Scott C. Wilson, Tutor Tango’s co-founder and CEO, emailed this article to Abacus Mom:

Online course offerings have dramatically altered the landscape of learning in higher education over the past few years.  Thousands of students have enrolled in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) offered by websites such as Udacity and Coursera, and quite a few universities have responded by accepting MOOC completion certificates for credit.

Even the most prestigious of institutions have jumped in. MIT, in partnership with Harvard, has invested 60 million dollars to develop edX, a platform to offer MOOCs.  And Stanford University professors were responsible for the creation of both Udacity and Coursera; the latter alone has partnered with over 80 schools around the globe, including Brown, Columbia, Duke, Emory, Michigan, Penn, Princeton, Yale, and many others.

But are NYC private schools, whose charges aspire to attend institutions like these, doing enough to prepare their student bodies for this new online learning experience in college?

Our company, Tutor Tango, is founded and run by NYC private school educators, and was established with an aim not only to help prepare kids for college, but to prepare them at the same time for the growing online learning trend in higher education.  At, students in grades 7 and above log-in to meet their tutors for help in any subject, including test prep, ESL, and college admissions consultation.

 I’ve worked as a Latin and English teacher and tutor in Manhattan for over 10 years.  When I realized a few years ago where universities were headed with online course offerings, I recognized that the private school world I’m so familiar with isn’t exactly preparing its students for this new trend in online learning.  And most traditional in-person tutoring companies, who send tutors into students’ homes or even set up shop in the summertime in the Hamptons, are creating a learning culture in which kids have become too dependent on having the instructor at the table next to them.

Shelly Waldvogel, our Chief Operating Officer, has a son who attends an Upper West Side private school.  One of her main jobs has been to develop a marketing plan that will convince private school parents of the effectiveness online tutoring, and–in her own words–”it’s been extremely challenging.”  “I completely understand that many parents would rather have their children meet with a tutor in person,” she said at a recent parents focus group meeting. “But the reality is that college professors won’t always be there in person anymore; they’ll be interacting with our kids online.  So why not do something outside of the classroom that will help our kids get ready?”

 Tutor Tango’s online learning interface features video and audio feeds, instant messaging, a real-time interactive whiteboard, and a note-taking pod that, according to Colin Allen, our Chief Technical Officer, “are all designed to recreate the in-person tutoring experience as much as possible.”

In addition to one-on-one tutoring, we’ve added several new services this year: test prep packages for the PSAT, SAT and ACT, ESL tutoring, and e-Study Groups, in which 3-8 students can meet online with one tutor at the same time.  Next summer we plan on offering “Summer e-Camps” and AP Primers, both of which will be six-to-eight week online classes designed to prepare students for their upcoming rigorous courses in high school and college.

But we are especially proud that Tutor Tango has a social mission and offers free and sliding-scale tutoring to students who can’t afford it.  Last fall we brought on-board Johanna Giebelhaus, a former ESL teacher and producer of a documentary film about 21st Century education, to oversee pro bono operations.  In June, we raised money through a crowdfunding campaign to support an upcoming project with a lofty goal: to provide laptops, wi-fi connections, and one-hour of free tutoring per week to students living below the poverty line in New York City.  We’re excited to partner with other education organizations and we feel confident that our pro bono program is poised for success.

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