The English Square

Verbling: Pricing Transformation

Rebecca Hope

Teachers are the best people in society. They are the givers that never stop giving, rarely ask for more and enable others to go on to do great things.

Wages have been a point of concern for teachers across the board since forever. In the online space with a globalised work force, open marketplace and little support to protect teachers' rights, there was no minimum rate on the teaching platform Verbling in early 2018. 

I had been teaching English on Verbling for several years before I actually met the small team in San Francisco one fine summer's day in February 2018. I was on my way to the airport after a few days spent in the area. I had a few hours to spare and decided to drop by Verbling's offices. I rang their doorbell a few times until someone opened up. 

After a lengthy conversation with some of the team members about all aspects of the platform from a teacher's perspective, the outcome of the trip was a few photos with the team, a booked date to film a video of me and my student Lais meeting for the first time in person in Boston, and pricing transformation. 

My main concern expressed to the Verbling team was that teachers would be providing their service at 0 dollars if there was no regulation around pricing. Generally, teachers already feel bad to charge a high hourly rate. The pressure of teacher competition on the website doesn't help either.

On the Verbling platform, students have the purchasing power. They get to shop around for teachers - literally. Teachers appear in a list with their intro video, ratings and their typical resume info. While this type of system incentivises teachers to deliver their best to get 5 star ratings, it also means they may lower their hourly rates to an unlivable rate in order to get their hours booked up.

A few months after my trip to San Francisco with the Verbling team, I noticed that they had implemented a minimum hourly rate of $6. It's a start but nowhere near what's just. Online teachers need equipment, skills and to be able to pay living costs. No where in the world is $6 per hourly for irregular working hours enough to survive. But it's a start.

Open markets are great. Competition is healthy for an economy. But regulations are necessary to protect the price and quality of a most essential service in society provided by our beloved teachers. 

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