New Brunswick

From algebra to French verbs: New app aims to cut out travel time to tutors

A New Brunswick entrepreneur has developed an app to help tutor students, particularly those living in rural areas who need to travel great distances to receive extra help. 

Flip the Page Education Services app helps New Brunswick students struggling in French and math

Fredericton entrepreneur Alex English developed the Flip the Page Education Services app for students looking for extra help outside the classroom. (Tara English/Submitted)

It might be July, but it might not be too early to plan for the first day of school.

A New Brunswick entrepreneur has developed an app to help tutor students, particularly those living in rural areas who need to travel great distances to receive extra help. 

"We want to just reduce the overall barriers for education for students everywhere," said Alex English, founder of the Flip the Page Education Services app. 

The app is a personalized tutoring service for Grade 3 to 12 in any subject, but with a particular focus on French and math.

"We realized that math and French are the two main subjects that families are looking for support [in]," said English, who lives in Fredericton.  

Learning in rural New Brunswick

The idea came to be in the summer of 2016.

The year before, English and his wife, Tara English, were working on their tutoring business in the greater Woodstock area, where they'd received overwhelming requests from parents to tutor their children.

A lot of parents don't understand French and can't support their children in French at home, so they're looking for outside support.- Alex English

Other tutors in the area were working 25 hours a week to help students trying to catch up for the coming school year, he said.

The Englishes were getting tutoring requests from people as far away as Juniper, almost 70 kilometres north of Woodstock.

"We sat down and we were like, 'How can we help these children experience what the children in Woodstock are experiencing or in bigger centres are experiencing, without forcing them to travel long distances?'" said English, whose family includes several teachers. 

"The only way we can shorten the distance is by going online."

Catering to French immersion

He said French was a particularly important service to provide because of New Brunswick's return to a Grade 1 French immersion entry point in 2017.

In the summer of 2016, Alex and Tara English realized there was a growing need for tutors for students in rural New Brunswick. (Submitted)

"We saw that as being a major opportunity for us to jump in and help a lot of students, just because there were so many more students starting French immersion that year," he said.

The goal of Department of Education policy is to get students to an advanced level on the provincial second-language proficiency scale. The scale has nine levels, with advanced being the third highest.

"A lot of parents don't understand French and can't support their children in French at home, so they're looking for outside support."  

Although people can use the app online, its official launch date is in the next few weeks.

The app is New Brunswick-based, but English is hoping to expand and attract more people worldwide.

How the app works

Students looking to be tutored can log onto the app and create profiles. Then they can search the subject they're looking for and scroll through tutors who teach that particular subject and are registered on the app. 

On the app, they can look through a tutor's profile and experience and review the ratings given by previous students. A student can also see a tutor's prices.

The app offers tutoring in all subjects, but it has a focus on French and math. (Tara English/Submitted)

"We kind of piggybacked on the Uber, Airbnb model of having freelance tutors," he said.

Once students decide on their tutors, they can receive tutoring services through video chats tailored for education. A  video includes a white board and a space to share documents.  

"You can give them 100 per cent of your attention … a lot of students really thrive with the one-on-one attention," English said.

Tutors have to go through a vetting process and an interview. They also need to provide a criminal record check and education credentials.  

"The tutor can be anywhere they want," he said. "So they could be sitting on the beach in Florida, or they could be sitting at home in New Brunswick." 

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

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