People learn in different ways. The four most common learning styles are broken down into the so-called VARK model, which stands for ‘visual,’ ‘auditory,’ ‘reading and writing’ and ‘kinesthetic.’ The names are somewhat self-explanatory: visual learners prefer charts, diagrams, symbols, etc. Auditory people may prefer listening to lectures and enjoy group settings where they can soak up the collaborative wisdom of a group discussion. Reading and writing people like to see words and then reinforce the input of that info by writing it, creating – for them – a feedback loop of education. The kinesthetics folks need to do things hands-on – engaging all their senses while learning something new – which could be why people in this last group are often found in sciences that require lab studies… as that's exactly the kind of environment in which they thrive. But when it comes to getting advice or seeking an answer to a practical question, nothing beats a direct one-on-one conversation with an expert – whom you can look in the eye and directly interact with.
This one-on-one element, however, has been missing from the otherwise almost perfect ability of the World Wide Web to provide information. Yes, one can seek out a tutorial video, sign up for a course, or research a problem… and what's more, many of these online resources are free. But what happens when you get stuck? What happens when you just need to ask a couple of questions and you'd be good? Who do you turn to? This is where the premise behind a tutoring app comes in, and it's an idea that could upend the way we learn or seek guidance. With the tutoring app, you select an expert in whatever area you are seeking help in. Then, via a one-on-one video chat over your smartphone, you ask your questions and pay by the minute. Prices can be as low as US$1 a minute… so if you have a quick question on some software issue, or an exercise query, or a cooking question, or need help with playing barre chords on the guitar, you can find someone who can assist you directly for a more-than-reasonable price. You could even show the problem to the expert with your camera phone! Just think of all the difficulties that could be alleviated by being able to see, hear and talk to someone who knows what they're talking about… 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (while being charged by the minute).
This doesn't preclude you from using one of these experts for a longer period. You could schedule an hour one-on-one yoga session, or a series of one-on-one classes to help you figure out how to organize your company's financial records… or anything else you can think of. The app acts as a go-between, pairing those with expert knowledge with those seeking direct, immediate, responsive answers. The pay-by-the-minute structure is not necessarily fixed in stone, and the model allows for a lot of flexibility – as all that's required are 2 smartphones and a negotiated time to begin the discussion. On the face of it, it doesn't sound like the most radical idea ever as we've had everything from private education tutors and fitness coaches, to psychiatrists and midwifes doing video chats for a while now, but the difference between the old model and this idea is speed and cost. You may have noticed that online counseling – as one example – while extremely convenient, is not exactly affordable for everyone. Also, not everyone is looking, for example, for a full hour of workout encouragement. Some people want to know if a particular yoga pose is being done correctly, or if the way they are using a particular feature of Photoshop is the best way to do it. Those are the kind of questions that can possibly be wrapped up in just a couple of minutes. Have you ever heard of a service that lets you get an answer you need from a human expert in 3 minutes… and only charges you for those 3 minutes? Well, now you have.
Plus, the app is also providing an opportunity for people with specialized skills and some extra time to list themselves as an expert on the app, and take one-on-one video chats as they are available. It's an extension of the gig economy in a way, but more fundamentally, an evolution of how we learn online. Picture this: a college student sits through their professor's lecture on physics, then watches a few online videos on the topic… but before writing their paper or taking a test on the subject, the student hops on the app and finds a physics expert for a 5-minute conversation on a couple of areas the student is finding hard to wrap their head around. –Awesome, yeah? It's likewise easy to imagine a person trying to learn a new hobby like, say, knitting – hopping on the app and getting a few tips from someone who's perhaps done it for 40 years. Or the expert – depending on their time constraints and what they're willing to do – could end up morphing into almost a full-time coach for a company – for example – that needs help with internet marketing, or become that physics student’s main tutor. The possibilities are limitless and exciting.