A local entrepreneur is taking the time-honored practice of tutoring back to school with an application that streamlines the process of finding a private instructor and uses a mix of in-person and video services to make tutoring more convenient and affordable for college students.
Rob Lokken, a recent Northern Arizona University graduate with a degree in mathematics, said the idea for the business came from providing long-distance tutoring for his sister.
“She was in Phoenix struggling with a math class, and I was here,” he said. “We had phone conversations and used Skype, but it wasn’t working. I finally told her to shoot me a picture of the math problem, and I’d videotape myself walking through the steps.”
The process worked, and Lokken explored how to turn his solution into a platform to assist other college students. He went to the NAU School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems with a proposal – he would provide them with a “capstone” project for their students and they, in turn, would develop the backend of his proposed tutoring program.
Now, Tailored Tutoring Co. is a client of Moonshot at NACET, the city’s business incubator/accelerator and working to grow this bootstrap startup into a larger enterprise.
“Rob and his team are bringing tutoring into the modern age by harnessing the power of an application to make it easier and more affordable for college students to get the help they need,” said Scott Hathcock, the president/CEO of Moonshot at NACET.
Tailored Tutoring’s app allows students to sign up for in-person tutoring or video help with a particular problem or project. General instruction for a class cost $25 an hour (about half of the average cost for high-quality tutoring, Lokken says) or $1 per minute of video help. One of the company’s tutors then “claims” the student through the platform and sets up a tutoring session or creates the video using tools provided by Tailored Tutoring.
The company currently offers to tutor in topics ranging from math, science and engineering to languages, philosophy and religion. Typically, videos are about five to 10 minutes long, but an extensive project or program can run half an hour.
One of the additional benefits of the video product, Lokken said, is that the student keeps the video, which will help when midterms and finals come around. “Within our platform, students have their own page that includes all the videos they’ve purchased, so they are easily accessible when they have to review for exams,” he said.
The company did a soft launch of the services last year and had about 20 students. It is gearing up for the fall semester at NAU and is in discussions to offer similar services at Coconino Community College.
“NAU is our test market,” he said, “but the goal is to keep expanding. Each time we go to a new campus, we’ll get the curriculum, get ‘locally sourced’ tutors who are familiar with the specific classes on that campus and then launch.”
Additionally, Lokken is developing a volunteer program to bring tutoring to lower-income K-12 students in the community. All Tailored Tutoring contractors are asked to donate an hour a month to pro bono tutoring. In Flagstaff, the company is working with local officials and Flagstaff STEM City, a Flagstaff-based STEM focused non-profit to secure grants and donations to finance more extensive education of younger students.
“The idea is to combine grant funding together with their in-kind donation of tutoring time to provide out of school time tutoring at a K-5 school for an entire school year,” said STEM City’s Executive Director Brigid Dineen. “Tailored Tutoring and STEM City would partner with a school; the school would identify the students in need of tutoring and then Tailored Tutoring would work with the school and student to deliver the tutoring.”
The effort is in the initial phases, Dineen said, but she is optimistic about its prospects. FBN
By Cindy May, FBN
Those interested in sponsoring a student with a tax-deductible donation can reach out to Tailored Tutoring Co. at firstname.lastname@example.org or Flagstaff STEM City at email@example.com.
To learn more about Tailored Tutoring, visit tailoredtutoringco.com.