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Sale of Tutor.Com Places Online Tutoring Industry in the Spotlight

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By guest blogger Mike Bock

Online media conglomerate IAC, owner of sites like Match.com and Dictionary.com, announced plans this week to acquire the popular online tutoring website Tutor.com.

Tutor.com currently offers services to individual families, as well as schools, libraries, universities, and the United States military. The New York Times reported that IAC seeks to "apply the complex algorithms used on Web sites like Match.com" to the site and give students an easier way to connect with tutors.

"Tutor.com has done the hard part, having built over many years an incredible nationwide network of high quality tutors ready to help students improve their learning," IAC Chief Executive Office Gregory Blatt said in a statement. "It's not often we find a company with such untapped potential that our particular skill set can help unlock."

George Cigale, the founder and chief executive officer of Tutor.com, said in a interview with Education Week that the merger with IAC will provide his company with enough resources to hire more staff members, improve the company's outreach and give Tutor.com the flexibility to develop new products and delivery models.

Tutor.com currently has 45 full-time staff members, not including the 2000+ tutors employed by the company. And while online learning and free tutoring sites like Khan Academy continue to rise in popularity as students and teachers search for affordable lesson plans, Cigale said Tutor.com will continue to be competitive by providing a level of interaction that other online tutoring sites can't compete with.

"When students are stuck, and they need additional help, a video isn't going to do it," Cigale said. "Tons of research shows the best way for students to overcome a challenge is one-to-one attention with a qualified teacher on demand."

Mergers, buyouts and acquisitions throughout the education publishing industry have been abundant over the past several years, as the education market continues to adjust to the rise of digital learning outside the classroom. Last month, international publishing giant Pearson announced a merger with Barnes and Noble's NOOK e-reader, and purchased SchoolNet, a software company that uses student data to create personalized instruction, last year.

IAC isn't the first media company to jump into the education marketplace. News Corp., which has been expanding in education, last year unveiled the brand—called "Amplify"—and the business focus of its education products, which will include software and curriculum development.

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