WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A Purdue University-affiliated startup that created a communications tool to connect struggling college students with tutors is shifting its business model as a result of the pandemic.
The team behind the digital platform studytable redesigned the app to allow for knowledge-sharing between students. Originally the tool allowed users to connect for in-person tutoring or studying.
But as the pandemic spread, colleges canceled in-person classes and one-on-one personal instruction became nearly non-existent. The developers of studytable realized they needed to rethink its platform.
“Once COVID hit, we really saw that it completely murdered our distribution channel,” said Wesley Crouch, co-founder and chief executive officer of studytable. “So, we had no way of going to college students because they were not on campus anymore.”
Crouch says the team had to redesign the app and make significant changes in a short amount of time. As a result, students now have classroom-like interaction with their peers and classmates, but in a digital environment
Students can download the app for free and then join their class threads, using interactive tools to help generate dialogue.
“To get the best access to the most helpful students, the best explainers in class, ultimately, it’s an entirely new way to think about collaboration in the classroom,” explained Crouch. “Every exam that you ever took in college, there were a few people that you said, ‘I wish I knew what they knew at this exam.’”
Crouch says they conducted a beta test last year with 300 students and more than 90% said they would much rather have a successful student from their class help them on their homework versus anyone else.
“It’s in those class threads, that’s where you can send tutorials, you can send study guides, you can send notes you’ve taken to help your peers,” said Crouch.
For now, there is no charge for service, but Crouch expects to add a subscription service. Because of the change, studytable will help the would-be tutors to monetize their knowledge.
“We are moving in the coming months to set up special profiles for individual students who are the most helpful in their classes. Other users can then pay a small fee to subscribe to those profiles to see the most helpful content like notes, study guides or video tutorials on homework. It will essentially be like creating influencers, but of the classroom,’ said Crouch.
Studytable is part of the current cohort in Purdue Foundry’s Double Down Experiment. The pre-accelerator program is designed to help startups identify and overcome the challenges of launching a high-growth business.
Meanwhile, Crouch says the startup has raised about $500,000 in pre-seed funding to help with the development of the app and expansion of the company. Crouch hopes to start a seed funding round in January and raise about $1.5 million.
Studytable is using Purdue to pilot the new version. Crouch says they plan to expand to Butler University, Ball State University and the University of Missouri.
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