The past decade has brought along many innovations and disruptive technologies, and many of them have impacted education. However, it’s not in-school teaching that has experienced the most transformations as a result of these technologies. Traditional learning in classrooms still follows the conventional structure and the current generation of students have more or less the same in-school experience as their parents. What has changed, however, is how students can consolidate their knowledge and skills outside the classroom. Online tutoring, which was no more than an interesting trend five years ago, has now become one of the fastest growing markets in the world and is expected to expand even more by 2024.
Private one-on-one online tuition is a viable alternative for students who feel that they do not get all the help they need in the classroom and require additional help from a personal tutor. Made possible by the widespread availability of high-speed Internet, online tutoring is also very popular among students who are preparing for important admission exams or want to learn subjects that are not available in their schools.
Online tutoring by region
According to a 2017 Technavio study, the compound annual growth rate of the global online tutoring market could reach 14% by 2021. The study analyses four main geographical regions:
- North America – currently the largest market for online tutoring, North America has also experienced the biggest growth, reaching $25.27 billion in 2016. Ed tech funding is increasing exponentially in Silicon Valley, where start-ups are capitalising on AI and machine-learning to deliver personalised online learning experiences. As North America also has one of the highest school drop-out rates, what many of these start-ups are trying to do is give a second chance to students who would like to continue their education in another way.
- Europe – France, Germany, and the UK are at the forefront of online tutoring innovation in Europe. Occupying 27.65% of the market share, online tutoring in Europe could reach a whopping $46 billion by 2021. Unlike in North America, where private online tutoring mostly caters to primary and secondary school students, most European users are in high school or college, and choose online courses to prepare for the increasing requirements of the job market.
- The Asia-Pacific region, which was valued at $21.26 billion in 2016, continues to expand, fuelled by the high rates of students interested in foreign study. As Cluey Learning explains, high-school students who want to study abroad have to pass standardised exams such as SAT or IELTS, and online tutoring helps them get ready for them. There are now more than 1,000 online education platforms in Australia, generating $A3.3 billion in revenue.
- In the rest of the world, online tutoring currently stands at 15.25%, but is expected to grow at the fastest rate in the following 5 years. The main factors driving this growth are the popularity of online language teaching in South America and the high rate of investment in digital learning technologies in the Middle East.
Online tutoring by subject
Ed-tech is one of the fastest growing trends at a global scale, but user preferences vary from region to region. In terms of preferred subjects, online tutoring platforms are chosen for two big reasons:
- STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Users who choose online tutoring for STEM are mostly from Europe and North America and need private lessons to consolidate what they have learned in class. Considering the high complexity of these subjects, many students believe that school alone is not to clarify all their questions or they need to pick up advanced notions to comply with the high examination standards set by universities.
- Language studies, mainly private English courses. Popular in non-English speaking countries, online English courses are preferred by students who want to study in the U.K. or the U.S., but also by working adults who are trying to find a job abroad. Private tutoring in English is gaining traction in developing countries, where online education is becoming a popular alternative to traditional schooling.
Will online tutoring surpass traditional education?
AI and machine learning in education are disruptive technologies and, like all disruptive technologies before them, they automatically trigger the question: will online tutoring replace schools?
The answer is no, because it’s not the mission of ed-tech start-ups to become bigger and better than schools. Their mission is to enhance and perfect learning, giving students the chance to learn whatever they want in a way that’s highly targeted and relevant.
The idea that one day kids will learn in a classroom led by a robot remains Sci-Fi territory. As powerful and promising as it might be, AI can never fully substitute a teacher’s guidance, but what it can do is complete it. Online tutoring platforms can accelerate learning and allow teachers to focus on the socio-emotional part of their jobs.
In many regions of the world, educational institutions have successfully partnered with ed-tech companies, incorporating their services into the classroom. So far, the results have been positive. In one example, teachers praised AI-powered tools for how they helped them determine weak points in the curriculum. Last, but not least, one-on-one online tutoring can create additional jobs for educators, allowing them to make their own flexible schedules and work closely with their students.