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Suggestions for a Fairer & More Effective Tutor Search Function

Hello!

I’m Robert and I’ve been a tutor on Tutorful for about six months.

I tutor English as a Foreign Language and have a breadth of experience. I thought that would help me to take on students but, so far, I have only had one - despite a positive review, prompt response times and many repeat lessons. This is despite also incorporating introductory offers well below my market value.

The issue is that myself, and I imagine many other teachers that specialise in this field (and others) find it impossible to break through due to the search algorithm. While I understand that there has been an uptake in tutors due to the pandemic, it is disappointing that I have no way of appearing towards the first few pages of a search for EFL tutors.

The problems are these. If you conduct a search for ‘Advanced EFL tuition’ at least half of the tutors on the first page are not native speakers, and actually specialise in other languages before English. There are even tutors, right at the top of the search results, that specialise in subjects such as History & Maths, and perhaps do some EFL tuition on the side. Clearly, the quantity of their lessons & reviews (coming from other subjects) send them to the top, and make it impossible for specialists in the field to be seen by learners.

I think that a weighted system, where tutors list their subjects of preference/experience (unseen by students), thus affecting search visibility, would result in a far fairer marketplace. Is this something you have considered?

Also, given that reviews affect visibility, couldn’t you amend the algorithm in such a way that it takes into account only the reviews relevant to the search being conducted?

It took several months to be accepted on Tutorful and that makes it even more disappointing. The interface is generally good, I just wish you could make things fairer for specialist professionals. I feel that the current system is not only going to deter tutors from using the platform, but also make it considerably harder for students to find tutors that can provide them with the best service.

I hope that you (site developers) listen to my feedback and let me know your thoughts.

Cheers, Robert

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Yeah the search doesn’t function very well.

Tutorful have changed a lot over the last couple of years and they’re a long way from perfecting their platform as they’re at the beginning of a new phase of their company.

Your suggestions sound good and I agree if you specialise in that then you should generally come up before people who also do that on the side. I also offer that as I’ve taught English abroad so it’s possible I’m appearing before you. But possibly not.

As we’re on the subject, the client booking score and repeat client scores aren’t fair subject-wise. For example, I offer university level tutoring as well as KS3, GCSE and A level. This means that I have to turn down a lot more students than if I only tutored GCSE as university work is more specialised. Also for university level work I get a lot of requests to look at one project so I often don’t book several classes with these people. So because a lot of my students are people at university, my booking and repeat client scores aren’t great because of having to say no to more people and lots of one off sessions.

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I completely support the need for new tutors to have a fair shot at appearing high up the search results, because as is in your case they might have a lot of experience or even if they are new they might be really talented!

However just one thing - I don’t think the amount of lessons you have done on tutorful actually makes any difference to your place in the search rankings - at least not for the default search criteria called ‘recommended’. I believe that only takes into account your booking score and repeat client score - and perhaps your responds time and reviews…? Not sure about those last two but I’m almost certain about the number of lessons with tutorful. In fact some tutors have complained about having done loads of lessons through tutorful but still ending up low down due to their scores. However I kind of agree with it they way it is! Quality is a better indicator than quantity after all!

I know tutorful is working on ways for new tutors to have some kind of temporary boost where they are in some way featured to students. So hopefully that gets figured out soon and in an effective way. What would be your suggestions about how that should work? Personally I think just an artificial boost in the search ranking would be good, or perhaps new tutors should start with perfect 10/10 booking and repeat client scores…? (if they don’t already?).

“What would be your suggestions about how that should work?”

"I think that a weighted system, where tutors list their subjects of preference/experience (unseen by students), thus affecting search visibility, would result in a far fairer marketplace. Is this something you have considered?

Also, given that reviews affect visibility, couldn’t you amend the algorithm in such a way that it takes into account only the reviews relevant to the search being conducted?"

An artifical boost for new tutors is probably a good idea.

Sorry I should have been more specific - I meant how should the temporary benefit for tutors new to tutorful work.

The suggestions about making the search results tailored for the specific subject that a tutor specialises in in some way are really interesting and I agree, though that would benefit many tutors - not just new ones. For example I tutor only two quite similar subjects and only at A level and have high scores, but if I was to start doing something like history on the side I would suddenly be really high up the history search results without having really earned that…? However, the counter-argument is that I wouldn’t be able to perform to a similarly high level at tutoring history and therefore would lose client repeat score if I were to do that, so I won’t! Nonetheless, the counter to that as I think was alluded to is that if tutors teaching multiple subjects were a common thing, it might just set the expectations lower and thus they would ‘get away with it’ so to speak.

I am biased… but I do think specialisation should count for something in the search rankings.

I offer quite a lot of subjects. Based on this discussion, it probably does make sense for the tutor ranking to also be more based on the specific subject which is being searched for. I basically am not visibile to people searching for GCSE and A level tutors because of my booking and repeat client scores being brought down by the university work. I appear quite early in the university level search, probably because many of those tutors are in a similar situation.

So, when someone searches for GCSE science, arguably the listings should be more tailored to that specific search rather than the tutor being ranked based on their overall score from all the subjects they teach.

Yeah the university issue is a big problem for the current setup - I simply choose not to appear in the university level search for my subjects despite being qualified as it’s just not worth the hit to my scores since I mainly tutor A level.

Understandable, but this definitely highlights a problem which needs to be resolved.

Edit: I just tried it out and degree level science subjects aren’t appearing on a new main page of subjects which doesn’t include a search box. Images attached.

I have to click on just “chemistry” to come to this search. Tutorful’s current branding is mostly towards school learners so probably many degree level people will give up by this point.

But degree level maths is appearing.

Edit 2:

I don’t think this is clear what it’s offering. This needs to be reworded e.g. one-to-one lessons for people with Asperger’s.

:speak_no_evil::hear_no_evil::see_no_evil:

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Your point about adding a new subject - and potentially appearing towards the top of the search ranking - illustrates that the current algorithm is unfair. Even though positive reviews from another subject suggests reputability, it doesn’t mean that tutor should be given a fast-track pass to the top of a subject that they may have little or no experience of teaching. The algorithm should only take into account what the tutor can/has demonstrated in a given subject and, as I suggested earlier, where it lies in that tutor’s priorities.

The issue with having to turn down lessons, and this affecting your visibility, clearly needs to be rectified. There should be something in between accepting and declining a request that doesn’t damage your ratings.

RE support for new teachers in the search results. On top of what I have suggested, I’d have Tutorful highlight selected new tutors close to the top of a relevant search. Something needs to be done as new tutors will invariably not be seen, and if they are, then they are unlikely to be contacted.

Yeah I just clicked on English as a Foreign Language and three of the first names are Iwona, Daniela and Mila who aren’t native English speakers and offer it as a side subject.

In fact, most of them in the initial results are not native English speakers. It’s really standard for companies offering language tuition to highlight that many of their teachers are native speakers. To go on Tutorful and mainly see non-native speakers offering English as a Foreign Language will probably put a lot of people off before they get to you.

Edit: I’ve found your profile and yes looking at your experience you should come higher up in the search and you shouldn’t feel like you need to offer that rate initially in order to be competitive.

I just tried to message you and request a lesson and I came to this page. Maybe because I’m a tutor, but still not okay:

I don’t necessarily think that being a non-native speaker is an issue, just in the same way that being a native speaker of a language is absolutely no indication of being a good teacher of it.
There are standard qualifications for EFL teaching, and they differ from English language (e.g GCSE). Native speakers will still have to study their own grammatical systems in depth.
As well as EFL, I teach Russian as a foreign language, and having been that learner -many moons ago- and then having progressed through university study and beyond… I feel that my knowledge of the language and ability to understand the particular pitfalls for a non-Slavic learner makes me a good tutor.

HI Robert

Sorry to hear of your frustration. I too reached the conclusion that the algorithm does some strange things and in many ways is not wholly fit for purpose.

Here is a suggestion that I made some time ago but one which bears repeating here.
Allow each tutor to nominate one (JUST ONE) specialist subject which is boosted in the
rankings.

That might necessitate too much rewriting of the algorithm software. Hence as an alternative I suggest
create a badge saying “Specialist Subject” with only one such badge allowed per tutor. But movable from subject to subject.

I have just looked at the list of EFL tutors. I didn’t find you on a quick scan through - have you accidentally taken your profile off-line ? Because in my subjects I have noticed that having a single student can give a very high place on the list ranking.

For me the top of that list gives a bad impression of Tutorful as an agency. Far too many instances of EFL being taught by non native speakers.

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You’re right that simply being a native speaker is not enough. And I completely agree that learning a language until fluency, or near fluency, gives you a unique perspective of a language, that can be passed onto others. In most cases, I’d sooner have a C1 speaker that can systematically break a language down than a native speaker that lacks experience and/or technique.

However we all know that many students prefer to be taught by native speakers, provided they have the right credentials. It is almost impossible to replicate the language produced by the native speaker of a language - whatever the language - without prolonged immersion into the said language and culture. Ultimately it should be for the learner to decide. Tutorful should adopt a search filter for native speakers - as other popular sites do.

My main point though, is that it is wholly unfair that teachers that specialise in other languages - and even other subjects - dominate the search results.

Let me put it this way. You’re a native Italian teacher, with several years of professional experience. But you can’t make an impression on students because hundreds of teachers of other languages and subjects, that have taught a handful of Italian lessons on the side, appear above you in the search results. Wouldn’t that put you off using the platform?

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Hi Philip,

Your suggestion of a ‘specialist subject’ would be a huge improvement, and not too difficult to implement. It also has the added bonus of referencing Mastermind.

Alternatively, Tutorful could adopt the kind of weighted system that I proposed. This would be harder to work into the algorithm, but I’m sure it could be done, if they really wanted to.

With reference to your other point, I’m not sure which other subjects you tutor, but I suspect that it wouldn’t be possible to appear that high with one student in EFL tuition (it certainly hasn’t for me). This is for the reasons mentioned in my earlier posts.

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I searched for Advanced EFL tuition, and the first three results were:

  • An Italian tutor
  • A Spanish tutor
  • A violin tutor with a TEFL certificate, but no listed experience :confused:

Picture1

Hi Robert,

Maths and Sciences for me.

I looked at Chemistry A level (515 tutors just now). There were fewer inexperienced tutors near the top than I had anticipated. Perhaps faulty memory or perhaps the algorithm has been modified.

However on first sheet of 15 Tutors is a tutor with no repeat students and apparent no hours worked through Tutorful. & if you read this Dylan … I have no problem with you being this high on this list especially with your response time of 7 minutes. On sheet 2 there appears a tutor with a single repeat. Below there = below 30th place … I don’t expect many customers will read that far down the list.

Profiles could be shuffled in the rankings a little too. Not excessively, but some regular circular flow within the rankings. So that people come up higher for a while. This would hopefully reduce the chances of people starting at the bottom of a huge list and never seeing the light of day, like silt in a stagnant pond.

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Good morning everyone!

This thread has been hugely helpful and insightful to us as a team, as we’re currently looking into the items you’ve discussed. We’ve read through all the responses and we’ll take onboard what you’ve said, as this is an area that the team is currently looking into.

We really appreciate so much you taking the time to flesh all this out and sincerely encourage you to keep posting feature ideas and recommendations, they give us insight into your world that helps us do the right thing.

Kindest regards,

Natalie

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Good morning Natalie,

Thank you for your message. It’s reassuring to hear that you are taking these issues seriously and that you are committed to improving the platform for tutors and learners alike.

I hope the changes you implement will make using the platform worthwhile.

Thanks again,
Robert

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You have made some very good points and some potential benefits to the current system!

All I will say in addition to what you have said is that if any ‘preference’ function is brought in - that it is done by subject and NOT by age.

I really enjoy teaching a 7 year old student maths. I also really enjoy teaching a 15 year old student maths. I’d hate to think that I’d one day need to proffer a preference as to which I preferred more.

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