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Automatic English For The People

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Super Cool Freelancing Tool

by AJ

The cover story for Mother Jones magazine carries the title: "A Campus of One. Who needs professors and classrooms when the online university is only a click away?" Great question. The answer-- fewer and fewer people. Traditional (rigid, uptight, boring) schools will always be around, but they will be facing increased competition from more flexible, more personal, more interesting, more relevant... and more decentralized competitors. Online education will be (is already?) one of the biggest alternatives.

Thats good news for me, and for many students.... (not such good news for old fart lecturers).

Its also good news for anyone interested in freelance teaching, especially distance teaching.

My own distance freelancing program just got a whole lot better and a whole lot easier. I've signed up with an incredible service called Tutopia.

Tutopia calls itself an "online tutoring marketplace for TESOL". Think ebay meets distance teaching. Their aim is to support freelance teachers and make quality distance learning available to students all over the world. Tutors sign up with the service for free. Each tutor determines their own pricing, schedule, etc. They create a profile detailing their qualifications, approach, and other information.

Students then go to the Tutopia site and shop for tutors. They choose one, sign up, pay with paypal or a credit card... and are connected with the tutor of their choice (assuming the tutor agrees to take them on). Pay works as follows: the tutor charges whatever hourly rate they want... Tutopia adds $10 an hour to this figure for their fee.

After a month, students rate their tutor. These ratings become part of the tutors profile (in much the way ebay sellers are rated by buyers). Thus teachers are graded BY THE STUDENTS, not the other way around.

Now here's the really cool part, what you get for that extra $10 a month is top-notch software..... that allows tutors to simultaneously hold a video conference, present powerpoint slides, share screen shots, and type text (instant messaging). Its sort of like Skype on steroids. And for the tutor, its free.

As soon as Ive got a reliable high-speed connection, Ill be playing around with the software. With Tutopia its also possible to record a teaching session and make it available to the public (for one week I think). If I get competent with the system, Ill try to share a few lessons... give an idea of whats possible... and also get some feedback to help me improve.

Meanwhile, anyone considering freelance distance teaching should give Tutopia a look.

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