We often get asked, “What’s the difference between you and your competitors?”. We thought we would give you a comprehensive breakdown of your options when choosing a management system to help run your business, and how this compares to what we offer at TutorCruncher. This blog post compares two of our competitors.
The main contenders
- TutorCruncher — Yours truly!
- LearnSpeed — A company based in the US and founded in 2006.
- TutorPanel — A Canadian based company founded in 2011.
- Teachworks — Another Canadian based company that was founded by the same people who created TutorPanel.
- Oases Online — The oldest of the systems we’ll be looking at, having been founded in the US in 2003.
Who we are
TutorCruncher was founded in 2013 as a system built by a tutoring company for tutoring companies. Having moved development in-house, we released a completely rebuilt system halfway through 2015. Since then we haven’t stopped working on and improving TutorCruncher with 650 updates so far and counting! Find out more about how TutorCruncher started.
Why we are writing this
When looking at a system to run your business, you need to be sure you are making the right choice, and currently there is very little information available to make the decision easier without trawling through each company’s website. We are approaching each system as a first-time user with a fictional company with 25 tutors and 150 active students, averaging 500 lesson hours per month at $40 a lesson. In this post, we’ll discuss Teachworks and LearnSpeed. Let’s get started!
Teachworks is a Canadian software company and was founded in 2014.
User Experience (Admin)
First impressions of the user experience were good; it feels like a modern system. We could navigate easily, and it’s fairly intuitive for the most part.
The first run through is really good, it leads you through creating a service, adding tutors and students, and scheduling lessons.
There were a few points we didn’t understand such as the difference between teachers and employees; if we clicked ‘Add Teachers’, we got a form to create an employee so we assume they are the same.
We could add an employee’s (we’re sticking with “employees” over teachers) teachable subjects, which is good, but we had to add each subject manually rather than choosing from a list which was cumbersome. If our tutors teach a range of subjects then this really would become tedious very quickly.
Scheduling lessons was easy, availability checking works as it should, though when repeating lessons we repeated a lesson for 7 days and we couldn’t find it on the calendar:
Invoicing is quite a manual process, there seems to be no way to mass-generate invoices, so if you are planning on expanding your business then you may find this time consuming. It can be quite easy to click save without entering the data and send an invoice for $0. TutorCruncher automatically generates all your invoices from lesson data, meaning sending your invoices takes minutes rather than hours.
Since writing this, we explored further and found an entry for doing this, but the free trial had expired. It looks like invoices are automatically sent out without admins approval this way, which means you would have to be 100% sure that your tutors were logging the correct hours!
There are a lot of steps involved in sending the invoice to the client, and again, we couldn’t find a way to do it without going to each invoice, and that’s after we had to create each one individually.
The invoice looks sufficient, but basic. Perhaps the sort of invoice I would expect to get from an office supplier:
Like TutorCruncher, there is Stripe integration, which is great for taking online card payments from clients.
Running payroll is completely manual and laborious. You have to add each payment yourself, none of the information about completed lessons is used, despite entering the amount you will be paying your tutors per hour. This would take up a lot ofadmin time if the business was medium to large.
User Experience (Tutor)
The teacher can add lessons if given permissions, but that’s about it. We couldn’t fill in very much information about ourselves, there is no way for us to add subjects that we teach, so an admin wouldn’t be able to search for tutors who can teach Maths, for example. TutorCruncher allows you to filter your tutors by subject, qualification level and any other custom fields you want to add.
There’s no way for a tutor to sign themselves up either, so recruitment still has to be tracked outside of the system. With TutorCruncher, tutors can sign themselves up as Pending Tutors to enter their details for you to review before Approving them, and they can apply for tutoring jobs that you make available.
User Experience (Client)
This seemed very basic: you can log in and view your calendar, but you can’t see any other information. In our experience working with tutoring companies, clients don’t really tend to log into a system whatever happens.
Pretty good customisation available, you can have custom fields and customise email and invoice templates. You can send emails from your own business email address, although it’s important to note that this email is actually sent by teachworks.com, and any mail provider will display that:
Features worth mentioning
Teachworks offers a lot in terms of extra features including Stripe online payments, an integration with MailChimp and Quickbooks, and Tasks to manage your tutors. SMS lesson reminders are also available — $50 gets you 830 message credits here in the UK. There’s even a mileage tracker to track a teacher’s journey length! Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to try these out, but they look like they should work as expected.
We requested a demo but were told that wasn’t possible. However, there seem to be lots of resources available online to help.
The cheapest of the solutions, with 500 lessons costing $100 per month; limited to sending 2,750 emails. (Some companies using TutorCruncher with the same activity are sending 15,000–20,000 emails, though there are a lot more opportunities to send emails and we don’t limit a company on this.png)
The system would be really efficient and easy to use for running a small one or two-man-show with 5 or 6 tutors, but realistically any more than that would be too much trouble to manage. For instance, if a client phoned us to request a tutor for English SAT tuition, we would have to manually go through each tutor to find someone that teaches that.
Between generating invoices and each tutor payment manually, most successfull startup businesses will outgrow Teachworks quickly.
LearnSpeed is a US company founded in 2006.
User Experience (Admin)
Initial impression - “This feels very 90s”.
Right from the start we had a few issues:
- There was no ‘first-time login’ support to explain which parts of the system did what. This would be fine if everything was easily identifiable, but between Sessions and Classes, Administrators and Partners, we had a hard time figuring out what was what.
- The links for each ‘tab’ are poorly built, so we wasted a lot of time clicking links without anything happening.
Though we found the forms very clunky, we eventually added a tutor and student (or possibly a parent, when adding people it can get confusing).
We added a lesson, but were unable to view it in the calendar. At this point we started to get frustrated with the UI and were ready to give up and in need of a restorative cup of tea before proceeding. Our next step was to create an invoice for the lesson.
After 5 minutes of searching we still had no invoice/accounting info, though we did get an important looking red ‘Session needing reports’ item:
Interestingly, the next page didn’t give us an option to fill in a session report… It did give us an option to Post Drafts, but that caused an error. There was also an option on this page to ‘Create Session’ for the lesson (what did we do before this?) but that also caused an error.
Eventually (and we are still unsure how), we created a report. It required a lot of clicking on things, a slice of luck, and something happened. We clicked on the Approve tab, and here’s where we found the accounting items. We also sent a session report to the client, but are yet to receive anything via email.
Sending the invoice doesn’t happen automatically, though you can do it manually. The invoice that the client received is shown below under the client’s experience.
Setting up payments within LearnSpeed was unfortunately impossible, as it required a US bank account. We’re sure this would have worked nicely as, like us, LearnSpeed use Stripe.
We tried for another 5 minutes to create a payslip for a tutor but found the whole process frustrating and inaccessible. This would not be a problem if this was not a core day-to-day function of a tutoring company.
User Experience (Tutor)
The tutor experience was fine, though it would require a lot of explaining before you could go ahead and just add your lessons. As an admin, we go to the student and add the instructors. When we tried to remove one we encountered yet another bug. We all know how hard it is to get tutors to add lessons, we doubt our tutors would last long before emailing us one of those awful timesheets.
User Experience (Client)
You can’t log in as a client into LearnSpeed, so you have to rely on the emails sent out. The invoice we received as a client was basic and leaves a lot to be desired. Not a real invoice in fact, just an email:
We had a few issues with this:
- Any business out there would want to send emails from their own email address, rather than from LearnSpeed. See how TutorCruncher does this.
- An invoice should really be in a document form, a professional looking PDF is critical to the image the business wants to portray. See TutorCruncher’s invoice as an example.
- The email is insecure and unencrypted, as you can see from the unlocked padlock symbol beside the LearnSpeed Support** **email address.
We sent a quick email over and someone got back to us within the hour, which was fantastic. We also managed to find videos on their website for most of the features available.
There is some customisation available, custom email templates and labels can be created as well as custom fields, though you are limited on the number you can create.
You can be charged in two ways, either through their online payments, or per lesson
Per lesson: $0.49 per lesson, so $250 for the fictional company we’re reviewing with.
Using online payments: 3.3% + 33c per transaction (0.4% + 3c above Stripe’s base fees). Let’s assume that for 500 sessions at $40, there are 150 payments, the cost would come to $660 per month.
Extra Features worth mentioning
The system was a pain to use, and whilst we are sure the functionality is good, the user experience holds it back from being suitable for today’s businesses. The fact that the company was created in 2006 seems telling, as the system feels better suited to a time where MySpace and Bebo were the go-to social networks.