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Even homework gets outsourced

Employees at a call center in India work during their night shift.

TEXT OF STORY

Doug Krizner: Problems for the U.S. mortgage business have been rippling to India. IT outsourcing firms for banking and financial services have begun to feel the effect, but most experts agree it's unlikely to lead to a lasting problem. The Indian outsourcing industry grew 47 percent in the first six months of the year. And it's not just your basic call center. Outsourcing firms specialize in services from investment research to insurance claims processing. Oh and then there's online teaching. Here's Francesca Segre:


Francesca Segre: Fifteen-year-old John Billingsley looks just like any other Los Angeles kid, but what separates Billingsley from other ninth graders in his class is his personal understanding of globalization and outsourcing.

Vibin Aue: Hello, John, can you hear me?

John Billingsley: Yes.

Twice a week, he shoos his cat off his desk, uses his computer to dial India and loads the program for his tutoring session in Honors biology.

Aue: So before going to the topic, let's discuss some of the basic concepts of the circulatory system.

Vibin Aue is 26 years old with a master's degree in biotechnology. He sits at a desk among 50 other tutors in a call center-style office in the Southwestern tourist town of Cochin, India.

They all work for the Silicon Valley-based company Growing Stars, and they all work American hours. Their days start at 3 a.m. But the hours don't seem to bother Aue.

Aue: I'm really enjoying the job, really to be a part of the most advanced tutoring technology.

Back in Los Angeles, Billingsley's mother, Kim did some calculations of her own.

When the face to face math tutor her son uses bumped his rates from $100 to $125 dollars an hour, she started searching the Internet for alternatives. She found Growing Stars, which charges $20 an hour for biology tutoring.

Kim Billingsley: $20 an hour vs. $125 an hour. And I remember them asking me is this rate agreeable with you? I kind of started laughing to myself.

By now, 400 American students ranging from 3rd grade to college use the program.

Of course there are problems. Sometimes the connection gets dropped or the tutor's accent is hard to understand. But Billingsley says it really works for him.

But since offshore tutoring is still new, there aren't hard numbers to show how effective it is overall.

Regardless, Don Knezek, the CEO for the International Society for Technology in Education says he's seen tremendous growth in offshore tutoring over the past three years.

Don Knezek: I think there will be very few teachers and students who go through their experience without distance learning.

In Los Angeles, I'm Francesca Segre for Marketplace.

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