The tech-powered wave of smart, not slow, tutoring sessions

While starting a tutoring marketplace is easy, scaling is often where the troubles begin. Tutoring marketplaces require a base of tutors that have the bandwidth and empathy to work with students across different learning styles, goals and comprehension levels. The nuance means that fast scale isn’t foolproof and can lead edtech startups into a classic marketplace downfall: the inability to grow consistently while also providing definite outcomes.

But, as 2020 showed edtech, the demand for quick and convenient help is high. To win post-pandemic, the sector needs to think bigger about the way it can reach more students in an effective and savvy way.

In 2021, tutoring platforms can’t simply be middlemen that take a cut; they have to be extensive, smart and responsive.

Innovation from Quizlet, Chegg, Course Hero and Brainly shows that the future of tutoring might not look like a 30-minute video on Zoom or Google Hangouts. Instead, modern-day extra help might take the form of an AI-powered chatbot, a live calculator or tech more subtle than either.

Regardless, the rise of tutoring bots over marketplaces illustrates that some of the biggest decision-makers in edtech are taking a scalpel to the way that tutoring used to work and hope to scale faster by doing so.

The businesses driving the change

On January 31, Chegg will close its standalone tutoring service, which matched vetted tutors with students, relaunching it into a live chatbot that answers students’ questions. The move from a tutoring marketplace to chat interface, according to a spokesperson, will help Chegg “dramatically differentiate our offerings from our competitors and better service students.”

“Ever since Chegg Tutors was launched in 2014 we have seen what a powerful tool synchronous tutoring is for learners,” the company said in a statement. “What we have also learned is that the real need for learners is contextualized help directly in the experience of their actual learning environment.”

The closure of a marketplace isn’t necessarily a failure; the company says that live tutoring was never a big part of its business. Still, it’s clear that Chegg didn’t see enough opportunity to match students and tutors live and saw more promise in a chatbot approach. Plus, it goes well with Chegg’s theme of self-directed learning. CEO Dan Rosensweig was unavailable for comment.