Monday, November 22, 2010

The Dangers of Online Tutor Exchanges

Unfortunately, some people are sick.

A survey of the last two months headlines will reveal dozens of students who have been molested by a tutor or murdered by a tutor.   This underscores the need for safety when it comes to connecting your child to a tutor, and also points to the value of online tutoring.  Unfortunately, not all online tutoring companies are created the same.

There are several different models of tutoring companies, but the one I want to focus on is "tutor exchanges."  One has recently been launched--examville.com.  Unfortunately, examville is typical of what is wrong and dangerous about tutor exchanges.  I'll explain why.

A tutor exchange is simply a portal where a tutor can create a profile, and where a student can find a tutor.  The exchange portal charges a fee, either from the online session itself, or charges a registration cost.  This is how examville explains how its tutors get paid:
How do I receive payment? (Tutor)
If a student accepts your offer to tutor, the student will then make payment to Examville before the online tutorial session begins. When the online tutorial session is completed, Examville will pay the tutor the agreed-upon amount minus Examville’s 30% commission. If the tutor failed to attend the scheduled session the student will be refunded the entire amount.
For detailed information on how to redeem earnings, please refer to the Payments section.

Many online tutoring companies work as tutor exchanges. Their tutors are freelance workers rather than trained staff. Tutor exchanges work like chat rooms. They connect people who sign up as tutors to users who sign up as students. This open environment is neither an optimum setting for learning nor a satisfactory platform for monitoring and accountability. The student cannot be sure of the background or credibility of the tutor.  Wyzant.com is similar to this only it is for live tutors--and even more dangerous in my opinion.

Here is how examville describes its process for tutors:
  1. Looking to earn money and share your knowledge? Sign up for FREE to browse students’ posts.
  2. Review the posts, create your profile, and submit an offer to tutor. Multiple tutors may submit their rates for a single post.
  3. If the student accepts your offer, Examville will notify you, confirm the session, and set up the virtual class.
No mention of verifying tutor identity, no criminal background checks, and no mention of how tutors are actually screened.  The person signing up to tutor your son or daughter could be the same sort of monster that sometimes actually get through this screening process and end up working in public schools!  But on examville, the door is wide open for a potential predator to interact in an unmonitored environment with children.

While examville does ask tutors based in the USA to provide their SSN so they can get a 1099 form (as a private contractor), non-USA tutors do not have to verify their identity in any way, and since their tutors are paid via PayPal that means if USA-based tutors want to conceal their identity or cheat on their taxes there is no measure to prevent them from doing so.  Poor decision, examville, when it comes to protecting the most important thing--the safety of our children.


eAgeTutor.Com offers one of the most stringent set of student safety measures out there, exceeding other major players like tutor.com and others.  Many online and in-person tutoring programs do not verify the qualifications or background of their tutors. Such laxness may not only compromise the quality of the education that they provide, but can also jeopardize children’s safety. eAgeTutor.com’s tutors all undergo professional, educational, and personal background checks.

All eAgeTutor.com tutoring sessions are fully recorded, including the audio portions and anything that is displayed within the online classroom. eAgeTutor.com, and students can log in and watch recorded sessions to review and parents can log in to monitor their children's lessons. A powerful learning tool, the recorded sessions also serve as an important safety precaution by providing recordings of all tutor-student interactions within eAgeTutor.com’s online classrooms. eAgeTutor.com’s Quality Control staff review recorded sessions to provide tutors with helpful feedback as we work towards constant improvement of our services. Few online education services provide the tools to record and review tutoring sessions.

Outside of the online classroom environment, eAgeTutor.com requests that all tutor-student interactions occur within a parent-monitored e-mail address. This way, parents can remain informed of all communication from eAgeTutor.com, including the scheduling of sessions and topics. Parents, though their parent log-in, can monitor their children's schedules, schedule sessions for them, make payments and review payment history, and review recorded sessions. All legitimate tutor communication from eAgeTutor.com originates from the tutor’s official eAgeTutor.com e-mail address. This way, parents are provided with access to an archive of all student-tutor e-mails. eAgeTutor.com welcomes opportunities for parental involvement in their children's supplementary education. The more involved parents are in their children's education, the more the student will benefit and thrive.

With business exchanges, leisure activities, and educational opportunities increasingly occurring online, Internet safety has become a central issue for us all. eAgeTutor.com seems to be one player out that is ensuring the safety of our sons and daughters, and I hope that other online education services will adopt its exemplary model to ensure a safe Internet environment for our children and our students.

1 comment:

  1. This is very interesting and I will be back for more. http://all-best-essays.com Thanks for sharing:)

    ReplyDelete

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