The rise of the invisible classroom

Tutoring might be one of the world’s oldest professions but it cannot escape the rising “Uberisation” of modern life.

Plato tutored Dionysius, ruler of Syracuse, while Aristotle instructed Alexander the Great. But students and parents, in the stress of the exam season, can now turn to a tutoring industry using online technology. Lewys White is part of the team behind the newest educational platform on the block – Teach9 – who hope that their new bespoke mobile and desktop app Power By The Minute will herald the beginning of a virtual online community that removes the restrictions of geography, time-zones and commute for any student who needs to find the right tutor suited to their needs.

“The understanding of student needs and behaviour allows us to challenge convention and push boundaries.” – Lewys White.

The Teach9 team are on the cusp of the launch of a mobile app that allows students to ask questions, share resources and deliver access to the tools they need to act as a complete substitution of offline classes.

Power By The Minute differs from other products on the market in three main areas. Firstly, and of vital importance to any University student (especially those struggling with their debts) is that Power By The Minute is free at the point of download – and then charged for, by the minute. (Hence the name!)

Students can decide how much time they need to spend with a tutor after they have downloaded the app and there is no fixed subscription basis of membership. This is good news for wallets and purses from London to Pakistan and ultimately gives students back control of the tutoring they need – when they need it.

“We want to give back control to our users – and to tutors too. Everyone has a stake in their education, and we want to enable them to claim it.” – Lewys White.

Users sign up through the app with no need for any long-winded website registration. They then get free access to a world of resources: whiteboard sharing, video content, polling features, screen shares, audio/video lesson recordings and document sharing.

The Teach9 team are confident that they can retain their users with the quality control of service they provide. The Teach9 team personally vet their tutors and pay them a higher rate of commission to teach. This almost delivers on that famous mantra ‘those who can – teach’ – but here, Teach9 are putting their money where their mouth is.

“Our tutors all come from top Universities. We have been there ourselves, every one of us – so we know the issues and understand that people need to have a quality seal when
they use online educational services. We are the first company to guarantee this.” – Lewys White.

Mmantsetsa Marope, director of UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education, highlighted just recently in a 2017 report that 263 million young people lack access to education worldwide and for many more, the quality of education they can access is not of the standard it needs to be.

“The question is: what is so mysterious about this industry of ours that somehow it is not delivering?”

Under standard teaching models, the world would need some 6.6 million teachers to provide comprehensive access to education up to University level, estimated Marope.

“We can no longer proceed with teacher policies that speak of student and teacher ratio in the old way of assuming there will be one teacher per 40 students,” she urged. “[Instead] we need to explore how to leverage technology to pool the few effective teachers that teach the world and not to teach the number of students that are in front of them.”

However, it is not only the number of teachers that is a problem. “Most education systems are not producing the level of quality in terms of learning outcomes that is desired,” she said.

“The success of any education system today lies in our ability to innovate.” – Lewys White.

The third area where Teach9 is leading the market on the eve of its launch, is in its unflinching passion for technology and innovation. The Power By The Minute app is a flexible and evolving piece of technology that Teach9 see as being the beginning of a global learning environment – and one that students think is basically cool and on-message with its tech credentials.

Rigid models of assessment often stifle innovation in teaching and learning and the emphasis on rankings has led teachers to spend a lot of time on testing at the expense of teaching.

“Education systems are designed to keep education in and everything else out – it’s the same with assessment” said Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at OECD, nodding to closed exams that require students to answer questions in isolation, remembering facts and without the ability to collaborate or use external research tools.

The current system generates “students who are great at problem solving, but can’t share knowledge”, he said. Instead, education must act as a compass enabling students to “navigate” and make judgements, he argued.

The launch of Teach9’s first app – Power By The Minute is imminent. Watch this space.