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Smarthinking Reviews

Updated August 14, 2017
51 reviews

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Christa Ehmann Powers, Ph.D
11 Ratings

51 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • It might also appeal to anyone who needs, wants, or enjoys the freedom to work from home or anywhere with an Internet connection (in 16 reviews)

  • Amazing work life balance, flexible hours, ability to travel, fantastic benefits, involved upper management (in 9 reviews)

Cons
  • You have 30 minutes to respond to each essay (in 22 reviews)

  • Low pay for the level of education and quality of work involved (in 7 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (1)

    "Ok but not great"

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

    I have been working at Smarthinking part-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Legitimate work from home.
    It's enjoyable to help students improve their writing, and you can get cover a wide variety of topics on any given shift.
    Flexible hours. I don't do the live tutoring option, which requires set hours, but for the regular essay tutoring, once you set your schedule for the semester of a certain number of hours per day, you can take those hours any time during the day you like - you just log on, get an essay from the queue, and get to work.
    All my interactions with fellow staff/leads/etc. have been professional and courteous.

    Cons

    Pretty isolated - there is almost no contact with other employees. I'm part of a team of tutors, but there is absolutely no interaction expected or required among the tutors, and contact with the team lead is limited (one or two quality checks each semester, forwarding compliments from students about your writeups, the occasional note or change about the system/process/rubric).
    Essay turnaround time expectations can be frustrating - e.g. I can easily average 30 min. turnarounds with 3-5 page high school/college analysis or persuasion essays, but covering 12 page nursing papers or random sections from the middle of dissertation chapters is a different story (hard to quickly give advice on a dissertation's main idea based on 8 pages from the middle of chapter 2!). This means it's a constant battle to try to make up time on the "easy" ones to offset going way long on the challenging ones, and it can be very frustrating to get a string of long ones in a row (and you have no idea what's coming until you select the next essay - imagine playing tetris but without the preview pane).
    Low pay for the level of education and quality of work involved.


  2. "No Adjunct Heaven"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    Current Employee - Writing Tutor
    Current Employee - Writing Tutor
    Doesn't Recommend

    I have been working at Smarthinking part-time

    Pros

    .Fun and rewarding job for educated, book-loving types
    . Respectful managers with polished communication skills
    . Students probably learn more nuts-and-bolts information here than in the classroom.
    .Positive attitudes and enthusiasm for teaching and learning comprise the overall company tone.

    Cons

    The unrealistic, 30- minute essay review time will easily lead to wage theft. For years, I altered my review times to meet the stated requirements. Another mainly live academic coaching( involving occasional proofreading) job I do pays 20 minutes per draft page and several more dollars an hour. Decent pay makes workers feel more valued and improves morale. Plus, it ensures well-educated people aren't struggling so much financially.

    Advice to Management

    Ensure Lead Tutors know how to communicate respectfully and that clear writing skills are accompanied by thoughtful reading skills. Too many Leads take glee in their gate-keeping functions. Training methods at Smarthinking leave much to be desired and could benefit from more group activities.Stop promoting mediocre and unimaginative types who pride themselves mainly on enforcing sometimes questionable Smarthinking Handbook methods. It takes more effort and intelligence to actually write the mark-ups than it does to evaluate them, so possibly stop paying a small group of full-time Leads so much and/ or offer more $$ and benefits to the loyal rank-and-file. Many tutors are willing to work more hours than Pearson's 19-hour, part-time rule allows, yet the company would rather hire hundreds of poorly treated workers than fewer more equitably treated ones.

  3. "Bad for students, Bad for tutors"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Online Writing Tutor
    Former Employee - Online Writing Tutor
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Smarthinking part-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    It's a flexible and convenient way to make some pocket change online.

    Cons

    They pay $10/hr to people with an undergraduate degree, $11/hr to people with a graduate degree, and $12/hr to people with a doctorate. That's ridiculously low pay. I started working at Smarthinking with 2 years of tutoring experience under my belt, but my experience wasn't factored into my pay. I lived in New York City at the time, making $10/hr.

    They only give part time tutors a max of 19 hours/week, but usually they give you less.

    You have 30 minutes to respond to each essay. This includes reading the essay, embedding comments, and writing 2 pages of responses to the essay in order to help the student understand recurring issues. Tutors get warnings if their average time is over the 30-minute limit. Smarthinking encourages the use of templates to save time while simultaneously sending critical remarks when feedback isn't personal enough.

    I received feedback maybe once or twice a semester, with no interaction with peers or anyone the rest of the time. They don't send you feedback from students unless it's positive, which never allowed me to actually know what my students needed in their sessions. It's an isolating work environment, and tutors are one stop along a conveyor belt. It's bad for the students and bad for the tutors.

    Advice to Management

    Pay your tutors what they're worth, and pay according to living wage standards in their respective cities. Give feedback more often. Arrange meetings and trainings among tutors so that there can be a sense of community.


  4. Helpful (1)

    "Micromanagement Heaven"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Current Employee - Writing Tutor
    Current Employee - Writing Tutor
    Doesn't Recommend

    I have been working at Smarthinking part-time

    Pros

    Flexible schedule, but they limit weekly hours. They SAY you can work up to 19, but you don't usually get that many.
    Employment status, so you get to keep a little bit more of your paycheck.
    Generally reliable work schedule, although in the past year, they've taken to ordering tutors to drop their hours when the essay queue is slow.

    Cons

    Extreme micromanagement. Quality checks are frequent, and you can be at the mercy of an individual lead's quirks. I've gotten conflicting advice from one lead to another. The time you spend on each essay is also monitored automatically, and if you don't keep it to an average of 30 minutes, they get nasty very quickly.
    A bazillion rules to remember, and they keep changing. Whenever you get an email that says "We're excited to introduce ...," you know you're in trouble.
    Dehumanizing corporate atmosphere. They want robots that follow their rules, including the arbitrary ones, and don't add any creativity or intelligence to their tutoring.

    Advice to Management

    There's no point. They simply don't care.


  5. Helpful (1)

    "Need for Further Improvement of the Tutor's Work Experience"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Online Writing Tutor
    Current Employee - Online Writing Tutor
    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Smarthinking part-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Over the 7 years I have been working with Smarthinking I have seen some improvements. I have access to a 401k with a matching contribution, there is Paid Time off now, and I have noticed lately that I get assigned to only one lead tutor for the year instead of constantly getting switched to new ones every semester. I am better informed of changes that occur and am given proper materials to review for my work. I am notified of opportunities for Live Whiteboard session training and other new developments and training for them that I may try within the service. For the last two years my leads have shared positive feedback from customers I have worked with on their experiences with my reviews and whiteboard sessions. It has been encouraging to know that, despite the hell that is the job at times, I have a good impact on the end user.

    Cons

    The biggest con of working here has always been the 30 minute review time limit for essays. Too much is expected for a 30 minute review. The service expects such personalized responses for each essay, seemingly regardless of its length. It also harps on you if your productivity isn't up to their standards, cutting your hours as punishment. Then you get chastised in your reviews from your lead if you rely too much on templates so as to meet the time limit and up your productivity. It can feel like a no-win situation, which is incredibly stressful. I was also saddened to see they got rid of their handbook for specifically ESL writers. I had thought it was a good resource for those students to reference on their own time even if it wasn't always referenced in their particular essay reviews. Due to fixation on productivity, there really isn't enough time provided for proper professional development when it is given to you from a lead. I've had to do some of it on my own time, like further studying and reflecting. I have also been dismayed that over time the amount of hours a tutor can receive has drifted lower and lower from when I started, where a person could work up to but not 40 hours, to now when the maximum is 19 hours a week. There has also been no pay raises at all in the 7 years I have worked here.

    Advice to Management

    Due to the low wage ($10 to $12 an hour) of this position coupled with the low amount of hours offered, I would believe the vast majority of your tutors are working 1 to 2 other jobs to make ends meet, not counting dealing with children, older parents, etc. As such, you need to keep this in mind when thinking of the responsibilities and standards you are holding them to. If you want a good deal of work done and of a specific quality you may need to offer more hours, more pay, or cut down on your expectations. Also, your company isn't doing much to help tutors really feel any investment or engagement with their work or with you. There is no community like there used to be when I first joined. I often feel like a cog that is being manipulated to fit quotas and to do nothing more than make you money at my expense. This feeling of disenfranchisement makes it more difficult to deal with the monotony of the work, the bad reviews from the lead tutors, and the lack of hours and low pay. If you want to have a more stable tutor pool and better work done, then you need to treat your tutors as people who are vital to your company and the work it does instead of faceless entities that need to be shaped, coerced, or simply discarded.


  6. "Tutor"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Smarthinking part-time

    Pros

    It's wonderful to be able to work with writers from middle school through PhD programs.

    Cons

    The pay is awful and they are extremely strict about scheduling so the relative advantage of working from home is cancelled out.

    Advice to Management

    Pearson, the soulless behemoth that owns Smarthinking, needs to either pay better or allow for better flexibility.


  7. Helpful (1)

    "So far, so good"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Part-time Estructor in San Diego, TX
    Current Employee - Part-time Estructor in San Diego, TX
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Smarthinking part-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Flexible hours, work from home

    Cons

    The rules and protocols seem very "corporate," if you know what I'm saying. The 30-minute limit for assessment can be stressful at times.

    Advice to Management

    After reading the other comments, I think management likely started treating people better. I've had good experiences with them so far. They've been professional with me, so I have no complaints. I also don't think it's up to the management to change payment, etc. That's probably a company-level thing. That being said, higher pay for higher credentials would be welcomed.

  8. Helpful (1)

    "Flexible Hours and Location with Rigorous Expectations for Unimpressive Pay"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    Pros

    The Smarthinking writer tutor position offers a flexible schedule, and it could serve as a way for new tutors or teachers to gain experience. It might also appeal to anyone who needs, wants, or enjoys the freedom to work from home or anywhere with an Internet connection.

    Cons

    As others have said, the requirements for comments on students' writing are very formulaic, and the expected time frame for completion of each session does not seem to be long enough for tutors to give the extensive, personalized feedback students deserve. In addition, the pay is relatively low for the educational background and speed required.


  9. Helpful (3)

    "Not worth the aggravation"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Smarthinking part-time

    Pros

    Flexible hours. Ability to help students with writing.

    Cons

    Pearson's organization and computerized learning systems require far too many hoops to jump through. They have an assembly line mentality for churning out reviews of student work based on a "formula" that honestly requires a checklist to maintain: font sizes, x number of this/x number of that, don't give more than one issue in each area, very little time even for lengthy or complex work (30 minutes per essay) and on and on. The nitpicking is ceaseless and they want an awful lot from PhD and master's level people for $11 an hour. If you crave actual interaction with humans, this job is NOT for you. There is a total disconnect from the company, also, and very little interaction from anyone until they rate your work and nitpick things that in the real world of teaching writing don't matter. Find a better opportunity if you can.

    Advice to Management

    Stop majoring in the minors. Stop emphasizing meaningless formulas and let teachers assess and teach students per guidelines that make sense, but don't constrict the ability to teach. Increase the pay and include more interaction with tutors that includes positive feedback, not just criticism of petty things that have no bearing on the quality of teaching.


  10. Helpful (2)

    "Writing Tutor Position"

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

    Pros

    I really loved working as a tutor, however, I had to leave due my own need for full-time work.

    What this tutoring position is like:

    This is a great at-home position with a terrific company. It allows for a flexible schedule in your day to complete your essay reviews and pay is pretty good for at home, however, if you are expecting college-level pay per hour it does not measure up to that pay scale. Typically, you are reviewing academic essays, resumes, cover letters, technical documents, and creative writing submissions from students, which is low on the stress level end of things. This position is also great for entrepreneurial or independent types who do not need a lot of supervision and can still get the job done.

    Cons

    - Pay per hour for BA, MA, and PhD degrees is substantially low (ranging from $10-12/hr)..possible trade off for low stress and no commute, however, it is incredibly low for college graduates, especially those with graduate level degrees.
    - There are no pay raises.
    - Hours are not guaranteed. You may get all your hours in or they may ask you to drop hours because the work is slow. Further, when work is super busy they will ask for additional hours and you might get upwards of 30-40 hours in a week.
    - Seasonal work based on the academic calendar: Calendar runs September through December, Mid-January through Mid-May, and then a choice of early or late summer.
    - Only allowed 30 minutes to review academic submission no matter the length. So, if an essay is 10 pages or more, you not only have to read as much as you can, but you also have evaluate it and review it effectively in 30 minutes. This is not an easy task to do. If you go over the 30 minutes, Smarthinking will let you know via email if your times are not up to snuff and remind you to get it down to thirty minutes. In person tutoring for writing takes a minimum of an hour.
    - If you use a template-type review, you will be called on it. They want each review to be original, however, templates are beneficial in keeping to the 30 minute allotment.
    - If you need a lot of supervision and coddling to do your job, this is not the job for you.

    Advice to Management

    1. Change the review time to 45 minutes per submission. This will allow reviewers to give high quality reviews and not feel like they must rush through them.
    2. Allow lengthy submission (10 or more pages) to be automatically considered one hour reviews.
    3. Give pay raises to your tutors every year. People who are dedicated to working for you should be rewarded, especially considering they need a minimum of a BA degree to tutor.
    4. Open up full-time tutor positions to those who have faithfully tutored two years or more. What a great way to guarantee a high quality work ethic and consistent team members! I would have definitely stayed a tutor had I been able to work full-time for Smarthinking. I loved this job.
    5. Add in some retirement or insurance benefits to the pay.


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