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One of the latest companies to jump on this trend is eduFire, a company that makes it a lot easier to find tutors and learn with them. The site launched about 90 days ago and it has more than 500 tutors who have trained students in more than 900 hours of one-to-one tutoring sessions.
“We’ve got an open platform where anybody can sign up as a teacher, upload their credentials, create a profile and then sign up the students,” said Jon Bischke, chief executive of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company.
Students can login and look for language tutors and then conduct live video chat sessions. That helps with the pronunciation and the need to cram for tests at any time of the day. The students and tutors can talk to each other in a video window and send live text messages. They can also use a live whiteboard.
Teachers can set their own prices and eduFire gets a cut of the proceeds. Students can rate the teachers. Over time, the best teachers can build good track records and get more business.
The company has a ton of competition. But Bischke believes that his site brings learning to life with its live interaction, which many sites lack. In fact, many sites simply match tutors and students but don’t provide for distance learning. Several rivals have raised money: Tutor Vista, Tutor.com and Global Scholar. However, these sites don’t offer live video learning, though they do offer voice communication and whiteboard manipulation. And Bischke is trying to take the lead with social network and discussion forum tools.
While other sites focus more on K-12 education, eduFire focuses on the 18 to 35-year-old students. Bischke hopes that his open platform will be an advantage. Other companies have closed platforms or aren’t open to the loose structure that eduFire allows. Teachers, for instance, can offer their own prices and choose how and when to teach. Bischke is focused on language tutoring now, but he said that in the future, eduFire will be open for tutoring in any subject.
This is Bischke’s fourth startup in the training realm. The first, 2000Tutor.com, a tech-training network, was acquired by Penton Media in 2001. Zaadz, a green-living New Age social network, was acquired by Gaiam in 2007, and LearnOutLoud.com, an aggregator of audio learning content, is still operating and is profitable. He has taught business at the University of Minnesota and GMAT preparation course for Kaplan Education. The company has three full-time employees and six part timers.
EduFire raised $400,000 from angels earlier this year and the company is in the process of raising a first venture round now. Coming this fall are new subjects and a one-to-many virtual classroom product.
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