Tutoring App Offers Students Academic Help on the Spot

Quickteach and Quickhelp, developed by two Harvard students, are changing the way tutors and students connect.
Image via iTunes

Image via iTunes

Students with last-minute questions about homework, or who are running into problems studying for a final exam, can now get help solving their academic quandaries using an app that instantly connects them with qualified tutors nearby.

Mazen Elfakhani, cofounder of the Quickteach and Quickhelp apps, said he’s trying to level the playing field for both students and instructors by eliminating the burdensome process and high costs of securing an appointment to meet for a study session that typically needs to be done through a larger company.

“It’s hard for tutors and students to get connected. It’s a laborious process,” said Elfakhani, a doctoral student at Harvard’s department of sociology. “It’s the standard problem of people who would like to exchange services, but there’s no good platforms to do it. It’s possible to find tutors online, but overall, it takes a lot of time, registration, and it’s a really slow thing. People express a lot of frustration about the current platforms.”

That’s where Quickteach and Quickhelp come into play.

For students, all they have to do is pull up Quickhelp on their smartphone, and real-time information will tell them if a tutor with skills about a specific subject matter—whether it be math, science, or English—is available to meet and go over material.

“This makes it really easy to connect,” said Elfakhani.

On the other end, tutors use the Quickteach app to sign in and out of sessions, so students in need of assistance can see their availability on the spot.

“If you are in Starbucks and you want to find a student, you can find one within a minute of your location,” said Elfakhani, adding that users can chat with and rate tutors to offer others feedback.

The apps, which were developed and engineered by cofounder Hikari Senju, an undergrad at Harvard College, have successfully matched up students looking for some extra guidance at Boston University, MIT, and Harvard. So far, hundreds of students have signed up to use the Quickhelp app, while 100 tutors, each one subjected to a qualifications and background check, have tapped into Quickteach to offer academic assistance.

“Our incentive is to make sure the tutors we have are as great as possible, so we have a number of stringent mechanisms in place to make sure that happens,” said Senju. “For example, we are currently only taking graduate students from the schools to be tutors.”

Senju said the pair first began working on the apps during a hackathon in October. Since then, they have dedicated most of their free time to developing the project to build it out. Already, the hard work has paid off.

“It’s growing everyday,” said Senju. “It’s crazy. We are doing very little marketing on our own. Basically, the growth has been crazy through word of mouth.”

Besides connecting tutors and students plagued by study woes, Elfakhani said the aim of Quickteach and Quickhelp is to cut the costs associated with hiring a professional through a company.

He said based on his own research, the typical price to connect with a tutor is Boston is around $55. A large portion of that cost goes directly to the company offering the tutor’s services, putting both students and tutors at a financial disadvantage.

“What that really means is that the tutor is willing to supply their services at $30 an hour, but the student still pays $55, and that’s pretty big gap,” he said.

Elfakhani and Senju hope that connecting people directly through the apps will close that gap, and allow people with lower incomes the chance to gain access to more educational opportunities.

“There’s a social mission here: we want to lower tutoring prices across the board, and so, ultimately our goal is to provide high quality tutors to anyone who wants them. That’s why we started this project,” said Senju.

Senju and Elfakhani plan to expand the services to other colleges in the area, and eventually want to connect with high schools interested in their project.


Steve Annear Steve Annear, Digital Writer at Boston Magazine sannear@bostonmagazine.com