Smarthinking

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  smarthinking.com
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Smarthinking Reviews

Updated September 5, 2014
Updated September 5, 2014
19 Reviews
2.4
19 Reviews
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Recommend to a friend
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Christa Ehmann Powers, Ph.D
4 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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  1.  

    Good Temporary Position. Not Much Advancement

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Online Writing Tutor
    Current Employee - Online Writing Tutor

    I have been working at Smarthinking part-time for less than a year

    Pros

    - Work from home
    - Quick and helpful responses from Lead Tutors and Management
    - Easy to get time off
    - Good training on meeting student needs
    - Friendly coworkers
    - Interesting papers to read and review
    - Useful rubric that helps organize advice

    Cons

    - Communication is done entirely through email
    - Unrealistic expectations (i.e. assisting a student with a 6-10 page paper in 30 minutes)
    - No apparent advancement
    - Low pay for high education requirements

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2.  

    Ups and downs

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Online Writing Tutor  in  Minneapolis, MN
    Former Employee - Online Writing Tutor in Minneapolis, MN

    I worked at Smarthinking part-time for more than 5 years

    Pros

    I loved the interactions with students. Not only did I feel great helping students better their writing, I loved catching glimpses into the lives of people around the world. Working with really earnest students made me feel good about my contributions.

    Cons

    I hated the management setup. Everything felt impersonal. For almost the entire time I worked there, we had rotating supervisors. One semester I'd have a supervisor I loved, who seemed to appreciated me, and then the next semester I'd be switched to someone who acted like I was a failure deliberately trying to screw everybody over. And then hit repeat. It was an emotional roller coaster.

    I felt like there was little flexibility, mostly due to not enough working tutors. My last year was constant emails demanding everybody work extra hours. I was fired/quit when, after two weeks, I'd only had time to work half my shifts and hadn't been able to find anyone to cover me as there was already an add hour call out. I got an email from my supervisor's boss claiming I hadn't worked in months and should consider myself fired if I didn't work within the next few hours. Umm, did anyone ask why I couldn't make my shift? No. Did anyone talk to me about the shifts I had done? No.

    While I liked the experience, because you sure do become an expert when it comes to writing, I also disliked that you weren't allowed to ask for references. All the company would do was confirm you worked for them.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    It's be nice if there was more interaction between tutors and supervisors. For an online service, why is it impossible for there to be skype discussions? I feel like certain nastier supervisors would've been a little nicer if they weren't typing to a faceless computer.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  3.  

    Insufficient pay: Does not value its talent

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Online Tutor
    Former Employee - Online Tutor

    I worked at Smarthinking part-time for less than a year

    Pros

    Because the company is entirely online, you can work from home, in pyjamas. Because they have students all over the world, the hours are very flexible. And you are given a lot of autonomy in choosing your hours.

    Cons

    The pay is abysmal: $8-$13/hour for tutors. In the sciences, tutoring requires a masters at least, and lead tutoring (which pays not much more, ~$18/hour) requires university-level teaching experience to do well, which itself requires a PhD. To pay such skilled workers so little is appalling. As a result, the vast majority of their workers live in countries like India and Argentina where the cost of living is significantly lower. And the tutoring quality suffers since the pool is so limited.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Reevaluate your business model. There is a lot of lip service given to requiring excellence in tutoring, but your product will never be excellent if you pay the front-line talent such low wages. If students only pay $25/hour for the tutoring service, then the business will never be both excellent and self-sustaining. Instead, it should be thought of as an adjunct to the larger Pearson service of providing textbooks to classes, not as an isolated business. IMHO.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
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  5. 1 person found this helpful  

    Going downhill

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at Smarthinking as a contractor

    Pros

    Being able to provide solid feedback and guidance for students to improve their writing. Being able to work from home.

    Cons

    LOTS! You are held to a set schedule despite working from home and don't you dare be late even a minute or you will be penalized, either with a condescending email or having your hours cut. Your pay is low...$10 an hour with a Master's degree. I truly made more in bartending and was treated with more respect. You are expected to adhere to a 30 minute time frame for your writing critiques, follow THEIR guidelines and rubrics (not necessarily what would be beneficial for students) and grade a 2 page paper and a 15 page paper in the same time frame. They are also ever-changing the rules (don't use this for this company, you can say this here but not if you get this type of essay, etc.) and keeping track of all these guidelines for a supposed maximum part time 19 hour a week job is just asinine and truly not possible. I have been here almost two years and am likely about to give notice and return to retail part time. No opportunities for advancement here either really unless you are in one of their overseas branches where they can pay folks $6 a day and get away with it...that is really their goal here it seems. They also cut hours constantly and then end up begging people to work when they realize there is a huge shortage and no one available! If you have a computer running anything higher than Windows XP too, be prepared to struggle to access most of their software, especially their scheduler, since their software is still stuck in the 1990s, as are most of their materials.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Treat us like degreed professionals and with respect! No one wants to be treated like a third grader with endless rules. Also provide incentives for folks who do well (pay raises, acknowledgement, added hours) and update your materials to reflect newer technology and those changes to stay competitive and relevant.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  6. 1 person found this helpful  

    Horrible Experience. Insulting pay. Pressure to work fast. The treat their tutors like children.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Online Writing Tutor  in  Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Online Writing Tutor in Washington, DC

    I worked at Smarthinking part-time for more than a year

    Pros

    You can work from the comfort of your home. I enjoyed working with the students.

    Cons

    I was paid $10 an hour even though I had a master's degree.
    Pay is a joke. Management is disrespectful. They don't care about their employees. They should offer benefits to long-term employees because they require a lot from them. They hire more tutors than they need so they are stingy with hours when you want them but beg you a thousand times when they are caught short.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Be nice to your workers. They are professionals. Pay more money. $10 an hour is a joke considering that you ask for a lot of education and top skills and don't offer benefits even though you put people on your payroll so you can assign set schedules.

    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO
  7. 2 people found this helpful  

    Flexibility but going nowhere

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Online Writing Tutor
    Current Employee - Online Writing Tutor

    I have been working at Smarthinking part-time for more than 8 years

    Pros

    Easy to trade shifts and nice to be able to work anywhere

    Cons

    No pay raises (in over 8 years) and no advancement

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Raise pay after a certain number of years

  8. 3 people found this helpful  

    Not so professional to deal with as a tutor

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Online Writing Tutor
    Former Employee - Online Writing Tutor

    I worked at Smarthinking part-time for more than 3 years

    Pros

    You are an employee, not a contractor.

    Cons

    This is an update to my earlier, very positive, review. Over the course of the first year after the sale of the company to Pearson, the experience of working for Smarthinking as a tutor changed pretty radically. The company seemed pretty squared away prior to the buyout, and my first reaction was that the new structure would be good for tutors (we received a small, but unexpected, Pearson-wide bonus that first year; we received access to the Pearson intranet, which provided some good insights into the work and perhaps future opportunities with the bigger company etc.) But after about 9 months, all began to change. I'm not sure it was Pearson's fault; it could just be the organizational chaos that comes with a transition like this. But the whole thing fell apart, and didn't improve: communications became impersonal; they cracked down on scheduling, making it harder to get hours; the online scheduling tool which had worked flawlessly seemed to be on the fritz every other week, making it hard to even see your schedule, much less try to change it; they were constantly offering new services we were supposed to support, with little training or clarity (don't use the word "Smarthinking" with essays that have this marker; only do these types of reviews for these types of students; do the same thing for these students that you do for other Smarthinking students, but use different headings; hours suddenly cut when they were overbooked, a punitive (out of the blue) reduction in hours for being slightly over the 30-minute average, etc. etc. etc. The pay was minimal to begin with, but now the hassle factor became overwhelming: just not worth all this grief and chaos for the kind of miniscule paycheck this job offered. Where it had once been kind of fun, once I had been trained, to "go with the program" and work with individual student essays, suddenly it was almost a full-time job just trying to keep up with the constant barrage of announcements, about all the changes. And the new attitude of high-pressure on the time limits added a great deal of stress, for only minimal improvements in efficiency (at my hourly rate, completing 3 essays while on the clock for 1:40, rather than 3 essays in one 1:50, shift must have cost them $1.75; that $1.75 savings, in the end, cost them a well-trained, previously contented tutor).

    But ultimately, I decided to throw in the towel because the constant flux and redirection and management/IT problems came with a marked increase in rudeness and officiousness in their dealings with the tutors. I no longer liked being part of such an unpleasant organization.

    My last scheduled hours were in the fall of 2013, and it was kind of fun to see them begging people to pick up hours that term -- paying bonus pay for extra hours worked etc. and then extending that over and over again. First time in three years that I had ever seen this happen for more than a day or two. Clearly, the chickens had come home to roost, and having treated the writing tutors as expendable, they suddenly didn't have enough of them to offer the service.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    You know your business model better than I, but I can't imagine it makes either marketing or economic sense to place so little value on tutor retention.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  9. 3 people found this helpful  

    Total Joke

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at Smarthinking

    Pros

    none -- seriously, none at all.

    Cons

    You would make more money as a barista at a coffee shop than you would here, and you're expected to have master's degree level of education in a variety of subjects. I came from an online tutoring job that paid 250% more than Smarthinking, and did not have nearly the high level of expectations for the job. I would tell people how much I made here, and they'd laugh in my face and ask why I was even doing it.

    The company seems to think that working from home is the benefit they're providing in exchange for the abysmally low pay, but unlike other online tutoring jobs that set an hourly quota per week expectation and let you work at your own pace and flexibility, you are expected to sign in at an exact hour and work. Say goodbye to things coming up (especially if you're working from home as a parent!). You need to sign in and do your work at an exact moment. All you're saving by working at home with this company is gas money.

    And speaking of the rigid schedule, you MUST have a PC or a pre-2008 Mac to work here. They can't bother to use more modern software (likely more penny pinching at the expense of their employees) -- so if you have a Mac -- you'll be shlepping down to the local library to just VIEW your schedule for the week. (There goes your saved gas money!) Their tech support team is as awful as their software -- I was told to use IE for Mac to use their software -- a program that hasn't been available in over 10 years -- so while YOU'RE expected to have a very high level of knowledge, their support team certainly isn't, and it's somehow acceptable for tech support tickets to go completely unanswered for three weeks.

    Go somewhere that doesn't exploit your education, pays you what you're worth, and has a better sense of online employment best practices.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Pay your employees what they're worth!

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  10. 2 people found this helpful  

    Ridiculous expectations, ridiculous pay

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Online Writing Tutor
    Current Employee - Online Writing Tutor

    I have been working at Smarthinking part-time for less than a year

    Pros

    Nothing, other than the ability to work at home

    Cons

    If you work here, you'll be paid about the same as a burger flipper, even if you have a doctorate. You will also be expected to read and evaluate 15-page papers and write a review exactly according to their formula in under 30 minutes. You'll also be expected to do all sorts of things off the clock. The technology is archaic (i.e. 1990s). They have about 15 different websites that you have to navigate and remember passwords for, and the tutoring interface for essays wastes all sorts of time because you have to paste in and correct their form (which contains errors). And then, of course, they tell you you aren't fast enough. You're definitely better off working at Walmart or a fast food chain. This tutoring system is an insult to educators and should not be used by any self-respecting school.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Update and streamline your computer system. Find a more cooperative, less controlling approach.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Disapproves of CEO
  11.  

    Good fit for someone looking for flexible, part-time work using their skills and education.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Former Tutor; Now Working In A Different Program  in  Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Former Tutor; Now Working In A Different Program in Washington, DC

    I have been working at Smarthinking part-time for more than a year

    Pros

    Flexibility; thorough training and support; people are personable and human even though you only deal with them through phone/email. I also find that the principles for tutoring and other work are based on solid, thoughtful, current theory, and so while not as ideal as one-on-one tutoring, the quality of the writing tutor is high, and all students I've spoken to about it are generally happy with it. I feel that I'm part of providing a needed and quality service.
    I was a tutor for a year, and now am working in a different program at a higher pay; it does seem like there is some room for advancement/growth as there are various levels of supervision.

    Cons

    Pay could be better for the work/education/experience involved, esp considering that you are responsible for maintaining a computer, internet connection, etc. This should really be considered more in the rate of pay. You can get insurance as a "short-hour" employee, but the amount they take out for it barely makes it worth it. Would also be nice if some kind of program for regional/area employees getting together face-to-face was implemented.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Consider offering some incentives for work-from-home employees so that the highest standard of equipment/internet connection can be maintained. This is certainly not something that employees pay for in an office environment, and freelancers have to make A LOT more per hour to maintain their office.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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