Calgary

Calgary tutors say demand slowly returning for their services after nosedive last spring

Calgary tutors say the pandemic forced them to adjust and adapt to the new realities of the year. But after seeing a plunge in their businesses last spring, local tutors say student numbers are slowly increasing to normal levels. 

'Do I have as much business as I used to have before COVID? No, definitely not.'

From left: Alexandria Evans, Louise Ridout, Alex Azarnousch and Brooklynn Fernandes say their tutoring businesses in Calgary have been impacted by the pandemic but are beginning to recover. (Submitted by Evans, Ridout, Azrnousch and Fernandes)

Calgary tutors say they have had to adjust and adapt to the realities of the year, like everyone else during the pandemic. But after seeing a plunge in business last spring, local tutors say student numbers are slowly increasing to normal levels. 

Alex Azarnousch, owner and founder of the nearly 20-year-old Calgary Tutoring Centre, says his tutors work with nearly 600 students in a normal year. 

But last spring, those numbers took a nosedive as classes moved online and school boards made the decision that no grades would drop as a result of the sudden change.

"It was extremely slow for the months of April, May and June," he said. "COVID really hit everybody hard. I wasn't even sure if my business would stay alive, to tell you the truth. But things did turn around in September, thank God. But do I have as much business as I used to have before COVID? No, definitely not."

Azarnousch says the Calgary Tutoring Centre is now providing services to about 350 students. 

"Online tutoring was never really established here in Alberta because everyone wanted to have in-home tutoring," he said. "It did take a little bit of time until they were OK with online tutoring, and now it's been pretty good."

Families anxious to return to in-person model

Alexandria Evans has been operating her independent tutoring business, AE Tutor Services, for five years. She agrees with Azarnousch that people usually seek tutoring for the one-on-one, in-person instruction.

But, once parents and students warmed up to online tutoring this year, her business also began to pick back up, and she's now tutoring more students than before.

"That being said, once the lockdown restrictions are lifted, people prefer us to do tutoring face to face," she said. 

Evans says what's become evident is that while online learning is necessary right now for many — it's not working for everyone. 

"We're starting to see the students where [being online] is affecting their ability to learn new material," she said. "I think part of the reason that people are reaching out for a tutor now is because there are some students who online learning works for and there are some students that it just doesn't work for at all."

'I've had no demand'

But, for other independent tutors, things haven't started to recover yet.

Brooklynn Fernandes has been offering private tutoring for the past four years. Usually she tutors one or two students on a consistent basis all year, and then sees a lot of demand closer to exams. 

"This year has been completely different. I've had no demand. It is actually kind of crazy," she said. 

Fernandes says her hypothesis for why demand might be down is because with more students learning online, it's easier for them to get good grades without putting in the same work. 

"I'm not saying that my students cheat, but there is that idea that they don't have to work as hard necessarily because you do have your notes in front of you for tests and whatnot," she said. 

Some companies still offering face-to-face tutoring

Louise Ridout, director of EducationWise, a tutoring company that has been operating in Calgary for nearly two decades, says her company has definitely taken a hit when it comes to the number of students seeking services. 

They usually serve about 60 students a year, but this year EducationWise has just over 30. 

She says that like most other tutoring services, EducationWise has moved most of its services online. But, she says, one thing that has kept it afloat is that it continues to offer in-person tutoring as well. 

"We wear masks, we wash hands and sanitize, we distance whenever it's possible, and we asked all the health questions to make sure that everybody is safe," she said. 

"We're experimenting with different ways that we can make things work for families."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson

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