StudyLoft.com: Online homework help
You?re paying Carnegie Mellon $40,000 a year for high-quality education. If you?re as yet unsatisfied with the results, there?s a new place to exchange money for knowledge: www.studyloft.com.
Starting at 30 cents per minute, StudyLoft will pair you up with a tutor for an enhanced chat session, replete with virtual chalkboard. But don?t get too excited just yet; StudyLoft?s tutors have only been at the job a few months, and The Tartan?s initial test run showed they can only handle introductory-level questions.
StudyLoft is the creation of Bikram Roy, an entrepreneur who has ?always been keeping an eye out for successful business opportunities.? Roy recalled having to ?run around campus looking for help and staying up all night? doing homework. He realized that college students might be willing to pay for tutoring that caters specifically to their immediate needs.
College students are not looking for long-winded lectures on general subject matter. They want specific answers to homework problems, usually the night before they are due. Fortunately, this is exactly where StudyLoft excels. StudyLoft is most heavily staffed between 8 pm and 4 am, its peak hours. Peak hours are also when services are cheapest.
StudyLoft claims to offer tutoring for ?all levels of math, statistics, accounting, economics, chemistry, physics, and biology.? Such claims require above-average tutors, and Roy confirmed that ?all our tutors have at minimum a bachelor?s degree, and most of them actually have a masters. We have at least one Ph.D. per subject.?
The Tartan decided to take advantage of one of the free trial sessions. At 1:55 am on Friday, The Tartan signed up for a free 15-minute tutoring session. The Tartan requested a physics tutor, and at 2:00 am, we logged in. The interface was like IM on steroids, with a blackboard and Mathematica software attached to the chat space. The tutor?s name was Sam, and he was logged in and waiting.
The Tartan knows a thing or two about physics, so we decided to ask ?Sam? an obscure thermodynamics question. The session went like this:
The Tartan: We need to calculate the spinodal curve for a monocomponent Clausius fluid. Help?!
Sam: Can you stay online for a few minutes?
The Tartan: Sure.
Sam (5 minutes later): The problem stated by you needs a little more time to be solved, so could you please give me your e-mail address so that I could mail the solution.
Unfortunately, 24 hours later, there was no solution in our inbox. Of course, the session was free, but it?s clear that StudyLoft is not yet ready for anything but introductory courses.
Quick and easy answers to homework problems may raise a student?s grade, but that doesn?t imply learning. Nevertheless, learning comes through practice, and StudyLoft seems to have the potential to help students with introductory-level subjects.