The lockdowns put in place to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus have forced many parents to juggle homeschooling with remote working, so it’s perhaps no surprise that there has been growth in demand for online tuition, with providers such as TLC Live seeing a surge in business.

Serving both schools and individual parents and guardians, TLC LIVE provides tailored, national curriculum-aligned online tutoring to students across the UK, and has seen dramatic growth in both enquiries and signups since the lockdown.

“TLC LIVE has seen a very significant increase in business this year. Before the impact of Covid-19 we were growing at over 50% year on year which is above the growth (40% plus) we have seen in the previous three years. However, towards the end of March when school closures first came into place, and now, into April, the growth has ramped up again,” says Simon Barnes, founder and CEO of TLC LIVE.

“Since the virus struck, the awareness that online can deliver safe tuition and reach students wherever they are has created a massive demand for our service.

“We already work with numerous virtual schools, primary schools, secondary schools and other educational institutions. Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen an increase in bookings that supersedes the growth shown at the beginning of the year.”

Online tuition during the coronavirus: How TLC is responding to escalating demand

With so many additional schools and parents signing up to online tuition as a result of the coronavirus, TLC LIVE has been required to scale its offering. And while from a technological point of view this has not posed a challenge, getting enough available teachers up and running quickly has presented some difficulties.

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“It has been a challenge, but the beauty of being an online company is that we can adapt and ramp up our delivery very quickly; in effect, we do not have a maximum capacity,” says Barnes.

“The only real ‘roadblock’ we have had in meeting this surge is getting fully qualified teachers on the platform fast enough.”

While there has been no shortage of teachers looking to pivot to online tuition amid the coronavirus, there are steps that have to occur to enable them to work on TLC LIVE’s platform.

“We have had many applications from teachers who regularly work for face to face tuition companies, who can’t teach under the present circumstances. But before they can start teaching with us, we need to train them in how to use the platform and get their DBS check through in a timely fashion,” he says.

“We don’t just rely on a previous DBS check – we make sure we get a new one before a teacher can start working with our students. At the moment, any teacher registered with the DBS Update service can be checked immediately.

“But if they’re not, then we have to go through the whole process again, which creates delays. Several teachers are now in the pipeline, and the DBS delays are preventing us from pairing them with the students we’re rapidly enrolling.”

Despite the bottleneck this can create, Barnes is positive about the influx of new talent this has led to.

“A positive about this is that we have added to the roster of our excellent teachers, who will hopefully see the benefits of online tuition not only for the students but for themselves and will stay with us after this crisis is over, and help us deliver more sessions and reach more schools and students in the coming months and years.”

All change?

While TLC LIVE has not launched any new offerings as a result of the coronavirus, it has asked customers to be flexible about how and when they use the online tuition service to ensure that all those needing access can get it.

“Because TLC LIVE does not ask our customers to sign up to a contractual term or a set number of lessons, this flexibility allows councils, schools, and virtual schools to manage their budgets and to know exactly what their costs are,” says Barnes.

“These clients also like to have the flexibility of times of lessons, TLC LIVE does not tell the client when they can have lessons we fit around their schedule. However, because of the unprecedented nature of the growth, we have asked our customers to be as flexible on times as they can be.”

In terms of operations, however, the company – like many businesses – has switched to remote working, although this has caused relatively minimal impact, according to Barnes.

“Like many businesses at the moment, our head office team are all working from home (they are usually based in Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire). It only took a couple of days for the team to get used to it, and they have risen to the challenge in an exemplary fashion, particularly bearing in mind the surge in numbers that we are experiencing,” he says.

“As all our teachers typically work from home, this situation has made no difference to their normal working life. Conference calls are held with staff two or three times a day, and numerous conversations are held between individual members of the team during the day.”

The strong focus on online, remote working that TLC LIVE has long had has, according to Barnes, confirmed the company “made the right decision back in 2012 to go online”. But will the more complete switch to remote operation become a permeant part of the way it does business?

“I think the very positive way in which the team has adapted to working from home may prompt the discussion about whether this is something we should do more often,” says Barnes.

“We have been looking at extending office space but perhaps the lessons learned during this time may mean we reconsider.”

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