Last October, UC Riverside students Sultan Khan and Haasith Sanka took first place at HackingEDU with their service-sharing app, “Scholarly.” The app connects users to available tutors in the area and allows them to set meeting times and locations at convenient times and locations. The tutors are just regular people who are knowledgeable enough to help others in certain subjects. At the moment, the “Scholarly” community is mostly composed of UC Riverside students, but Khan and Sanka hope to expand its audience to other grade levels.
Personally, I find this system extremely useful for college students in particular. It’s a good alternative to attending office hours if one is unable to attend them. Though there is a cost to on-demand service, it does yield benefits for both the user and the tutor.
Similar to other service-sharing applications like Lyft and Uber, “Scholarly” offers a service at less cost and more convenience than its conventional alternatives. Since tutors are hired on a need-to-learn basis, there’s no need to pay a monthly tuition fee. This requires less commitment and cost than signing up at a tutoring center or hiring a private tutor. The user ends up saving more money while still receiving the help that they need. In fact, since each tutor possesses a specific expertise, the user may be able to receive more specialized instruction.
Becoming a tutor through this application may also be a convenient way to make money as a college student. It doesn’t require any acquisition of new skills, and the hours are flexible. Especially since tutors operate as free agents, they have complete autonomy over their hours and which clients to take. The application also streamlines the process of connecting with a client so it’s simpler and quicker to get hired. Additionally, it appears that the rates are higher than the minimum wage, so it may be more lucrative and less strenuous than serving tables.
Though it may be tempting to rely on the app whenever one is faced with a difficult question, there is a free, albeit old-fashioned way to receive supplemental instruction: office hours. Understandably, it’s intimidating to personally approach professors especially when the age difference and level of expertise are so large, but it’s important to remember that holding these hours is part of their job. The majority of the classes they teach are large, and it’s inevitable that certain concepts get lost in large lecture halls. However, professors still possess a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
Besides professors, their teaching assistants can also be helpful. Since a majority of them are graduate students, the age difference is less divisive and they can be easier to approach.
Granted, sometimes circumstances make office hours inaccessible and emails aren’t always the best way to communicate important information. However, coordinating with the professor or TA and making an appointment to meet can remedy scheduling conflicts.
These on-campus resources take a little bit more hard work than a tap of a button to utilize, but they cost less and offer information more specialized to the particular course.
“Scholarly” is definitely a valuable resource for many students, however it should not be viewed as the only way to ask for help. There are already various resources on our own campus that are meant to help us succeed in our studies — “Scholarly” should be used after seeking the help of professors and teacher assistants.