Monday, August 10, 2015

Is it worth paying for subscription lesson planning services?

I'm going to explain why using the "freemium" lesson planning model is more expensive than using most paid subscription lesson planning models for your tutoring sessions. You may disagree, and if so, then great! I'd love to hear some alternative ideas.
Do you struggle with planning for tutoring sessions? For the most part, tutoring students have homework assignments, essays, or tests and quizzes for which they need every minute of your lesson to prepare for with you, but that isn’t always the case.

Sometimes, students have a more ambiguous goal, such as improving writing skills, improving vocabulary, improving reading comprehension, or even improving math skills. If your student has such a need, then how do you create goals for them? 
A quick search online will lead you to find a list of great websites that will help you easily plan your lessons. Most of these sites offer 1000s of free or inexpensive resources. If you're regularly tutoring, then you might want to consider signing up for a subscription service for educational resources; these generally cost between $20-50 per year. If you've come to tutoring from the classroom, then you may be accustomed to having these subscriptions paid for, and you may not wish to shell out cash for the paid services when you can access the "free-mium" version. 
Consider, however, the cost-benefit analysis of how much time you spend looking for free resources. Now, consider your hourly tutoring rate. Let's say your hourly tutoring rate is $35, and the subscription to your favorite resource site is $50. Let's imagine that this is a site where you can input your student's reading level, the number of vocabulary words at that level you want your student to learn, and the one that will take that information and create a reading book with enrichment questions for your student to work on during the week that you can review with your student during your lesson (a pretty decent way to help improve reading, which we can touch on later!). If you can access that through a subscription and download your PDF to either print or email to your student in just a couple of minutes, is that worth saving you 15 to 20 minutes to look for a freemium version? 

Let's say you repeat that process every week for a month with this student. 
  • Using subscription service: 5 minutes x 4 weeks = 20 minutes
  • Using freemium service: 15 minutes x 4 weeks = 60 minutes
At your tutoring rate of $35 per hour, using the freemium service would "cost" you $35; the subscription service would cost you just under $12, or one-third the cost of the freemium model. 
However, let's say you paid $50 for the subscription model. Using the subscription model would actually have cost you $62 for lesson planning for that month while the freemium model only cost you $35, but that's assuming that you have only one student per month. 
Let's imagine you are a part-time tutor with a reasonable number of students. We'll say that you have 6 students. 
  • Using subscription service: 5 minutes x 4 weeks x 6 students = 120 minutes.
  • Using freemium service: 15 minutes x 4 weeks x 6 students = 360 minutes.
You can see the time discrepancy really develop here. Again, with you tutoring rate of $35 per hour, using the subscription model would have cost you $70. We also need to consider the $50 charge for the subscription; however, to be fair, the subscription is for the year, and not for the month, so we should divide it by 12. The average tutor only tutors about 9 months of the year, though (Hey! What's wrong with a little time off for your mental health?), so we'll divide it by 9 to get about $6 per month. Your total cost for lesson planning this month is $76.
With the freemium model, your cost for lesson planning is $105 for the month. 
Even those numbers are still a little misleading, though, because unless you are tutoring online, the $35 an hour reflects drive time and administrative time, so your hourly rate isn't exactly $35; it's probably closer to $25. Assuming that, using the paid subscription, your cost for the month would have been $56 while the freemium would have been $75. It's still more expensive to use the freemium model. I also didn't account for any tax deductions for paying for the subscription service, but I'm not an accountant so I'll leave that to them! 
This is just my experience and my number crunching. If you disagree, I'd love to learn why! Please share below!
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