News & Analysis

Startup TutorBee breaks down barriers in education

- September 11, 2013 3 MIN READ
Startup TutorBee breaks down barriers in education

Australian startup TutorBee provides a convenient and specialised service for students to undertake tailored online tutorials with their own private tutor – regardless of their geographical location. TutorBee was announced the winner of the Australian Centre of Innovation Apps4Broadband Competition, taking the top gong for Best App and winning in the supporting categories of Best App – Health and Social Services and Best App – Business to Business.

TutorBee’s online platform links students with over 70 of the best tutors in the industry – ranging from certified university graduates to professors of education who specialise in all subjects of the National Curriculum. TutorBee also provides educational support for students with a learning disability, by linking them with experienced tutors in this field.

The tutors provide the students with personalised support across all areas of their education – from assignment reviews, exam preparation and remedial support – with just mere clicks of a mouse.

Set up by two under 30 Australian entrepreneurs, Chris Barwick and Lexi Thorn, the idea for TutorBee emerged when the Co-Founders noticed a market need for a service that uses digital technology to break down geographic barriers to quality education in Australia.

“There is a considerable discrepancy between the educational performance levels of students in Rural and Regional areas, compared to their Metropolitan counterparts,” says Barwick.

OECD research has shown that 29 percent of students in remote schools fail to reach proficiency level 2 – which means that they’re at risk of being unable to enter and compete in the modern workforce. Barwick says that at the centre of this issue is “equitable access to quality education”.

“Overcoming this challenge is at the very heart of the TutorBee’s philosophy which is about giving every Australian student equal access to quality education through the convenience, efficiency and flexibility of online,” he says.

The demand for student tutoring services in Australia is also growing exponentially – with the domestic tutoring market valued at $1.2 billion per annum and growing at 11 precent every year with 2 percent being representative of the online tutoring industry.

“Given the competitive schooling environment, the growing need for private tutors and limited online tutoring options, TutorBee’s service is setting a new benchmark in the education industry by taking advantage of the digital economy and providing educational assistance to students nation-wide,” says Barwick.

“Parents and students are able to search, review, schedule and book tutors on TutorBee’s website. Students also have access to our online classroom, which allows them to undertake online lessons with their selected tutor using TutorBee’s online whiteboard, chat and audio functions and document collaboration system.”

But they’re not just targeting regional students. Parents of students in metropolitan areas have also expressed concern over the inconveniences of traditional tutoring.

“We’ve heard stories of parents who have to regularly leave work early to drive across town, collect their child and then wait outside a tutor’s house for an hour while lessons takes place. We were determined to find a more convenient way that gave parents and students greater control and flexibility,” says Barwick.

The way TutorBee is disruptive to the traditional tutoring industry can be summed up as follows:

1. It’s a unique service that offers the benefits of traditional private tutoring, but with the convenience of online.

2. The power returns to parents and students who can select the tutor they want, at a time that’s best for them, whereas larger tutoring firms tend to assign tutors and dictate times.

3. It’s private, personalised tutoring and the sessions are entirely about the student and what they need, whereas larger tutoring firms again tend to tutor pre-set programs.

4. It provides parents and students with greater tutor specialisation so they are not longer constrained by what’s available in their local geography.

5. It’s convenient because students can conduct lessons at any place that suits them as long as there is an internet connection.

5. It’s safe and secure so no more awkward house visits.

Barwick says winning CSIRO’s Australian Centre of Innovation Apps4Broadband Competition “means a hell of a lot”.

“Entrepreneurship can be a pretty lonely journey, and you constantly question whether your idea makes sense. These awards have provided us significant motivation and have also validated our idea – having senior digital and technology leaders say great things about your business and its potential, makes you feel you’re on the right track,” he says.

“Also, so many of the people we met at the awards have provided further contacts who are eager to help us.”

TutorBee takes commission for each lesson conducted; but tutors set their own prices and are all subjected to the same rate.

“For tutors, our marketplace provides a marketing platform, and the online classroom means they can build a student base in a totally different geography. It doesn’t impact their current business,” says Barwick.

The site was launched in beta in March this year, and they’ve slowly pushed lessons through the system, monitoring the whole process – searching, booking, payment, learning – and perfecting the product. They’re now ready for a full launch.

For more information visit www.tutorbee.com.au