Taiwanese online tutoring platform 1on1 wants to be the tutoring equivalent of Airbnb with its ad-hoc approach to teaching. Find out how this brand wants to change how we learn and share skills.

Founded in May 2016, 1on1 was born out of Taiwanese founder Alan Zhuang’s dream to create a platform that would bring people together to learn skills from one another – be those skills skateboarding, SEO or Spanish. It was while on a quest to better his English that Alan came up with the idea. Faced with one specific problem that kept cropping up, he found that his busy schedule and overseas travel, combined with the inflexibility of traditional schooling, rendered learning inside these classes impossible. He needed something more like Airbnb or Couchsurfing – but for tutoring instead. So, together with his lifelong friend William Hsu, he founded 1on1 as the solution. Now at the helm of a website catering to over 15,000 registered students and tutors from 120+ countries, Alan talked Hive Life through the merits of bringing people together through his online platform.

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1on1’s functionality is simple. The website, currently in English and Chinese, filters tutors based on subject, teaching language and country, before allowing them to choose their teacher, book a session (online or offline) and make their payment. And, with tutors covering categories way beyond your usual Mandarin and math – think everything from coding to boxing, origami to saxophone – those sessions cover almost every skill imaginable.

For tutors, the process is equally easy. Anyone can sign up to teach on 1on1, with a rating system on the website allowing students to review their tutors. Keenly aware of customers wanting reassurance on the quality of their sessions, Alan is also looking to develop an evaluation system that takes into teachers’ relevant teaching experience and qualifications. Currently, most tutors are located in Asian cities such as Tokyo, Seoul and Bangkok, however Western cities such as Los Angeles and Berlin are quickly catching on.

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Where 1on1 departs from other online tutoring platforms is in its ambition to break down the barriers between student and tutor. Everyone on the site is encouraged to do both – with the latter’s estimated monthly salary of USD 645 being temporarily stored on the websites credit system so that it can then either be cashed out or fed back into lessons for oneself – something that one-third of their users take up. “This way, you can put personal learning experiences back into teaching, and perfect and improve your teaching skills,” says Alan.

Given South East Asia’s educational culture, 1on1 certainly has a captive audience on its doorstep. It’s estimated that nearly 50% of the youth in Hong Kong attend shadow education of some form in their lives, giving Alan plenty of opportunity for growth. With 97% of his users over 20, and only 10-15% of those booking classes for their children, his platform is squarely aimed at generational skills accumulation, and many of them still want to learn in person. “Based on user feedback and statistics obtained from our website, many lessons cannot be replaced with online teaching. Even with the amount of readily available online resources on YouTube, many people today still prefer taking instructor or coaching lessons in person,” he says. To cater to this, he is steering part of 1on1’s focus towards offline services, looking to suggest locations where students and tutors can meet face-to-face as easily as they would online for those that require it. This guarantees learning akin to a traditional classroom setting, but instead with the ad hoc flexibility that online learning gives.

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With 1on1’s culture of symbiotic learning, Alan’s hope is that they create a world of co-learning where people are rewarded for the skills they have, gathering new ones along the way. “I believe each one of us is a unique individual; we have our own unique way of thinking, our stories, and experiences, and something others can learn from,” says Alan. “That’s why we think it’s valuable to bring people together, to have people interact, and to help them learn from one another.”