Joe Hytner, Founding Director of online tuition service Titanium Tutors, looks at the industry-wide shift towards online tutoring during the coronavirus pandemic.
Life in the midst of the corona outbreak often feels like it’s life in fast-forward. The impact the coronavirus has had on the private tuition industry in a matter of a mere few days is no exception. At Titanium Tutors alone, we’ve seen a rise from 50% of our lessons taking place online, to 95% in less than two weeks.
Online tutoring has been a growth area in the private tuition world for some time. The market research group Technavio estimated in August 2019 — before corona chaos — that the US private tuition market would grow by $7.37bn by 2023). However, what has perhaps held it back from growing even faster than this is a reluctance to ‘leap into the unknown’ on the part of some parents and tutors.
Most Tutors Have Taught Online Pre-Corona
In the pre-corona days at Titanium Tutors, there were a lot more tutors offering online lessons than parents requesting them, mainly because some parents couldn't imagine how an online lesson would work, and it's hard to truly see the benefit unless you experience it for yourself first hand. It was easier for those parents to request a face-to-face tutor when the option was available than to worry about trying something new.
Now that coronavirus has disrupted the private tutoring industry, lots of our customers who a few days ago wouldn't have considered going anywhere near online are actively requesting it and are already reporting back that they're surprised how easy and effective it is.
Almost all of our tutors have taught online pre-corona, so only a few are 'learning from scratch'. This means that for the most part clients’ first impressions of online tutoring will be shaped by those very familiar with how to get the most from it, and things should go very smoothly.
As for those with tutors who are learning on the job, as an online Latin tutor myself I can vouch for the fact that it’s really not rocket science to pick up for anyone who is already familiar with in-person tutoring and comfortable with modern technology. Any bumps in the road encountered by newbie online tutors will quickly be outweighed once clients see how effective online tuition can be.
New Online Tutor-Student Matches Will Extend into the Future
So, will it stick? Well, nobody can look into the future and predict anything for certain: the coronavirus saga itself is the perfect demonstration of that. However, it seems a safe bet to conclude that many of the new online tutor/student matches that are made during the pandemic will last into the future, and each of those matches is its own advertisement for the benefits of online tutoring.
What we are therefore very likely to see is an even sharper acceleration of the growth of the online tutoring industry, which was already booming but not as quickly as some predicted, because of those customers who hadn’t yet had a reason to give it a go. Now they’ve had a reason.
The Acceleration of Online Tutoring Will Depend on How Long Schools Stay Closed
Whether online tutoring becomes all-dominating depends in no small part on how long schools stay shut around the globe, as well as the amount and frequency of other social distancing measures which governments may need to ‘turn on or off’ until the virus is under control. For the face-to-face agencies that weather that storm, the key question will be whether or not their usual client base will have changed their habits by that point.
Old habits die hard, so we may see a lot of people moving back to in-person lessons once they have the choice again. However, to me it seems likely that vast numbers of customers who previously considered themselves ‘face-to-face diehards’ will at the very least be more open to having online lessons in the future, and in many cases will actively seek them out. Far from this being a temporary swing towards online, I suspect we’ll see a lasting impact — though the scale of that impact right now is anybody’s guess.
Joe Hytner is the Founding Director of Titanium Tutors, an online tutoring company which introduces private tutors for lessons via Skype and Zoom.