As you might know, my career in education technology started on the consumer side as an online language tutor (I use the term coach) back in 2008. Skype was fairly new and had not hit the mainstream, Flash-based virtual classrooms were all the rage, and in hindsight, no one had a plan of how to make all this work.
Today Skype is already perceived as dated and new standards like WebRTC are poised to give live online education not only a new boost but finally push it to every desktop or mobile device. But there will be a huge difference between live online lessons in 2008 and those in the years to come.
Back in the days online lessons were essentially classic tutoring sessions transferred to the Internet. The average session length was between 30 to 45 minutes, the topic, pace and material chosen by the tutor who was in charge. That will change.
In the not so distant future the student will decide on the topic of the session and the session itself will be much shorter. Thanks to self-paced learning products like MOOCs, Duolingo, Khan Academy and such students don’t need tutors to take care of the lesson concept anymore and most learning and testing can be done autonomously. So what role does a tutor play in this scenario?
Think helpdesk calls, Amazon’s Mayday feature for its Kindle Fire tablets or InstaEDU. Chegg, which acquired InstaEDU for $30 million in June, extended the use of the platform from tutoring to college counseling last month. Through InstaEDU students can get access to a live tutor on any relevant topic in just a couple of minutes, the moment they are stuck at homework or exam preparation.
This concept of on-demand tutoring will eventually spread into other verticals like language learning, coding or other creative industries. There will of course be issues like scale, pricing and quality of tutors, but on the other hand this may be one of the verticals in education that sees major growth in employment.