InstaEDU Offers Facebook-Like Online Tutoring Service

San Francisco education technology startup InstaEDU has joined the wave of companies changing the way we teach and learn by developing a web-based program for one-on-one tutoring sessions. InstaEDU allows students to pick a tutor from online list of over 3,000 tutors and start learning online, according to Ellen Lee of San Francisco Gate.

The InstaEDU website works just like a popular social media network Facebook. Students can search tutors, chat with them, and request a tutoring session to learn science, math, computer and other subjects. There are more than 3,300 tutors available for teaching, and the tutors have Facebook-like profiles showcasing their photos, reviews and specialties.

Students can pick a tutor from computer science to religious studies and can request a tutoring session using a combination of a webcam, instant messaging and a collaborative whiteboard to go over homework and other lessons.

Along with Tutorspree in New York and several others, InstaEDU has carved a niche in the growing online tutoring, homework and test preparation space. With increasing pressure and competition in schools, more students have turned to in-home tutors, test-preparation courses and after-school learning centers such as Sylvan Learning and Kumon.

InstaEDU was developed by brother-and-sister team Dan Johnston and Alison Johnston Rue and Joey Shurtleff, who are Stanford graduates. In 2011, the Johnstons started Cardinal Tutors to offer Stanford students as tutors for Palo Alto, California families. Soon they realized that "hiring an in-home tutor was a luxury not readily accessible to most people" and found that "many of their tutoring requests came from students late at night, looking for last-minute homework help."

In May 2012, Dan Johnston and Johnston Rue decided to sell Cardinal Tutors and launch InstaEDU with Stanford classmate and co-founder Joey Shurtleff. Since then, InstaEDU has raised about $5.1 million in funding and employs about 14 people.

InstaEDU recruited most of its tutors from Ivy League and other top-tier colleges. Tutors are paid $20 per hour, and students sign up for a subscription with prices starting at $24 per hour.

"We're still at an early point in people's comfort for online education and how they think about tutoring," Johnston Rue said. "For a long time, the technology wasn't ready to make the online learning experience as good as in person. It's only now that most students have computers with webcams and bandwidth that is fast enough," she added.

Johnston Rue did not disclose the number of students using InstaEDU or the site's revenue. But she said that that they have been growing at a rate of about 50% a month for much of the year. InstaEDU's active tutors are making about $70 a week.

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