StudyRoom allows university students to join online study groups and book tutors – TechCrunch
The StudyRoom company, which publicly launched on the TechCrunch Disrupt scene this afternoon, aims to bring student study groups and one-to-one lessons online and make them more social. The company has already tested its program at six universities, as of this spring, and now claims to reach 40,000 students across the United States who use it as a platform for peer-to-peer social learning.
Explains co-founder and CEO Emerson Malca, the idea of ââa student-led online study platform is something he was inspired to build, having been a tutor himself. He said the experience had helped him realize that sometimes the best way to learn things is to teach others.
One incident really made Malca think about how widespread the problem was still today, when a friend came to ask for help with his physics homework. He asked her why she hadn’t just asked someone in her class, and she said she only had two phone numbers for her classmates. One didn’t answer, she told him, and the other didn’t know how to solve the problem.
âWe realized that nothing had changed at all since we were in college,â says Malca, describing the reaction of him and his co-founder Pindi Albert to the news. âFor us, it was shocking that the most social and connected generation was never able to connect with the people they see every day in the classroom,â he says.
How it works
With StudyRoom, that changes. The online portal allows students to register and locate their class page in their supported school. Here, students share their lecture notes, ask questions about homework, share resources, create collaborative study guides, form study groups, and ask for help.
Meanwhile, the school page, which looks like a Facebook news feed of all the activities of that particular college or university, includes a wider range of content, including articles on events, social activities. , students asking questions about various teachers, etc.
What sets StudyRoom apart from other online learning platforms designed for the classroom is that it is 100% student-led. âWe don’t want to become another lame BlackBoard selling to universities,â says Malca. âOne of our biggest differentiators is that we create a product that students really love. He says some teachers have joined as well – they’re allowed – but they’re usually the “cool” teachers.
As you might expect, not all faculty are thrilled with StudyRoom, which also allows students to access resources that students from previous semesters have shared on the platform. One could argue that there is a fine line between getting help and actively cheating, which StudyRoom might face.
âBack when we were creating the app, [some professors] wanted to disable certain features, have more control and moderate students. They wanted all of these options – to have participation, all that sort of thing – they wanted to create a product for them, âsays Malca. “But we really wanted to build one that was for the students.”
He says a flagging feature allows students to report other people who are misbehaving, including if they’ve started sharing responses in a way that would be considered cheating. However, StudyRoom does not offer any âmoderatorâ role and is entirely dependent on this self-control.
Still, Malca says if anything is reported and the company finds it to be a “serious cheating” student, they’ll delete the post.
But Malca isn’t hanging on to the idea that the potential for cheating in StudyRoom should be a big concern. âHomework is just a way for students to practice,â he says, saying teachers shouldn’t emphasize homework anyway as a way to assess a student’s mastery of a subject. student. And the real purpose of the service is to enable students to learn from each other. It even has an anonymous feature that allows students to ask questions that they would be too embarrassed to admit not to understand, or too timid to ask during class. And it allows students to learn by helping them better understand the material – not all that different from how an âofflineâ study group would work.
Today, the company is launching its service beyond the original six universities and making itself available to 100 schools across the United States just in time for the fall semester. It will also soon be activating a new feature, which also happens to be its business model: online tutoring. For students who need personalized help, StudyRoom will offer âpeer mentorsâ who will receive a flat rate ($ 24 / hour) to mentor other students. (StudyRoom will take a small portion of these transactions.)
These mentors can be any other student on the platform, but will be able to build their reputation by posting resources and earning “reputation points” through their work. Only those with a certain number of points will be qualified to be a peer mentor, which functions as a monitoring mechanism.
This system will be ready halfway through, says Malca.
StudyRoom, based in Menlo Park, is made up of a team of five people and is backed by angel funding of $ 375,000.
Questions and answers from the judges
Judges for this round include: Susan Lyne, President, BBG Ventures; Tony Conrad, founding partner, True Ventures; Sarah Leary, co-founder of Nextdoor; David Prager, Founding Partner, The Assembly. Q&A paraphrased for brevity.
Leary: Don’t you need to partner with universities to make this work?
A: Absolutely not, we are doing a student-led / peer-to-peer model.
Leary: How do you check that the students are in the classes?
A: We ask students for their .edu email address, so that we can verify that they are attending school.
Conrad: But don’t you want to work with universities after all?
A: We have spoken to many universities. Getting them to adopt a platform like this is difficult. Our approach is to take charge of the whole school first, then go back to college and show them everything we do. Plans to share data with them around social learning.
Lyne: During the beta, you had 40,000 studentsâ¦ feedback from them as to whether they did better than their peers?
A: We spoke to hundreds of them, and still found that some people needed extra help. This is why we apply the peer mentor model.
Conrad: How did you get 40,000 students enrolled?
A: I did a big social media marketing stunt. We started talking to students on Facebook and Twitter; The students think it’s great and want to help; We also do field work, and we work with fraternities / sororities
Prager: It’s absolutely awesomeâ¦ I would have signed up if it was useful when I was in school. I have never seen anything like it. My only questionâ¦ is the only income right now from the student mentor model?
A: Yes, that will be the heart of our business.
Lyne: If you’re successful, at some point the students graduate – do you think about what you can do with that population in the future?
A: For graduates, if they are having difficulty finding a job, they can still become peer mentors for others.