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Tutor Universe sees usage growth after launch

BY REBECCA MORIN | FEBRUARY 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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Being tutored in Spanish by someone directly from Spain was virtually impossible — until last year.

In November 2012, four University of Iowa computer-science students launched Tutor Universe. The website allows students to connect with a tutor anywhere in the world.

“Students are looking for help, but the process is pretty old-school, so we looked for another alternative,” said Michael Morrison, a cofounder and the CEO of Tutor Universe.

Tutor Universe works like any social-networking site, by logging into Facebook or registering online using one’s e-mail. Students can send messages to the tutor, video conference, and allow them to view documents.

“You can use video conferencing, draw, type, and even open up word documents,” said Hung Tran, a cofounder and chief technology officer of Tutor Universe. “A new file that acts like Google Docs and can be edited and viewed by each other.”

Since the launch, Tutor Universe has grown immensely. By the end of 2012, there were 2,400 users and 400 tutors from across the globe, and growth is still anticipated.

“We project to add 1,000 students and tutors per month,” Morrison said. “And our projections are 40,000 students with roughly 6,000 to 8,000 tutors by next year.”

A pilot of the site for Tutor Universe was conducted at the UI during the 2011-12 school year.

UI junior John Hartnett has been with Tutor Universe since the site launched.

“I actually knew the cofounder, Thomas, and he contacted me because he knew I was already a tutor,” Hartnett said.

A pilot was also launched at Iowa State University, and Tutor Universe is currently experiencing a campaign across the top 100 universities in the nation, Morrison said. They hope to not stop there, though.

“We do have in our plans to incorporate high school, graduate school, and even the workforce,” he said.

Users are not the only area expanding in numbers. A combination of efforts from the founders, from business-plan competitions, from the Iowa Demonstration Fund, and from private owners resulted in more than $600,000 for Tutor Universe.

Students can choose from a seemingly endless number of topics in Tutor Universe.

“We don’t restrict topics; we have been curating over 100 different topics,” Morrison said. “Anything from hard science, hard math, engineering, foreign language, and even test prep.”

Not only are the subjects helpful to members, but the times in which tutors are available has been a great advantage.

“People can benefit because when you sign up you could only request one session that applicable to your schedule or create a schedule that is flexible with yours and your tutor’s,” Hartnett said. “Now, I would like to see it grow and see more people sign up with it.”


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