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The 5 Best Online Tutoring Companies

Homework Help

Kermit: Where did you learn to drive?
Fozzie Bear: I took a correspondence course.

Education by distance, once considered more of a joke than a serious pursuit, has become commonplace and a source of good business. Along with all the classes and even degrees one can get online, students of all ages can now have access to educated professionals who will tutor them in every subject imaginable. From twenty minutes of homework help to several hours of serious one-on-one instruction, online tutoring companies offer an array of services for students in need of something extra. However, students may find the search for an online tutor a little overwhelming because of the sheer volume of companies out there. Here are my favorites.

Price: $35.00/hour, discounts for quantity
Hours: 24/7, on demand

Tutor.com, established in 1998, is one of the biggest and most well known online tutoring companies and gets my vote for the very best. This is because Tutor.com has diversified to offer many services that are free to the general public through libraries and schools. For paying customers, the company offers 24-hour live homework help to English, Spanish, and Vietnamese speakers in math, science, English, or social studies. Tutor.com has a no minimum, pay-as-you-go structure with a minute-by-minute accounting. Without a required minimum session length, students only use up subscription money based on how many minutes they are actually in session with a tutor. No appointments are necessary and with the exception of a few after school hours, there is very little waiting for a tutor.

Tutor.com screens their tutors and, for privacy, requires students and tutors to use only first names in their sessions. The tutors are mainly teachers, graduate students and current college undergrads and are required to be United States citizens or legal residents allowed to work in the U.S. They are required to pass a test in the subject they will be tutoring, as well as receive some initial training before they can begin tutoring students. However, their main source of training does come on the job, and like most on-the-job trainees, there is an awkward phase that students might have to put up with. Tutor.com offers refunds to clients for minutes spent not being helped or being transferred to a more experienced tutor.

The biggest advantage in Tutor.com may be the free services that are available to the public through libraries and many schools. If a parent wants to find out if Tutor.com is worth paying for, the first thing they should do is find out if it can be had for free at their local library. The library homework help hours are generally 2:00pm to 10:00pm, local time, and many libraries across the country have signed up for this subscription service. Paying customers do have some added services over those who get it for free. Voice communication is available to clients who pay, as well as the ability to save your session transcripts, save favorite tutors, and access the tutoring outside the free hour limits.

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No special equipment, besides a headset, is needed and the classroom runs in your browser. If Tutor.com is unavailable through your library, there is no free sample session, but they do offer an initial thirty minutes at a considerably reduced price. During that thirty minutes, a tutor can give a tour of the classroom and show parents and children how to use the tools or give you a demonstration of how they would work on a problem with your child. There’s no need to decide which subjects your child needs help with when you buy a subscription or which child will use the service. Your children can sign in themselves for any subject he or she needs that day, so the subscription covers all subjects and any student.

Growing Stars
Price: $15.00 – 20.00/ hour
Hours: 7 days, daytime hours, by appointment

Growing Stars is a company with highly qualified teachers who design an individualized plan for tutoring each student. This company is structured to give the student an opportunity to communicate with one tutor for the entire learning process rather than switching around. Most of their subjects, including math, science, and foreign languages come at a cost of $15.00 per hour. The higher maths and programming languages are a little more, but still comparatively inexpensive. This is because almost all their work, if not all of it, is outsourced to India. Nevertheless, these are highly qualified teachers with at least Master’s degrees in their subjects as well as a number of years of teaching experience.

They require downloadable software, a headset, and a special writing tablet which makes it easy to write on the shared whiteboard. The headset and tablet can be found at most computer stores and will cost around $100 total. The teacher will reciprocate by acquiring a copy of your student’s textbook to base the lessons on. The sessions are by appointment only and are each one hour in length. Growing Stars offers a free consultation by appointment and a two-week money back policy. Along with an 8-hour subscription, students receive a free homework help session once per week and two free email help sessions per week. Additional help can be purchased for $10.00 per hour after the initial 8-hour subscription purchase.

The biggest disadvantage to this entire program may just be the foreign accents of the teachers. Although they speak English well enough, they can be difficult for children to understand. If you can get past that obstacle, this is an incredible deal. This service is best suited to advanced students and those who need help in one subject at a time.

TutorVista / TutorNext
Price: $35.00/week
Hours: 24/7, appointment and on demand

TutorVista and its sister company TutorNext have the worst marketing strategy imaginable. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t any good at tutoring. Feedback from students is almost entirely positive and their prices are cheap. They offer what they call “unlimited sessions” for your weekly fee, however, you have to schedule them and that schedule is limited-a maximum of five sessions on the schedule at a time, 35-minute time limit for sessions, and the company reserves the right to further limit the times and days you can schedule your sessions. Whether you find it too limiting or not might be worth finding out since it’s cheap enough to try.

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TutorVista and TutorNext offer a free session right off the bat, but here’s where their lousy marketing comes in. During the free session, rather than being given the opportunity to test out their tutoring skills, you are subjected to the hard sell (and I mean hard). It’s not so much a sample session as it is a lesson in patience (yours). Either you’re talking to a machine, or the salesperson (known as the Acad Coordinator) has a spiel they are required, for dear life, to schlep out line by line, ignoring all relevant inquiries before they lose your interest. The problem is, they end up looking very stupid and that’s really not what these companies are.

Most of the tutors have Master’s degrees and are experienced teachers. You can learn English, math or science here for a very reasonable price since the company is made up mostly of teachers from India. Their teaching methods are sound, and if you can get past the hard sell, you will see for yourself that they can handle some of the hardest problems put before them. There is no need to determine a subject at signup since you can do that during the scheduling process and switch subjects whenever you need to. TutorVista and TutorNext also have what they call “instant sessions” for account holding students who need help without wanting to book it in advance.

Price: $15.00 per session
Hours: 3:00pm – 1:00am EST, by appointment

Concentrating mostly on primary and secondary school subjects, as well as test preparation, eTutorworld.com is a relatively inexpensive way to get a personal tutor. You must schedule your tutoring sessions in advance and they are not open as many hours as other tutoring companies, but they do generally hit the highest need hours of after school in the United States. Not surprisingly, their tutors are not usually found in this country. However, the tutors at eTutorworld all have degrees in their subjects, which include all the maths and sciences up through lower-division college, and they have experience teaching.

Sessions are 50 minutes each and you pay for sessions, not minutes or hours. There is no provision for leaving early or asking for a shorter session time, and cancellations without 24-hours notice are charged to the client’s account, so scheduling can be tricky. There is no special software needed, but a headset with a microphone is recommended for communicating with the tutor. The classroom and whiteboard are web-based.

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You can get a free sample lesson from eTutorworld to see what the quality of tutoring is like. But don’t bother calling the toll-free number to ask specific questions. Their customer service is hired out to a phone bank that handles customer service for a number of different companies. I know this because the man who answered my call said, “Thank you for calling Blue Cross Blue….errr. I mean eTutorworld.com. How can I help you?” He was as helpful as he could be, pulling out the book for answers, but he really had no idea what the classroom looked like or what tools were available there. And he was not authorized to email me any information at all, so the conversation was really useless. I was actually surprised to find he had an American accent. But then, I suppose India has got to start outsourcing eventually.

Steps (tcyonline.com)
Price: $15.00 – 20.00/hour
Hours: 24/7, by appointment

The up and coming company, Steps, is based in, you guessed it, India, and offers tutoring in K-12 math and test preparation. All the tutors at Steps are degreed in either education, science, or engineering. Sessions are usually 45 minutes in length and use a classroom program with voice capability. Scheduling is by appointment only and you can schedule a free trial session before committing to a payment plan of any kind.

The classroom is internet-based and a headset is recommended for voice communication. Otherwise, no special equipment is needed. The student is assigned to one tutor and that tutor tracks the student’s progress. The parent is kept informed by an Academic Coordinator who oversees the student even if they switch tutors.

With the 24-hour schedule, the tutoring is more flexible than some other companies, but because this company specializes in math tutoring, the benefits may be limited for a parent who wants to find an all-around good tutoring company who can cover the bases with their child or several children in different grades. On the other hand, the advantage in the specialization is that they are good at what they do and their tutoring is high quality.

It remains to be seen how well this company will do in the United States with so much competition. Right now, most of its business comes from India. Somehow, that’s just nice to hear.


*The Muppet Movie. Dir. James Frawley. MCA Universal, 1979. Videocassette.

eTutorWorld | Online Tutoring Services | K-12 Online Tutoring | Online Tutor