Tutoring is one the world’s oldest professions, but even a vocation so entrenched cannot escape the rising “Urbanisation” of daily life.
Plato tutored Dionysius, ruler of Syracuse, while Aristotle instructed Alexander the Great.
But modern parents, in the stress of the exam season, can now turn to a tutoring industry using online technology.
Timothy Yu is founder of Hong Kong Company Snapask, a mobile app that allows students to ask questions with a snapshot and then matches them with a tutor within seconds to have a one-to-one instant learning session.
Launched last year, Snapask is now serving over 100,000 students in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, with over 5,000 qualified tutors from top universities receiving tens of thousands of questions each day. The latest service to become part of an online, app-driven world
“It is more like a WhatsApp-style instant messaging environment. Users can use image, text or audio to communicate,” said Mr Yu.
It also has benefits for tutors in terms of making the most of their time.
Mr Yu says that private tutors working in person, rather than online, will typically earn about $20 (£14) per hour, but their capacity to earn is limited by constraints of time and balancing with other work.
But he says tutors working online, such as through his app, can earn much more by being able to work flexibly in any spare time and wherever tutors might be. Putting out a call for a maths tutor? Tutoring is taking the Uber approach
Online technology has also changed how parents can select tutors.
There was a time when finding a tutor relied upon recommendations from friends or looking through newspaper adverts.
But now tutors are offered and reviewed online.
Tutor Hunt, operating in the UK, allows parents and students to browse through a list of tutors offering subjects in their area, correspond with them and arrange lessons.
Tutor Hunt’s John Underhill says more than 250,000 people have used its services to find tutors – and that the hunt for a tutor has moved a long way from “looking through the Yellow Pages, or peering into newsagent’s windows at the multitude of cards”.
As with other tutoring services, they are offering online tuition via Skype and other video services, as well as interactive whiteboard software.
Mr Underhill says taking tutoring fully online certainly has its benefits, opening up a much bigger student base to tutors, while also giving students more choice.
“In the past it’s been quite difficult to deliver good quality online lessons as the technology wasn’t there,” he said.
“Things have changed over the last couple of years, as the online technology has improved. We have found that more tutors are using interactive whiteboards, often in conjunction with VOIP [speaking over the internet] services, to deliver their online lessons.
“They have become more adept and proficient at using all available online resources, and incorporating them fully into their lessons.”
It is not just in the developed world where this trend is evident.
In Egypt, for example, local start up Tyro is testing its own whiteboard software that allows for tutoring sessions to take place entirely online.
Nigerian companies Tutor.ng and Tuteria also allow for solely online tuition, signalling the emergence of a truly global trend.