Before she had even graduated from Mercer University, people were already asking India Barnes if she was available for tutoring. That spurred the 2021 College of Education graduate to found an online tutoring marketplace called Learn Plus Tutor, which is about to mark its one-year anniversary.
As Barnes worked through her final year in the Master of Arts in Teaching program, she was also researching options for a tutoring business. She already had plenty of tutoring experience and even served as a Supplemental Instruction leader, for which she assisted students and facilitated study sessions for a course she had already completed.
“I always loved teaching and education,” said Barnes, who is now a fourth-grade teacher in a metro Atlanta elementary school. “My brother always brags about me teaching him to read when we were children, implying that I am walking in my purpose. I’m a first-generation everything: bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and business owner.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic having just begun, Barnes began looking into remote tutoring. She considered doing freelance tutoring work with a few students on Zoom until she discovered the concept of a marketplace platform. She received her state registration for her business in November 2020.
Learn Plus Tutor uses an integrated platform with video and classroom tools. Barnes currently has 15 tutors from California to New York who are independent contractors, and most of her students have reached out for help in math, science and Spanish.
“It’s similar to how DoorDash or Airbnb work. We host tutors on the website. They make their own prices, and they have a ‘book now’ button. Students go and sort through them. You can go in and book as much as you want,” Barnes said.
While other online tutoring marketplaces do exist, they don’t all have a CEO with a background in education. Barnes said her Mercer classes and field experiences in local schools taught her the importance of organizational skills, differentiation, building rapport with students, being culturally and linguistically responsive, and focusing on digital learners.
“Prior to Mercer, I was interested in language and technology; however, Mercer helped me see how vital these components are to the education industry,” she said. “These aspects have helped me tremendously with teaching the ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) population in my classroom and sparked my interest in eventually becoming certified in ESOL. All of the components mentioned above have helped me be a better teacher and CEO of my tutoring company.”
Barnes is currently working to market and expand her business and hire more certified teachers. She would like Learn Plus Tutor to eventually take on a more structured format that aligns with the school curriculum, and she hopes to one day take on a partner.
“I think what makes it unique is you can choose whatever type of tutor you want. Maybe you don’t need an expert. Maybe you just want someone who knows the basics,” Barnes said. “Another thing that makes it unique is our mission and values are all centered around multiculturalism, diversity, being really inclusive and thoughtful.”