An app for that: UO students design tutoring app

Adrian Martushev (left) and Eli Ackerman released their tutor connection app last spring and are ready to test the app, now live, campus-wide, they said. (Courtesy of Rita Herbstman)

When Eli Ackerman, a senior at the University of Oregon majoring in economics, registered for business calculus last winter term, he knew he would need help in the course. He visited the Tutoring and Learning Center in Knight Library, where they offered him a list of tutors and their phone numbers, which seemed outdated, he said.

“A lot of departments didn’t have an organized way to get students tutors, so I was thinking there’s got to be a better way to connect with tutors on campus,” Ackerman said. “There’s got to be an app for that.”

That term, he met Adrian Martushev, a math tutor and senior majoring in math and computer sciences. They discussed the need for better student-tutor connections and partnered to take on the task of creating those connections. Thus, the idea for the smartphone app Tutortree was born.

“As soon as we started talking about this idea, it was abundantly clear how many issues there were,” said Martushev, regarding the inconvenience of scheduling tutoring sessions via text and the awkwardness of discussing payments. “The app handles all those logistical aspects of the tutor side, as well as helps students easily connect.”

Once students have downloaded the Tutortree app, currently available in the Apple App Store, and created an account, they can see a list of courses with tutors available, along with a calendar of when those tutors are available.

Additionally, students can pay tutors through the app or have parents deposit money to their app to pay for sessions, which range in price depending on the tutor.

All of the Tutortree tutors are either employed by the UO already or they have a letter of recommendation from faculty and have received at least a B+ in the class they want to tutor.

Released for beta testing near the end of spring term 2018, the app went live on the first day of school this year, Sept. 24. Martushev and Ackerman worked nearly full-time over the summer perfecting the app, they said.

“We have a goal for fall,” Martushev said, “just proving that this thing can work. Then we’re going to start discussing expansion to other schools.”

The duo said they hope to schedule 1,000 tutoring sessions during fall term.

Carmen Mindt, a junior majoring in business administration, used the app during her summer term to find tutors for statistics and Business Calculus 2. She downloaded the app as soon as she heard about it, she said.

“You literally just download the app and create an account,” Mindt said. “It’s super snazzy because it looks like a calendar and it pulls up all of the different tutors and all of their free blocks.”

Tutor Shahden Barghouti, a junior applied math major, echoed Mindt’s sentiments, saying the app “allows students a better chance to pick the tutors they think can help them the best.”

“All the tutors have different strengths,” Barghouti said. “Tutors get to know their students and students get to know their tutors.”

For Martushev, the app simply facilitates something he’s been doing all along: helping students succeed.

“It’s never really been about the money for me when I’m tutoring,” he said. “It’s more like that feedback you get when someone truly understands something and is thankful that they could get to that point.”

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