A few years ago, the ReWired Group and Bob Moesta, my coauthor on my next book, Choosing College, undertook a project for the tutoring marketplace company, Wyzant.

As players like Byjus, Khan Academy, and others have disrupted the tutoring market, online tutoring companies—which offer access to real, live tutors—have mostly struggled to break out of a crowded market.

The question Wyzant, which began as a platform that typically facilitated face-to-face tutoring sessions, wanted to understand was what “Job to Be Done” were people hiring it to do in their lives—that is, what is the progress people were trying to make that caused them to pay for Wyzant’s services.

In Bob’s words, they initially discovered four discreet “Jobs” (you can listen more about the process Wyzant took on this podcast at the Disruptive Voice):

1. Help me recover from failure. After students failed in something in school, they would hire Wyzant to help them get back on track.

2. Help me ensure my success—and avoid painful failure. Students hired Wyzant before trouble arrived.

3. Help me get the skills I need now to do my job or help me get the skills I need in the future to look good. Employees with this Job were either currently working in a job where they didn’t have the requisite skillset and they wanted to cover up for it, or they were eyeing their future and knew they needed to improve their skillset so they could look good in the eyes of their colleagues.

4. Help me advance in my hobby or passion. People wanted help in a variety of pursuits. Rather than hire a full-time private instructor, an on-demand tutor was good enough.

Could on-demand online tutoring be the gateway to personalizing learning for colleges?

Related: Best practices for starting a peer-tutoring program

What’s striking about these Jobs is how emotional and, in certain cases, social they are. The tutors weren’t just being hired for the functional reason of helping a student with their academic progress, but with elements far more fundamental to their sense of self and the avoidance of crippling failure.

Following this research, Wyzant focused its efforts on becoming a one-to-one, synchronous online tutoring platform—as opposed to the face-to-face tutoring on which it had focused previously—as it realized its customers were willing to work in any environment to avoid failure.

As Wyzant has continued to grow, they also work directly now with colleges and universities to provide on-demand online tutoring support that helps students ensure their success.

That’s a Job that colleges themselves are increasingly paying attention to.

As Levi Belnap, Wyzant’s vice president of business development, and I argue in a new white paper titled, “Success for Post-Traditional Learners: How to Make Colleges More Student-Ready,” given the increasing proportion of diverse “post-traditional students” who hail from a far wider range of backgrounds, it’s time to not only prepare students to be college ready, but for colleges to also become more “student ready.”

About the Author:

Michael B. Horn is a co-founder and distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute. He currently works as a principal consultant for Entangled Solutions.


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