Study Edge: Bringing tutoring out of the shadows

Leading market research company, Technavio recently published a report forecasting the global online tutoring market to grow at an annual rate of 13.68% through 2021. But why? Are today’s students struggling more in their studies? Maybe not.

Tutoring, historically a method to help struggling students more readily grasp classroom concepts to bring them up to speed with the rest of the class, has changed in its scope in the past decade. What was once often kept a secret or considered to be embarrassing, today is much more commonplace.

“Traditional tutoring has this perception of one-on-one instruction that is expensive and typically for the struggling student,” said Ethan Fieldman, cofounder of Gainesville based Study Edge.

 “Today we are finding huge demand from the student that simply wants to do well, to more fully understand their subject, and who wants an A instead of a B in order to get into the right grad school or medical school.”

Originally from Winter Park, Fieldman moved to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida where he graduated in 2003. After majoring in finance and minoring in economics, the National Merit Scholar never left.

It was while attending the university that Fieldman first found himself helping fellow classmates with their studies. Eventually, he began working with the UF Athletic Association to tutor student athletes.  

“I was helping friends in the library and others started to join in. To earn money, I started charging for tutoring and eventually I was tutoring in groups,” he added.

Tutoring for a larger group enabled Fieldman to maximize his hourly rate and at the same time charge less per person to receive help.

 “Instead of making thirty dollars an hour helping one person,” said Fieldman, “I was able to make a few hundred and charge less per person, making it easier for more people to afford the cost of tutoring.”

That’s when he realized the true need for low-cost, high-quality tutors.

And it’s that straightforward concept that has led Fieldman to launch a three-pronged approach to the tutoring market, including Study Edge, Tutor Matching Service, and Algebra Nation.

With Study Edge, monthly subscribers have access to live review sessions of “historically difficult” courses in more than 30 individual subjects including physics, economics, accounting, and chemistry. Today, more than 7,000 UF undergraduate students are subscribing to their services. Offering chapter review sessions and exam review sessions, as well as study hours all led by “study experts,” Study Edge has helped more than 60,000 UF students with their coursework.

 Located across the street from campus on NW 1st Avenue, students can attend sessions at various campus locations as well as from their own dorm rooms and homes. Through iPhone, Android, and web apps developed by Study Edge, subscribers can access recorded sessions whenever it fits their schedule. Fieldman estimates that approximately 15-20 hours of video content is produced each day and made available online.

But demand for high-quality tutors certainly is not unique to the University of Florida.

Through Tutor Matching Service (TMS), students nationwide are connected with tutors in their home or university towns for one-on-one and online instruction. Today, TMS partners with more than 150 institutions such as the University of Illinois, Syracuse University, Florida, Arizona, Purdue, Clemson, and Tulane for personal instruction of students in middle school through adulthood.

And in yet another endeavor, in 2013 Study Edge partnered with the UF College of Education in the development of Algebra Nation. What originally began as a project to address the decline in math scores for Florida students has evolved into an interactive, online resource that is free of charge to users, as it is funded completely by the Florida legislature.

 Algebra Nation provides 24-hour access to instructional videos, workbooks, collaborative learning tools, and adaptive assessments and support for algebra as well as geometry.

“This semester alone, Algebra Nation is helping over 500,000 students in math,” said Fieldman, as what originally started in Florida has spread to adoption by state legislatures in Mississippi, Michigan, South Carolina, and Alabama.

And accessing that assistance online has become crucial in meeting the needs of the student, wherever they are and whenever it is needed.

“In the past three years, we have never had an hour go by that we weren’t delivering a video for a student,” said Fieldman, adding, “on Thanksgiving Day at three am we have had a video accessed.”

Fieldman’s group currently consists of 25 full-time and over 100 part-time employees with the mission of “bringing tutoring out of the shadows,” explained the entrepreneur.

He elaborated, “We plan to continue expanding online as much as possible on the university level as well as bringing Algebra Nation to more schools in more states across the country. We have a young staff and simply want to enjoy what we are doing.”

By Kathryn Pizzurro

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