Below is our recent interview with Peter Friedman, CEO of Prestans Online Academy:
Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Prestans Online Academy?
A: In the past 15 years there has been a steady rise in the number of international students attending every level of American school – from middle school all the way through graduate school. The total number of international students in the US has surpassed one million students each year for the past three years. Educational consulting focuses primarily on helping international students gain acceptance to American schools. The emphasis – almost the sole emphasis – is on “getting into a school,” not on preparing a student to succeed when he or she gets to that school.
Prestans Online Academy provides a highly customizable online learning experience for international students who are seeking to attend an American school. Our tutoring programs are all synchronous one-on-one (one tutor, one student) sessions. We assess students on both their English language ability and their aptitude for the basic “soft skills” (for example, literary analysis, reading comprehension, discussion skills, and writing skills) that are valued in American schools but not necessarily as emphasized in different countries. Once we have our assessment, we offer a personalized, targeted plan for improvement for each student who comes through Prestans Online Academy.
Q: Who are your teachers and what makes them great?
A: A strong network of teachers is the single most important part of Prestans Online Academy. The quality of our teachers is how we differentiate ourselves in the market; to that end, we spend considerable time and effort identifying high level teachers and providing support to them. We use these principle criteria when evaluating new potential tutors:
1.) Are these professional classroom teachers? Many tutoring companies hire anyone has some working knowledge of the subject matter. We only hire tutors who have direct experience in the classrooms at some of the most reputable schools in the world. Real teaching is not something “anyone can do” – we hire professional, dedicated career teachers.
2.) Are they great communicators who bring energy to the tutoring sessions? Communication and charisma are important qualities for any teacher, but especially those in an online setting where it can be more challenging to engage students.
3.) Is this teacher appropriate for this student?
Our students come to us at all stages in their educational journey and English language acquisition. Our teachers bring a wealth of knowledge and experience working with students of different levels. So not only is it important for us to recruit the best possible teachers to our platform, but it is equally important to match the right teacher with the right student.
Q: What are the benefits of online learning compared to traditional learning?
A: We feel that the primary benefit of online learning is our ability to bring amazing teachers into the living rooms of students from around the world. Increasingly more students are learning online in some capacity every year; we aim to connect these students to first-rate teachers. There has been a lot of conversation about how AI and tech advances are going to change education. I think a lot of tech companies are trying to automate some process or make something obsolete, but at Prestans, we know that you cannot automate a student-teacher relationship. So we are seeking to marry technological advances with the teacher-student connection. We find and identify high quality teachers, give them access to all the tools that the top education videoconference platforms provide (screen share, remote screen access, session recording), and make these teachers accessible to students from around the world.
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Q: What types of courses are available to choose from?
A: Our English Foundations program is our flagship program. The first meeting between a Prestans teacher and a new student consists of a detailed assessment of the student’s reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. Our teachers can then craft a course plan to help students tangibly improve in all critical areas. For some students, we focus on foundational skills in grammar, pronunciation, verb tense, vocabulary use, and basic reading and listening comprehension. For more advanced students, the course focus shifts to more nuanced skills of self-expression, literary analysis, analytical writing, and critical thinking.
In addition to our English Foundations program, we also offer history and STEM courses. International students often come to the US with no working knowledge of American History, so we work with many students on a core Introduction to US History course. We also feature a network of professional STEM teachers and offer everything from algebra to AP Calculus. Students may come to us with a working knowledge of core subjects, but as the standards are often different at American schools, we work to bring students up to speed.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: We are going to continue to position ourselves as the preeminent platform for online academic enrichment programs to students around the world. We will seek to grow our teacher base and provide more opportunities for student access to the world’s best teachers.