In an age when knowledge commands a premium and time is money, what better way than a person who can teach to do it over long-distance communications and reach more people, do it in an easy way and make more money? And what better way for a student to save on real-world tution fees?
Online tutoring, the business of using telecommunications or the Internet to make teaching and learning convenient, is a bit like a call centre offering support to a customer. But here, the customer is a student and the person at the other end is a qualified teacher imparting skills.
With online portals offering affordable educational support for students, it is a win-win situation for students, their parents as well as teachers working for these portals.
Launched a month ago, Delhi-based Extramarks.com Private Limited is a call centre that caters to NCERT course related queries of students of 6th to 12th standard students. Apart from students, parents and teachers can also register for free and access the community and share their queries and concerns with other members. Unlike a typical call centre in which phoning in is the normal way of getting queries resolved, at Extramarks a pupil can post her queries or doubts and get them answered by expert teachers.
Extramarks uses a points-based system for students and teachers earn on the basis of what they do on its website. For instance, asking a query from a teacher costs you 30 points whereas you earn 5 points if you log in to the website daily.
One can also buy 300 points for Rs 99, which means you can get 10 questions solved for Rs 100. It is a bit like asking an astrologer questions and paying according to the number of queries.
The same number of questions solved with a tutor at home would take more than an hour, costing almost eight-nine times the money. Extramarks.com's future plans include introducing virtual classrooms using white board technology within the next three months and starting their services in the US and UK markets by next six months. "We are also creating our own content," Rohit Jain, CEO, Extramarks.com told Hindustan Times.
Leading education content provider company Educomp Solutions, which is a stock market listed company, currently serves over 3.6 million users across India, US and Singapore. It launched its online learning initiative through a portal, www.mathguru.com in July last year. The portal also addresses students studying in standards 6 to 12 and helps them solve their maths-related queries. However, the payment model involves an annual subscription of Rs 2,023.
"We have 15,000 registered users on Mathguru and are expecting the number to reach 25,000 by March 2008," Shantanu Prakash, CEO, Educomp India Private Limited told Hindustan Times.
While Mathguru is specific for one subject, students looking for guidance on solving queries related to physics, chemistry, general science and French and competitive examinations such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), IIT's entrance exam or medical college entrance exams have www.learninghour.com. Here, a six-month course for medical entrance costs Rs 7,500. For other subjects, the cost varies between Rs 1,000, Rs 1,500 or Rs 2,500 per month for 10 sessions (of one hour each) per subject depending on whether a student wants to study in a group of three, two or individually.
Another player in the category is Bangalore-based TutorVista, which addresses overseas markets. After the launch of the portal www.tutorvista.com in 2005 and serving the US markets for over two years and the UK market for three months, TutorVista will now be offering its services in India with academic course content for CBSE and ICSE students in classes 6 to 10. The cost of 10 sessions per month for students studying in classes 6-8 is Rs 499 per subject and for classes 9 and 10 it is Rs 999. The subjects covered are Mathematics, English, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. At Tutorvista.com, students speak to their teachers using Voice over Internet Protocol technology, with headsets and microphones.
Win-win for teachers
While online support for education is helpful to students, it also pays the teachers comparatively better money than what they traditionally get in schools.
"Online assistance for studies is a very good initiative. It will help a student do self-study and get online help as and when queries arise as compared with a coaching class where one has to study as decided by the tutor. However, one should make sure that the teachers involved are subject specific and well qualified." Says Anjali Saxena, a teacher at Noida's Amity International School.
At Extramarks.com, the starting salary for a teacher is Rs 12,000 as against Rs 6,000 approximately that a trained graduate teacher (TGT) gets paid in a school. More experienced academicians get paid around Rs 22,000 at Extramarks.com whereas a post graduate teacher (PGT) makes around Rs 16,000 even after a decade of experience.
The company has specified working hours and offers a pick-up and drop facility for teachers. "We have 40 teachers on-board at present and will be hiring 500 teachers within the next nine months," Ajay Kulshrestha, co-founder, Extramarks.com told Hindustan Times. Teachers working for Learninghour.com and Mathguru.com earn anywhere between Rs 150 to Rs 250 per hour. TutorVista employs 600 teachers across 23 cities in India.