A new Montreal-based app is modernizing traditional tutoring
Julien Nolin, Michael Hasenfratz, and Emmanuel Cohen all agree that, oftentimes, the best and most convenient help for your homework comes from a quick chat, or a few messages back and forth with friends.
This was the vision that Nolin, 28, Hasenfratz, 29, and Cohen, 29, had when they created the mobile tutoring app, Helpr.
Taking into consideration today’s digital world, and extensive research they’ve conducted, the three founders, two of which are Concordia graduates, set out to create a modernized tutoring experience that reflected what they believed students actually needed and wanted. They came up with the idea for Helpr—an app that lets you be both a tutor and a student, depending on your strengths and weaknesses in school.
To register for the app, the user must prove their student status before choosing their school from the five schools available. The app launched at Concordia on Monday, Sept. 19. From there, if a student wants to be a “helpr” for a class, they must upload a screenshot of their school transcript, or take a picture of it with the app. A student generally has to have received an A- in the course they want to be a tutor for.
Students using the app have a few options of tutoring help to choose from: once they have found a “helpr” by searching the name or code for their course, students can either start a private chat with the “helpr” or, if they prefer, they can send out an invitation to do a video chat. If the “helpr” accepts the request from the app, the tutoring video session begins.
The last tutoring help option on the app is on the Q&A section. This part of the app features a “newsfeed” similar to that of Facebook, where students post questions about certain classes and other students can answer. Students can “vote” for the best answer, and the one with the most votes becomes the “best” answer— a concept similar to Yahoo Answers. “So it’s kind of like crowd-sourcing knowledge within your school,” said Hasenfratz. While the “best” answers are voted for by students, and not necessarily validated, it works as a guidance tool, to get fellow students on the right track.
Another option the app offers is the one that most closely resembles a traditional tutoring session. The “live” session is when a “helpr” meets in-person with a student. To set up a meeting, either the “helpr” or the student chooses a time, date and public location through the app, and the other must approve it. Upon meeting, the “helpr” starts the session in the app and the student must then approve it. The same goes for when the session ends. This way, no one gets overcharged or underpaid. The video sessions and the live sessions are the only two features of the app that require payment. The base rate for a session is $2.50, and then 35 cents per minute.
During the summer of 2015, the three co-founders surveyed over 400 McGill students as part of their research. Before engineering the app, they wanted to be sure their vision matched the needs and vision of the students.
“We built it originally in the way we thought students were going to use it,” said Hasenfratz. “Then we watched how people were actually using it at McGill, and we re-engineered the app to be customized for the way people actually want it.” The first version of the app only included the option of in-person sessions, but the Helpr team changed that based on McGill students requesting more kinds of in-app options.
Helpr had its beta launch at McGill in January 2016, to test the grounds and see how students reacted and adapted to the app.
The app is now available at five universities— Concordia, McGill, Université de Montréal, UQAM and Université de Laval. The app officially launched at Concordia on Monday, Sept. 19.
Nolin stressed the fact that this kind of tutoring service permits students to help other students not only with school, but financially as well. “Instead of paying a tutor, why not pay another student and let another student benefit from it?” Nolin and Hasenfratz said they felt this type of resource was lacking when they were students.
“When I was a student, I used to have to travel for an hour to go work in a bar to get paid twelve bucks an hour,” said Nolin. “Had I known this kind of platform was available, I could have been in the library waiting for other students who need help [with school], or walking up to students to help them.”
For now the Helpr team is a team of six, consisting of Nolin, Hasenfratz, Cohen, as well as three developers—an android developer, a web developer and a design developer, in charge for the app’s design and layout.
Hasenfratz said the app gives personalized help to students by peers from the same field of study. “A lot of the questions teachers get are repeated over and over by different students who don’t know they’re asking the same questions,” said Hasenfratz. “This [app] consolidates everything into one place, so that before students post that question, they can easily just see what questions other people are posting about that course.”
With Helpr Concordia now officially launched, Helpr is actively recruiting students to join the team by becoming “helprs” or brand ambassadors.