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You deal with rudeness but not our concerns?

Dear Tutorful
I posted the original message about being unhappy with the move to totally online.
Despite the response to this there has been no response from you. That is until someone posted inappropriate statements. Then you posted a response about the inappropriate comments and closed the entire post. While I agree that such behaviour needs to be dealt with , we are still waiting for you to respond to our concerns about the move online.
Hello? Anything? No? Oh…

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@MrsP I am glad that you decided to reopen this topic by making a new thread. I was thinking of doing it myself since I don’t understand why the whole thread needed to be closed…

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I would just like Tutorful to engage in some kind of discussion with us. I am starting to feel like this community area is just a way to keep us quiet. An ideological state apparatus. We are being tricked into thinking we have a voice and they value it.

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To be fair, Mark has addressed it a few times, I agree it’s not been a very good response and does need a bit more to it, but I think they’ve made the point. I feel for you so much, and I’m frustrated and sad that so many aren’t properly being heard.

There are two types of issues regarding the move to online-only:

Practical issues such as prospective clients not being aware enough of the change. Tutorful have responded and said they are working on addressing those issues and that they would help out with anyone whose score has been negatively affected by it.

The issue of the transition itself and the impact it has on tutors, especially those who tutor subjects best suited for in-person lessons. If I remember correctly that was your issue MrsP?

Tutorful has responded to this issue, though admittedly not extremely directly. They haven’t straightforwardly said that they are just probably not going to be the website for such tutors, but that was the impression many people took from their replies, including me. It’s hard to see another implication - they are moving to online only because they think they can do a really good job of creating an online tutoring service. It seems this would limit their market share for subjects like music and special needs education.

The impression I have is that they are willing to accept this. I’m sure they would prefer not to lose that market share, but they don’t think they can achieve their goal of raising the bar for online tutoring service without focusing their entire business on that goal by moving to online-only. That seems to be their motivation for this decision. I want to be clear that this is only the impression I got from their posts, since they haven’t addressed this exact issue with the completely explicit language I am now putting on it. So while I clearly admit that they haven’t addressed this concern with really blunt directness, I think they have been reasonably clear.

I empathise with tutors negatively affected by this. I’ve been in the position of having a portion of my income slashed because of the changing policies of a tutoring website before and it’s really not good. However, it doesn’t seem likely that tutorful are going to reverse this decision. They seem to have calculated that it is the best direction for them to go in. It does suck for many of us, but if they aren’t going to reverse the decision then what kind of resolution to this concern are you hoping for?

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It’s important to remember that, whether we like it or not, Tutorful can choose what services they offer and do not need to justify it. That’s not to say it should be that way, just that that’s the reality of the situation.

I think it’s time to consider exactly what the plan here is. I can’t see any positive outcome on the way we’re going, whether it’s getting more information or having the decision reversed. If they will be giving any more information then I highly doubt it will happen before tempers have cooled.

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Yes, very eloquently put there, Dylan. It’s in the lap of the gods to decide. Sometimes difficult choices have to be made, whether necessary or not.

Firstly Dylan, I am not in a temper. I would just like Tutorful to engage with tutors negatively affected by the move to totally online.
Gregory, it’s nice that Tutorful are your gods but I don’t worship them and I would like them to engage rather than give us an artificial voice.
Yes they can make whatever decision they like but they do need to acknowledge that a significant number of tutors are not happy and would at least like some form of discussion.

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Yes, I haven’t seen much evidence to support deifying said individuals :joy:

It’s possible that this is the same Gregory who posted the obnoxious comments in the other thread. So it might be preferable to avoid engaging in discourse with him.

Edit: Ancient Greek and Roman gods and those in other paganistic belief systems are generally petitionable anyway; so, even if you allow for the possibility of the Tutorful management having divine status, it’s consistent with polytheistic belief systems that they’re amenable to persuasion.

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@Dylan @JoeL

I think we fundamentally disagree over whether they need to justify the decision. From a legal sense, sure, they do not need to justify the decision. From an ethical perspective, yes, they absolutely do. Businesses have ethical duties and obligations to all their stakeholders, not just the shareholders. Tutors are a very significant stakeholder group affected by the decisions that Tutorful makes… It is both morally wrong and, from a business perspective, unwise to totally ignore the interests of those on whose backs you have built your business.

Tutorful would not exist without the tutors; they would do well to remember that. I have logged over 1500 hours with Tutorful, the vast majority of which were lessons delivered in person. I bet there are many others who have done a far greater number of hours, delivering much of the revenue that sustains Tutorful. As @Philip pointed out, we are business partners with Tutorful, and we have our own business plans to consider; they should engage and consult with us as a matter of common decency and respect.

Prior to Covid-19 this was fundamentally a platform that focused on in-person tuition. That’s obvious from how the site was designed, even including a whole section at the bottom of the main page to link straight to tutors in popular cities/areas of the country - a section that is still there! When I first joined, many tutors were not even allowed to teach online, due to a requirement of having an up-to-date DBS check. The online side of the business was an addition, not the main focus. Even now, you can find adverts for Tutorful on the internet that reflect that. Then, all of a sudden, with no consultation or even warning, they announced the immediate withdrawal of in-person tuition, completely changing overnight what the platform is about. For tutors struggling to adapt because of Covid-19, this is an additional and totally unnecessary stress factor to worry about. Just as we were starting to recover from the pandemic, Tutorful unleashed that bombshell.

There are other issues here, which have been eloquently summed up by others in other threads, but they are worth repeating again.

  1. The issue of transparency and, by implication, misleading the community. I am of course referring to the now infamous ‘internal poll’ that apparently showed that 87% of tutors prefer online lessons. There are two issues with this. Firstly, there appears to be (as yet) no evidence to suggest that this poll ever took place. Given that this poll is heavily implied to justify the removal of offline lessons in the original announcement. this is very suspicious. Secondly, there is a clear non-sequitur here. You cannot legitimately infer from a poll about teaching medium preferences a conclusion about the removal of teaching options. Just because a tutor prefers online does not mean that they want to see the offline method taken away!

  2. The issues of discrimination against students and tutors who cannot do lessons online. As has been very forcefully articulated by @Lorna and @MrsP , there are some subjects and students, especially SEND, that are simply not able to be taught online. Not offering an option is not discriminatory; removing an existing option, which, for some, is the only option, in my view, most certainly is. I would be very interested to know what the law has to say on this matter Now admittedly, Tutorful has not yet removed the ability to book offline sessions with existing students, but their original post and comments from Mark and Rachel imply that eventually they will remove the option entirely: “you will still have the ability to book in-person lessons with existing students for the foreseeable future.” Of course, Mark could clear that up right away with a one line promise. The fact that he has not is very telling…

  3. The business case is very weak. Notwithstanding all of the above, there are reasons to question the wisdom of this move from a business perspective. Since we’ve yet to actually receive an explanation for this decision that actually makes sense, I can only speculate as to what the true the motives are. Still, I am confident that we can make some educated guesses. They think that by moving to online lessons, more tutors will be able to deliver more lessons than before, therefore increasing overall turnover. However, this overlooks the fact that many tutors do not want additional lessons booked in; they may work part time or work with agencies, so it doesn’t follow that a move to online means more lessons booked by individual tutors.

The other reason concerns the commission fee. There is nothing to stop a tutor from meeting a student through Tutorful and then entering into a private arrangement with that student, denying Tutorful their platform fee. They are probably assuming that a move to online will reduce commission avoidance. However, if that is the case, then they have forgotten that there is nothing to stop a tutor from booking the first lesson with Tutorful and then booking subsequent lessons using Zoom, Skype, Learncube, etc, with payment being arranged privately. So, in short, this move would not necessarily reduce commission avoidance.

  1. Mark’s stated arguments are unconvincing. To be fair, Mark has provided two responses so far to the backlash against the decision. I will deal with the first response here and the second in a separate point…

Mark claims that Tutorful are unable to focus on both online and in-person tuition at the same time, yet they seem to have doing that for many years without any issues. He claims that the two types of tuition require very different approaches from Tutorful. It’s hard to see how my decision to visit a student personally instead of doing a lesson online affects Tutorful in any way. I pay for the insurance, not Tutorful; I take the risks, not Tutorful; I pay for and organise my DBS check, not Tutorful; and, either way, Tutorful still get the same commission fee. Moreover, the example that Mark gives does not demonstrate the point he makes. He argues that the recent move to interviewing every tutor and putting them through a rigorous onboarding programme was only possible due to the move to online tutoring. Maybe I am being dumb here, but I can’t see any reason why an interview could not conducted online and then the tutor is given permission to teach either online or offline. What does this have to do with offering only online tutoring? Mutatis mutandis for free videos calls and instant bookings. @RichardP expressed this point very convincingly in the previous thread, and I’ve yet to read any remotely convincing counterarguments.

  1. The move to online only is actually undermining the online business. Perhaps all of the preceding points are irrelevant to Tutorful, but they should keep in mind that actions have unforeseen consequences, and we’ve already discovered what one of them is. Many tutors on this site - including those who are either indifferent or in favour of the decision - have complained about how difficult it is now to attract new students. Personally, I cannot comment on this difficulty as I am currently offline, but it is a serious cause for concern that many tutors are losing out on new students because they are effectively having to compete with all tutors in their subject across the country instead of in their local area. Tutorful need to think about the consequences here. If their tutors cannot get enough students through the platform then they will turn to other lines of work, thereby leading to decreased revenue, even if the top tutors are able to book more lessons.

  2. Mark stated in his second reply that he wants Tutorful to be by far the best place for online tuition. However, the new classroom that has been developed still needs a lot of work before it is even up to the standard of the Learncube classroom. There are still frequent technical problems that are not down to internet issues, and there are many missing features, such as: tools for maths (ruler, protractor and compass); screenshare that allows annotation; and the ability to store files for multiple lessons, to name just a few.

  3. The deafening silence, thus sparking this new thread. Staff at Tutorful refuse to engage in constructive discussion with us on our concerns. Mark has not responded to questions since 9th March. We often read on this forum about how much our opinions and feedback is valued, including from Mark himself, but words are empty without action to support them.

You might fairly ask, why not just leave Tutorful and partner with another company. The answer is that it takes years to build up a reputation, get the 5* reviews and booking and repeat client scores high enough to keep you near the top of the search results. Starting with a new agency means starting from scratch again. Why should we have to do that when there is so little to be gained from Tutorful making this decision? Nobody has a problem with Tutorful focusing on online tuition from now on, but what on earth is actually gained by taking away the option of booking for in-person lessons? If Tutorful are so convinced that online tutoring is the way forward, then over time the demand for in person will drop naturally allowing them to focus on that more and more.

As for what we hope to achieve by keeping this discussion going, I have a few suggestions.

  1. The ideal scenario would be a straightforward reversal of the decision. Immediate reinstatement of the option for in-person tutoring for new students. Failing that:

  2. Bring back the option but reduce or stop advertising for in-person tuition, focusing on advertising for online in future. Presumably, Tutorful has already stopped advertising and yet we continue to get many students asking for in-person lessons. So much for there being no appetite to return to face to face lessons! Leave it to individual tutors to offer in-person lessons with those who have no desire to do face to face allowed to remove the option entirely from their profile. We used to have an automatic line added to our profile saying ‘I teach online’; why couldn’t we do something similar for those who want to offer in-person lessons? The default option would be online, the advertising would be for online, but the choice to do or request face to face would be available who tick the box on their profile.

  3. This one is not an option I am really favour of, but it is a sensible compromise suggested by @AhmadT Raise the commission fee for in-person lessons to offset the (alleged) costs of offering both.

  4. At the very least, organise a proper poll on the question to see just how many tutors would want to offer in-person tuition for new students.

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@Gregory Tutorful are not gods.

How would you feel if the decision was the other way round? Let’s say you had done 1500+ hours, had made Tutorful your primary source of income and then with no warning or consultation, you were informed that you would no longer be able to offer online tutoring with them because the online classroom was being dropped. You’d now have to switch to doing solely in person with new students, with the implication being that eventually your current students would also have to be taught offline as well. You might be okay with this particular decision. That’s good for you, but you might not like the future decisions they make; they might even ruin your business plans, so I would suggest having a bit more empathy with others in case you find yourself in a similar position. You’ve talked about your worries about not being able to support your family due to not gaining enough students, but as I pointed out in my reply to Dylan and Joel, the move to online appears to have to led to increased competition for all tutors. In short, this affects you too.

I’m not against online tutoring, but then again it’s not about me. @Lewis, you have written this more eloquently than I ever could, and I’m an English tutor! :stuck_out_tongue:

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Oh, Lewis, Lewis, Lewis…

Firstly, when I said “gods”, it was a figure of speech, with a wider implication that the big bosses of organisations of sites like this don’t care about their workforce.

I hear what you’re trying to say, and yes, I wouldn’t be pleased at all, and in fact, I would be fuming if the situation were to be reversed.

Now I’m not pointing the finger at anyone. Still, my point is how are new tutors meant to compete with those who have over 1500+ hrs of sessions already taught, as I agree there’s an increased level of competition that means that underdogs like myself won’t be able to compete fairly.

I do wish all of you good luck; however, we have to do what’s right for our families, with those who have young children 0-5 years old who fully depend on us to be the family’s breadwinners.

@Gregory, I definitely see your point about how hard it is for tutors to get established, and I have frequently asked Tutorful that there needs to be more support for those that are getting started.

Face-to-face makes the competition less though, as you’re only competing against people in your area, rather than thousands on the internet. So that makes it harder.

I don’t understand why we can’t have both face-to-face and online.

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Yes, it does seem to be strange, maybe even alienating.

I don’t think we disagree on any of the facts of the matter, only how to proceed. The fundamental point seems to be the meaning of ‘have to’. When you say they may ethically have to, this is what I am calling ‘should’ do. This is just semantics though. If Tutorful is accused of behaving unethically, saying they have to respond otherwise they’re behaving unethically isn’t productive. If it’s true then they’re not concerned about staying within ethics so it’s a dead end.

There is certainly an academic discussion to be had regarding ethics and I agree with all your arguments on that point.

Regarding discrimination, I would be amazed if this could be considered legally discrimination, but I am no legal expert so perhaps I’ll be surprised. What I do know, however, is that businesses clam up as soon as legalities get mentioned. Unless the accusation is trivial and/or total nonsense (which probably won’t get much response), they have no reason to respond and every reason not to (to avoid potential incrimination). If a response is issued, it will only be once legal has cast a careful eye over it. There’s also the issue that accusations of discrimination can easily be interpreted as discriminatory themselves if we’re not careful, as we have already seen.

This is a community site for parents and tutors, and even then Tutorful staff are not a hivemind. Outside of a few individuals popping in to ask feedback on some specific things, people from Tutorful are not seeing this. Those that do see it have no power to act on it. It’s my understanding that there is currently one member of staff moderating the site, and even then only as a side project. The person who has to deal with insults on the forum and the person who can reverse or even comment on this situation are not the same. The comment that one is dealt with but not the other is not fair. Similarly, talking ‘to’ Tutorful here simply isn’t productive. As we have seen people have been offended on both sides of this issue (I’m not claiming equally badly or fairly), so there is a cost to the community. If it was just a matter of not being useful I wouldn’t object but there are increasingly real downsides so careful consideration is needed.

The bottom line is that, whether we like it or not, the bosses at Tutorful are the ones with the power to address or reverse these issues. The community should of course be used to give a clear indication of what we all think about this, but if not done properly it will just be ignored. I’m also concerned we may lose the community since the intention seems to be to give them no choice but to respond, and removing the community may be the easiest/safest way for them to do so since it still hasn’t fully taken off yet anyway.

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Hi Lewis, great constructive write up.

I’m not sure we disagree hugely on the business ethics point, though we could probably go back and forth over our disagreements for a long time and I’m not sure how useful that would be. I’m personally more a fan of regulating businesses than attempting to get them to voluntarily conform to ethical principles. There’s a lot of discussion in general around the future of the tech economy and what it means for self-employed workers, but it seems to me that’s a larger discussion than tutorful. Tutorful is just doing what all companies of this sort do. I would like to see regulation and change, it’s not like I’m happy about the situation.

I think all your criticisms of the change from a business point of view were valid and I can’t think of any response to them, my only hesitation is that we just don’t know much about the workings of Tutorful so there could be valid reasons for this change along the lines of what Mark said about online and in-person being different businesses. I know that’s not a very satisfying answer, it just seems to me more likely that they made the decision for good business reasons than that your objections are unanswerable.

Regarding tutorful’s need to keep its tutors happy and how we are the backbone of the company etc, I think unfortunately that’s only true to some extent. I really don’t think they need to keep us all happy in order for their business model to work. They probably can weather the storm of this blowback and continue into the future with the tutors who are accepting enough of the changes to continue with them. This is the power of a business over its workers, if a worker doesn’t like something, the owner can just replace them! I don’t like that but this is the nature of all business, not just tutorful.

I don’t know enough to comment on your point about discrimination but intuitively it feel like a bit of a stretch. I certainly agree it’s not good for tutorful to encourage tutors to invest years building up a reputation on their site, only for certain subjects to be hit hard by this change but I’m not sure it’s discriminatory, or what the law could do about that… but I honestly don’t know.

Finally, your suggestions about what we could hope to achieve. If there was a chance that our arguing and petitioning could change their mind, that would be great. So I’m in favour of what you’re doing, especially since it’s constructive.

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In my experience I have had no issues with this i am almost always full, but when GCSE students left a few weeks ago and I went live again, i was full with students within 24 hours. -online. i understand for some subjects and some students this is not ideal, but adjustments can be made. I teach spanish to 4 year old who cannot read in English . online at moment, takes some planning

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So the big question right now, is what can we do to change this uncertainty that we all face?

I agree with most of what you say Dylan, but we know for a fact that Mark does visit the forum quite regularly, so we can be pretty sure that he reads these posts. Besides, they tell us often enough to share any ideas and feedback with them, so that’s all I am doing. In fact, this post is under the topic of feedback and ideas. I didn’t insult anybody in my post. The point about discrimination was building on what others have said on the old topic. I agree, it probably is a stretch in legal terms, but I do think the policy of removing in-person for those who need it could be viewed as a form of discrimination.

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