New online forum helps students, tutors connect

A new Internet forum created by a USF student puts a high-tech spin on face-to-face tutoring.

Sherief Hussein, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, created “iTutor USF” this semester to marry social networking and traditional tutoring services. The site allows students to create profiles detailing the classes they would like help with and other students who have taken those courses to offer assistance.

“If a student pays that much money for a class, why not get an A plus in it, even if it’s you spending a couple of extra bucks on a private tutor?” he said. “Because if you get help, you get an A plus, but if you don’t, and your struggling with the class, you still spend the same amount for the class and you end up with A, B or C.”

Hussein came up with the idea for iTutor while studying for his Dental Admissions Test in the middle of the night about six weeks ago. He said at first he considered taking a Kaplan class or getting a private tutor to help him prepare for the exam.

“I know they have private tutoring at school, but I was thinking more of a student and tutor meeting on their own,” he said. “Here in the Library, you don’t really choose your tutor. And the places in the Library – maybe some students don’t like to get tutored or stay in the Library for too long.”

At 4 a.m. that night, Hussein said he looked at a free online web builder called webs.comfor different layouts and templates and started designing iTutor. He stayed up through the night to work on the site and went to sleep at 11 a.m. the next morning.

Hussein worked on iTutor for four weeks before launching the site on Jan. 30, which at time of print had 24 users and 400 visits.

Student tutors can put in their personal data and their subjects of expertise under the “I am a tutor, I can help” tab, where they can be found by USF students needing help with a particular subject under the “I am a student, I need help” tab.

Right now, iTutor is only intended for USF students, but if it takes off Hussein said he wants to create additional iTutor websites for other Florida universities. He primarily promotes the site on Facebook, he said.

Two of his Facebook friends, biomedical sciences seniors Jacob Berger and Radhika Patel, forged a mutually beneficial working relationship after hearing about the site.

When Patel wrote that she needed help with animal physiology on iTutor, Berger, who had taken the same course two semesters ago, offered his services the same day. Within two days of Patel’s initial post, Berger and Patel had their first private tutoring session in the USF Library.

Patel got a 92 percent on the first exam and said she wants to continue her tutoring sessions with Berger.

“This was the first exam, so I wasn’t really understanding the concept until I met with the tutor,” Patel said. “He helped me learn the notes better. He had short ways of memorizing things.”

Berger said he set the pay rate at $12 an hour after he did a Google search to find out what tutors usually charge for college subjects – a range between $15 to $20 an hour.

Mahmoud Dweik, a senior majoring in chemistry, plans to tutor two USF students in organic chemistry this week, also at $12 an hour. He said using iTutor to seek out student clients was better than his former job at his apartment complex, where he worked a fixed schedule and earned minimum wage.

“This is a nice, flexible thing where I feel like it’s easy for me because I already know the material,” he said, “I can share my knowledge with other people and get paid for it.”