class, other students will be happy enough to cue up. An average time for each session can be displayed so that cueing students can easily predict how long they will wait according to the order of the cue.
- Lessons can be easily recorded (video) for students to watch later or for tutors to review for their own improvement. Students don't need repeat explanations which saves time and money for them
- tutors can have the option of giving a discount (or even a full refund) if they feel that they didn't do the student justice with their answer. Perhaps a series of buttons which appear immediately after the session and give the option of "no charge", "% discount", or "full price"
- feedback can be immediate and brief with students and tutors rating the session (stars perhaps + brief comment) and students can view this information when selecting a tutor for help and deciding how long they are willing to wait for help
- feedback ensures that good tutors are rewarded and bad tutors can be improved or removed. Students can also receive feedback so that abuse can be blocked (this is unlikely since they're paying)
- new registrations can receive some free credit for a trial without having to bug their parents for a credit card. If they find this works great for them they can add credit to their account
- teachers who want a little extra cash can sign up and do a little (or a lot) of after hours tutoring to supplement their poorly paid day job. Some might even choose to work part time or not at all but they would essentially be working for them self
- the experience should be much more positive than the average classroom (for tutors and students) since they both want to be there to gain mutual benefit
Problems and aspects to learn about
Payment system - micro-payments still require a small transaction fee which will seem large compared to the cost of these payments. I suggest buying non-refundable credit in minimum $20 amounts. The company holds the money until a transaction occurs, at which time the company takes their percentage. This can be set up as a not-for-profit or as a profitable business with goals of large scale, global expansion.
Tax - I'm not sure how this would work on a global scale but perhaps basing the credit purchase in one country with one currency would solve part of the problem. Leaving tax up to the contracted teachers/tutors to declare could solve the other problem.
Is anyone else doing this? - As far as I can tell from my Internet travels, nobody else is using the idea of micro-payments for education...
19th October 2012
Google Doc for planning (come collaborate)