How Tutopiya works and how it got started

How Tutopiya works and how it got started

Back in the days, tuition had always been physical. That means someone has to either come to your house to tutor or you go to a tuition centre.

Now with technology’s intervention/disruption, there’s a new way of getting tutored without leaving the house and yet achieve the same results or better, like Tutopiya.

Tutopiya is an online platform that allows students to engage a tutor and learn over the internet.

We understand the scepticism some of you parents may have because it is an unconventional tutoring method as compared to what we have in the past.

So to help you edge a little away from your scepticism, we checked in with Tutopiya’s founder, Nuha Ghouse on how Tutopiya works and how it all got started.

Why the name Tutopiya? What does it mean?

We combined the words ‘tutor’ and ‘utopia’ with the intention to create a tutoring utopia for students. It also rhymes with Zootopia so it’s easy for students to remember!

Tutopiya Student Demo Screenshot
Tutopiya Student Demo Screenshot

Education is an extremely (understatement) competitive sector in Singapore. How does Tutopiya set itself apart from its competitors?

Tutopiya differs from other online tutoring platforms, which operates as a marketplace that connects students and tutors. The emphasis at Tutopiya is to offer qualified, passionate tutors who have been rigorously vetted & comprehensively trained to teach online. Tutopiya has a stringent tutor vetting process including language and communication skills tests, in-depth skill reviews, and online teaching competency tests. By hiring only the top teaching talent, Tutopiya is an exclusive platform that has passionate tutors who have excelled academically and have had experience teaching in the Ministry of Education schools and International schools.

We offer personalised one-to-one lessons for students aged 8-18. Tutopiya has a strong focus on quality and curation over quantity. We believe each child is different so requires learning which is customised for their exact needs.

Tutopiya Whiteboard Screenshot
Tutopiya Whiteboard Screenshot

How is your proprietary technology different from other competitors?

Our online classroom is similar to Skype or Facetime but has proprietary whiteboard technology that has been developed in-house. This whiteboard allows both the student and tutor to type, handwrite, share files and interact live at the same time. For example, the whiteboard allows for instantaneous homework help capabilities so students can upload a picture of their homework or any questions that they have and instantly discuss it with their tutor. The online classroom also has lesson recording capabilities and we provide unlimited access to these lesson recordings for students’ revision and/or parental monitoring.

If a student wants to sign up with Tutopiya, how’s the process like?

There are 3 simple steps to have a class:

  • Step 1: Simply sign up on our website www.tutopiya.com and indicate your learning requirements
  • Step 2: We will assign you a curated tutor who meets these requirements.
  • Step 3: You join your class with ONE click! The first class is a free trial lesson so that students can experience the technology and teaching.
  • Optional: After the lesson, students and parents can watch the lesson replay for revision

If someone wants to teach, what do they have to go through before becoming a tutor with Tutopiya?

  • Apply to become a tutor – Simply complete our form on www.tutopiya.com
  • Initial Screening – Our experts will screen the best profiles by carrying out interviews and tests.
  • IT Proficiency Test – We will conduct a test to confirm your level of IT proficiency to assess if it meets our requirements to be an online tutor
  • Teaching Demo – Applicants would pick a topic of their choice and give a teaching demo to our experts
  • Tutor On-Boarding and Training – Once the applicant has been selected, documentation and profile of the tutor will be created followed by comprehensive training for on-boarding and orientation.
  • First Online Lesson – The applicant has now joined Tutopiya’s tutoring team and will be listed as a tutor. They will soon be scheduled for their first online lesson.

Now let’s talk about your journey building Tutopiya. You attained a first class honours degree from Imperial London and you worked in the financial sector. How did your affinity with the student, who sparked the thought about Tutopiya, come about since he was boarded at Marlborough College, Johor Bahru?

I was a full-time tutor at the time and his mother reached out to me requesting for me to teach him online. Initially, I taught him using skype on my phone while handwriting formulae on paper as with a subject like math it’s  not easy to type out complex formulae quickly.

I was keen to provide an effective live online tutoring experience and started doing my research for better alternatives which led me to founding Tutopiya. I realised the options for teaching live online were limited and embarked on developing my own live online tuition solution – the best tutors combined with the best technology. 

How were your preparations like from the point where you decided to start Tutopiya until when it’s finally launched?

We focused on the business model, ensuring we perfected this early on.  I was tutoring  some students at the time who  were keen to try the  various online teaching methods I came across so with this experimentation it really helped me fine tune our service to meet our future customers’ needs. The students I tutored and their parents really supported me. 

Once the model was proven and tested, we ensured we built our platform and technology to facilitate this. This has enabled us to build the platform focusing on our customers’ needs. We provide one -to-one live online lessons where each lesson is recorded for student’s revision and parental monitoring. As a tutor and a parent, I kept the needs of both parties and students in mind when planning each feature.

What were the challenges faced? Was funding the main issue?

Some of the challenges we faced were that parents are generally sceptical about the effectiveness of online tuition. Some parents are less comfortable with technology. However, students are digital natives and are very comfortable online. Therefore such parents need be open to trying online tutoring as it would be more beneficial and effective to provide tutoring which is comfortable, effective and convenient for their children.

Funding was an issue for the development of our platform so we sought avenues for investment. We were honoured to have been chosen to be incubated by Spaze Ventures, a leading start up incubator in Singapore.

How did you overcome the challenges that impeded your progress?

We set about finding ways to educate our customers on our services and a free trial lesson allowed them to experience it for themselves with no commitment. Parents  & students are fully able to appreciate the effectiveness, convenience and value of our lessons once they have tried it. We have a high conversion rate of 80% after the first trial lesson.

Nicky Moffat, parent of an IGCSE Grade 10 student shares, “We found that the online lessons have been both practical and great value for money without the need for travel. My son can study on his iPad from the comforts of our home. The tutors are wonderful with communication. My son is fully engaged during his online lessons and they also provide me with regular feedback on his progress and revision materials to help my son revise for his exams. Another bonus is that his previous classes are stored on his Tutopiya account, allowing him access to an additional revision aid.”

Adelene Kong, parent of a P4 local student said, “We really like the English teacher Tutopiya provided. She is amazing and passionate. We also really like that we don’t need to leave the house.”

By optimizing cost savings, our online lessons are at least 20% cheaper than standard home tuition rates. This entices customers to want to try it out given the significant time and monetary savings. To cater for parents and students who are less tech savvy we have made our platform very simple and user-friendly. We also have a 24/7 IT support team for any assistance required.

Where funding is concerned, we raised a pre-seed round from Spaze Ventures which has been sufficient for our growth plans. We are looking to raise a Series A in 12 months for further market expansion and product development.

Spaze Ventures has also provided us with a co-working space to work alongside many other start-ups. This has been a great environment to learn from others who are on the same journey.  In addition we have a mentor provided by Spaze Ventures whose advice has been invaluable.

Now that Tutopiya is launched, what next?

We have had a very positive response with many students continuing with us for the long term.  In the six months after our soft launch, we have over 250 registered students from eight markets including Singapore, China, UAE, Australia and the United States. These students are from international as well as local schools.

In the near future, we plan to focus our growth at home in Singapore. As our platform does not restrict us to any single market and we have had early success in these overseas markets, we are keen to focus on overseas expansions in the next phase of growth by promoting the high education standards of Singapore to the rest of the world.

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Mark Ko

Besides tech, I love chicken rice. Point me in the right direction and I'll go and try it. :)

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