There are some 40,000 tutoring companies in the U.S. While most of these are face-to-face operations, many offer online tutoring. The problem is that most of the online services don't have a particularly good reputation -- not among students, not among parents, and most damningly perhaps, not with the Better Business Bureau.
The $8 billion-a-year industry presents a big opportunity for a smart company. Plenty of online tutoring companies are trying to find the secret sauce that creates a quality experience. First, it must provide an easy experience technologically. In other words, it can't be difficult or cumbersome to locate or request a tutor or to engage in a tutoring session, nor can the tools tutors need be antiquated. Second, and most importantly, it must offer quality tutors -- those with knowledge in the subject matter and experience teaching and tutoring.
First, the technical piece: TutorCloud offers an online classroom with both video chat and a whiteboard. While some people may balk at the idea of online tutoring sessions, co-founder Blair Silverberg argues that many students are already using video chat to talk to their peers as they study. Facetime, Skype, Google + Hangouts, and Facebook video chat are already becoming the go-to tools when students are looking for help.
TutorCloud also offers an intuitive interface to search for the appropriate tutors. The tutors all have profiles and reviews for parents to get further insight into who will be working with their child. The tutor's availability is also listed so that it's easy to see if it'll be possible to schedule tutoring sessions. Once a parent requests a tutor, TutorCloud sends a text message to the tutor, notifying them of the request, and TutorCloud sets up a conference call so that the tutor and the parent can talk. All this is designed to happen within 15 minutes because, as Silverberg points out, when a student needs help, she or he often needs help now.