The COVID-19 pandemic has led many families to seek out tutoring help for their children who’ve struggled through remote learning. But tutoring is not cheap.
That’s what led Sama Shamat, 45, to create an affordable online tutoring service offered worldwide in any subject, for people of all ages.
Shamat is used to making a difference. The entrepreneur was born in Syria and moved to Minnesota from Saudi Arabia in 2000. She owns two nonprofits dedicated to helping children learn about their language and heritage.
But Shamat says the tutoring service, called Rise for Learning, is for everyone. And there’s a reason for that.
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“I wanted something to focus on spreading knowledge, to make it accessible and affordable for everyone,” Shamat said. “And also to empower people, especially women, to access work from the comfort of their homes.”
Here’s how it works.
Teachers and students register online at riseforlearning.com. Students can then search for any subject including math, science, language, art, religion and more. Those who sign up choose their teacher and pay a price based on their budget.
Some teachers offer classes as low as eight dollars.
“They can choose the teacher, depending on their ranking, and their bio, and the video that they have over there,” she said. “They will pay only for the amount of the class. And after finishing and completing their class, they can review the teacher.”
Many students fell behind during the pandemic while remote learning. Most schools did not have the experience for remote instruction and lacked teacher training and software.
In many cases, students lacked internet access and help at home.
Chelda Smith, an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas, says among the basic needs that should be met at schools, tutoring is often not a part of the conversation.
“A lot of those parents and those families were relying on the public education system to provide the academic needs of their students and their Children,” Smith said. “So tutoring itself is often considered a luxury, access to high quality tutors is considered a luxury and one that is not affordable by many, tutoring is the type of service that requires an extended period of time, it’s not a one time event.”
The U.S. Department of Education has also called for schools to set up tutoring programs, especially for students who fell the most behind during the pandemic.
Some schools are using federal pandemic recovery money for those programs.
Assistant Commissioner with the MN Department of Education Stephanie Graff says she knows demand is high and districts have been able to leverage some of their federal stimulus dollars on tutoring.
“What we know is that as we look at learning recovery, and really addressing the academic needs of our students, we're going to have to lean into evidence based and research based strategies and practices. And I think this is one for our school communities to take a close consideration at,” Graff said.
In the absence of school based tutoring, parents are footing the bills themselves.
Some studies found tutoring can cost schools up to $4,000 a student. Private tutoring can cost parents anywhere from $25 to $80 an hour.
And demand for private tutoring is growing. At the height of the pandemic, the global market for private tutoring was estimated at $123.8 billion in 2020. That number is expected to reach more than $200 billion by 2026.
Shamat says this is why accessibility and affordability are key to making the platform successful, with many private sessions offered at $15 or less.
“We do have about over 100 teachers right now. It's international. We have some people from Australia, some people from United Arab Emirates, some people from Egypt, Morocco, France, England and from all around the United States,” Shamat said.
HR Manager Racha Khodr says Rise for Learning is also a way for community tutors who aren’t licensed and professional teachers alike to earn an income.
“So we give people who have extensive experience, but don't have a certification. They still have experience, they have references, they may have done some coursework, so they have work opportunities on the platform. And we have also professional teachers who are graduates from for or two year college degrees, who can also work in their field,” Khodr said.
Heba Elhadidi is a Quran tutor. She says being in charge of setting her own rate is both empowering and rewarding. Elhadidi has kids of her own who are in school, so she can relate to her clients.
“As a mom and a Quran teacher, it doesn't mean that I can teach my kids at home. It's very hard as a mom to actually be a teacher. So I personally look for others to teach my own kids. I will be doing the same for others, too,” Elhadidi said.
Shamat hopes Rise for Learning will help fill the gaps created during the pandemic and change the way of learning in the future.