Things have gone haywire for parents and students all around the country, including for us. My younger brother needs help with his French homework almost every day, but nobody else in the house knows French. Going from seeing six teachers every day to seeing zero is a shock to the system, and both of us are struggling to make up for the lost resources.
Although I can’t help with french, I am a STEM mentor for my school and help younger students with computer science, algebra, and chemistry. There are tons of students at my school like my brother who are struggling with these subjects, but they have no way of getting help.
Because all schools have moved online, it is critical for us to implement a robust and secure volunteer student mentoring site. Students were able to get help from teachers and students when schools were still open, but this is no longer possible. Distance learning poses many difficulties for students, and it is hard finding help easily and securely. At every school, there are older students like me who want to mentor younger students, but there’s no way for us to do that.
What it does
Student Mentor is a school-exclusive volunteer mentoring platform for students needing help to connect with qualified student tutors from their school. Students can sign up and post a request for help or submit an application to be a mentor. Once they post a request for help in a certain subject, all of the mentors who are approved to help with that subject will receive a notification. Students can also directly reach out to mentors. Both sides can start a chat with the other student. From there, the two will work out logistics such as a time and google hangouts space.
Student Mentor give schools a way to bring pre existing student tutoring services online. Schools can also expand their mentoring programs to include new students and mentors, as more people are needing help than ever before.
For the safety of the students, students using the platform can only communicate with a student from the same school. All students must be approved to join the school by an admin. All student mentors must get an additional approval to mentor for a specific course before they can start mentoring. This will ensure the quality and integrity of the program by verifying that a student is qualified to mentor a peer for that course.
How we built it
We started building this for our own school, since we are using an asynchronous model of learning and see the challenges first hand. We then generalized the site to fit any school.
Challenges we ran into
Showing teachers how our platform can help move their student mentoring programs online. Aaliyah is a student mentor for her school and saw first hand the problems that students were experiencing Arshaan is a freshman and is worried about succeeding in school without his typical support system of teachers, student mentors, and synchronous class time. We had to ensure the safety, quality, and integrity of the student experience. We had to add an admin function to support this
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We built this in less than 3 days, and the platform is ready to be used right now. Try it out with our demo students!
What we learned
Security comes first. Since we are aiming our help at schools, we have to plug every hole and make sure our students are safe. Organization is key to making mentoring services successful, as well as simplicity.
What's next for Study Mentor
We are going to add some more features to the site, and we are launching Study Mentor for our school. Afterwards, we will spread the word and share the site with other schools in the area.