While it would be fair to expect that students learn everything they need to from their classroom teachers, the reality is that tutoring has become a part of the daily ritual for many – and it doesn’t stop at high school.
Dan Brand found himself wondering why the professors and teachers in his civil engineering degree couldn’t explain things to students simply. He often ended up resorting to tutorial videos on YouTube.
“When I was in my third year, I was doing a very difficult subject and I simply cracked at how bad the teaching was. One of the tutors for the course who had just completed it the previous semester was extremely helpful, explaining the concepts but also reinforcing what was important and what was irrelevant,” he said.
Brand realised that students who had recently completed subjects were good at explaining things, and it was here that SpoonFeedMe was born. He describes it as “a peer-to-peer community which empowers talented students with the ability to help others maximise their potential and exceed in their university studies.”
“I thought it would be awesome if instead of just trying to find random video content on the web to help you, you could get a series of video tutorials created by a top student who had actually been there and done your exact course,” Brand said.
He created a basic MVP in the winter break between semesters, filming 80 video tutorials covering a civil engineering subject at the University of Sydney. He charged students a one-off $4.99 subscription fee to gain access to the videos.
“The following semester I simply went into to tutorials, stood out the front and told students about it, and by the end of the semester 35 percent of the enrolled students had bought a subscription,” he said.
Brand worked on the platform while finishing his degree, with his goal being to work on it full time after graduating. A mutual contact put him in touch with angel investor Les Szekely and, the day after he handed in his final year thesis, he reached a handshake agreement with Szekely and his colleague Jeffrey Tobias.
“Both men have become extremely great mentors and have a wealth of experience, so I feel like I am in the best hands I could possibly be in,” Brand said.
He has since brought on other students as tutors and created new courses, with SpoonFeedMe putting applicants through a thorough selection process. The startup looks at academic results, as well as extracurricular activities. If they’re successful beyond this first round of selection, applicants are asked to create three trial videos.
The platform currently boasts more than 15,000 users, with over 4,000 of them paying customers.
The subscription price has gone up, with access to a course now costing $40 – it seems like a significant mark up, though on the other hand, it may a small price to pay to pass a $900 course the first time around.
SpoonFeedMe basically does the same thing as NexusNotes – provide a platform for peer to peer learning – though working through video rather than a set of notes can help out the visual learners. While there are a multitude of open learning sites providing free content to help students, having a set of videos or notes explaining the exact course or subject taught at your university means a better learning experience. Sadly, as our universities cut funding and teaching hours, the quality of teaching students receive may well decline, making sites like SpoonFeedMe and NexusNotes useful tools.
Brand said the team is experimenting with different offline and online strategies to acquire learners, though the most effective remains word of mouth.
“We are fortunate to have a product where our target audience all sit together and talk on a regular basis,” he explained.
With most of the platform’s users students at either the University of New South Wales or the University of Sydney, the focus this year is expanding to universities around the country.