“We know one-to-one tutoring can reliably increase education outcomes by two standard deviations (the Bloom two-sigma effect); we have the internet; why haven’t we built systems to match every young learner with [tutor] to dramatically improve student success?” In It’s Time To Build, Marc Andreessen, an American entrepreneur, investor, and software engineer, posed this question while thinking about the future of education. He also proposed a solution to educational obstacles: personalized online tutoring.
Think back to the first time you struggled in a class. Do you remember staring blankly at your homework? You might have felt helpless and not been sure who to ask for help.
You’re not alone, and neither are the millions of students around the globe who hit similar roadblocks in their educational journeys.
But here’s a surprise: the struggles you may have faced in your learning process were not just a brain malfunction. Most scientists, educational specialists, and educators blame something else: the education system itself.
We should stop using old, outdated education methods. If we, as a society, want to build each other up and advance knowledge for decades far into the future, then education should be our primary investment. And what better way to invest time, money, and resources than focus on the personalized education of the future?
There is undeniable educational value in individualized tutoring, but several factors currently prevent our system from moving forward on this front. What goals can we set to overcome them and improve education?
Goal 1: Make online education prices affordable
The first reason most students can’t access quality tutoring is due to cost. For many students and families in this day and age, paying for a private tutor seems out of reach.
The status-quo in the online tutoring space is that agencies charge high fees, sometimes even 40-60%. This fee either falls on the students, who pay inflated prices for tutoring. Or, it is taken out of the tutors overall earnings.
On the other hand, there are affordable online tutoring options (and there should be more!).
For example, Lessonpal only takes a much lower 10% fee. This means that tutors’ prices are in a range that fits more budgets, which helps more students access affordable education.
Goal 2: Eliminate geographic barriers
Distance is an obstacle sometimes when it comes to finding quality supplemental education. Think about students from urban and suburban areas. For example, San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. There is a higher population density, and numerous local universities and tutoring companies. Students here have access to a broad selection of tutoring options in nearly any given subject (although we do have to think back to the cost factor!).
On the other hand, for learners in more rural areas, finding an in-person tutor poses unique challenges. Maybe the student’s region has a low density of tutors available, meaning that there may be limited options, or that the few tutors can significantly raise their prices due to low supply.
Tutors face the same challenges. If they want to offer in-person tutoring, it may be difficult to find students in their general area. Or perhaps they have to commute for a longer time than they are actually giving classes! Then once you factor in the cost of gas or public transportation, is the lesson even worth it?
Online tutoring eliminates these obstacles. However, there is still work to be done to truly connect students and tutors across the globe. While students can connect online from around the world, there still needs to be better translation software so that tutors and students can communicate in any language without issues.
Goal 3: Promote support within school districts
It’s no secret that US public schools face complicated obstacles.
Usually, students in underfunded, lower-income schools districts need more academic support. However, these districts usually also lack the required resources to get students the one-on-one support they need.
However, teachers and education officials are spread so thin. They usually don’t have the funds nor the energy to provide individualized education to each student.
Students desperately need individual attention. So many students have learning difficulties that, with proper support, can learn strategies to succeed. More resources to underfunded school districts is a start, but teachers overall need even more help and infrastructure from the districts in order to manage their classrooms.
One-on-one online tutoring can make up for the lack of personalized education students receive in school, but ultimately, schools and teachers need more support so everyone can progress.
Goal 4: Break the cycle of marginalization
The impact of leaving students behind is dramatic. When we look back through the history of education, we see that the students who are most likely to fall through the cracks in education systems are historically marginalized students – by race, gender, class, ability, and more. These factors are not only linked, but also compound.
Whether or not a student finishes education is one of the most significant determinants of future income potential, incarceration, and single motherhood. When schools fail these students, they enable the cycle of generational poverty and social exclusion to continue.
Educating students as individuals now benefits society as a whole in the future. Countries see positive outcomes such as increased civic engagement and decreased reliance on public resources, when more people are committed to life-long learning.
Goal 5: Mitigate the “Achievement Gap”
In Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book Outliers, he discovers that the achievement gap between students is seasonal. That is to say, students of all races and income levels learn the same amount during one academic year, as determined by reading scores and other academic indicators.
However, wealthier students get ahead during the summer due to their parents enrolling them in programs or tutoring. In contrast, underprivileged students fall victim to the “summer slump” and do not retain what they’ve previously learned.
This disadvantage accumulates over a decade in academics. Gladwell continues, “virtually all of the advantage that wealthy students have over poor students is the result of differences in the way privileged kids learn while they are not in school.”
The solution: personalized education
Fortunately, experts have determined some solutions to these educational crises. Educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom developed the influential “2 sigma problem” in 1984. He concluded that students who received one-on-one tutoring that focused on mastering skills were significantly ahead of their peers.
Bloom elaborates, “the average tutored student was above 98% of the students in the control class.” Students were also able to climb up the class rankings with the help of individualized tutoring. “About 90% of the tutored students…attained the level of summative achievement reached by only the highest 20%” of the control class.
Among grade levels, schools, and regions, Bloom’s study ultimately found “great differences in cognitive achievement, attitudes, and academic self-concept.”
What’s stopping us?
What’s holding us back from switching to a new tutoring model for all students to boost their learning? The main roadblocks we’ve seen come down to cost and infrastructure – two obstacles that online tutoring platforms like Lessonpal aim to eliminate.
When we can overcome the significant barriers of accessibility and affordability, individualized tutoring has the potential to completely revolutionize learning. Try it out for yourself with one of Lessonpal’s awesome tutors. We’re on the road to building the future of education!