I was curled up watching TV when the blood curdling scream of frustration came from the study I share with my daughter. It was 11 p.m. and it was chemistry. Specifically, it was some weird electron-bond-equation-balancing thingy that I only distantly remembered. Frankly, even if I were a chemical engineer, my kid wouldn’t take my advice anyway. That’s just the way The Girl is.
What to do? The teacher wasn’t answering emails this late. The Girl’s more organized friends had either figured it out or gave up and went to bed. We needed some help and fast.
The Kahn Academy is free and has videos on chemistry. However, my daughter is an interactive learner. She likes to have a dialogue with a teacher, to be able to ask questions and have things explained to her. She would probably have thrown the computer out the window if she had had to listen to a lecture on the equation balancing thingy.
Enter a new online tutoring company, InstaEDU.com. I had interviewed Alison Johnston Rue, CEO of InstaEDU.com a few days prior for this blog.
We chatted about what her company offers that other tutoring companies don’t. Alison told me that after having a traditional tutoring company, she and Dan Johnston and Joey Shurtleff had started InstaEdu.com because they found kids had questions when they weren’t with their tutors — like at 11 p.m. when most normal people are sleeping. They offered me free tutoring minutes for my daughter so we could check the service out.
So my daughter and I logged on. After we searched for chemistry, we had a list of tutors who were available immediately to give a lesson. One went to MIT, one was actually a chemist for a living. If we had wanted to, we could have searched for a female chemistry tutor who lived in Nebraska and played viola, but we figured we’d stick to the basics.
We contacted one woman who explained that she hadn’t done that type of chemistry for a while so she couldn’t help us. We appreciated her honesty, but desperation was lapping at our heels. Then we found Dan, who is a medical student in Pittsburgh. I think his photo should have a little halo above it.
Unfortunately we didn’t have a picture of the offending problem that we could upload to the shared online work space, so my daughter manually entered it. The editor was a little clumsy, but she managed to get the problem typed in. We were pressed for time so we didn’t take the time to set up the video option. The Girl worked through the problem with Dan using the chat feature. In 21 minutes they resolved the issue and I had a happy smiling teenager again. OK, that’s a lie, but she wasn’t homicidal anymore.
A bonus was receiving an email saying that a transcript of the lesson was available for viewing any time. Any more chemistry balancing problems and The Girl can log on and review the lesson including a transcript of the chat session.
InstaEDU.com offers tutoring in subjects ranging from ACT prep to writing 24 hours a day, seven days a week for high school and college kids. Like a tutor? Great, you can set up regular sessions with that person. Students can also request a written lesson for things like feedback on a paper.
Compared to other programs, it’s fairly inexpensive at $24/hour. I’ve paid up to $60/hour for a tutor and have still had to deal with the midnight homework nightmare. Parents can load minutes on a students account using a credit card so they can control the budget.
Some parents might have a legitimate concern about their kids meeting someone online. InstaEDU.com does take steps to verify the tutor’s identities but does not conduct extensive background checks. However, the transcripts are a check since everything is recorded. Parents will need their kids log on to access the lessons.
My daughter said she would definitely use the website again. She liked being able to chat with someone who spoke her language. I liked that she got the answer she needed and I had peace in the house.