You can stream television, order food and request a private car on demand — so why not a tutor?
That’s the thinking behind Smart Alec, a new app that matches private tutors and students with the click of a button — er, the swipe of an app.
Smart Alec — the name draws inspiration from one of the most illustrious student-mentor pairings, Alexander the Great and Aristotle — matches students seeking help in math, science, the humanities and test prep using a unique algorithm that filters for compatible personality types and teaching styles.
Students and parents can scroll through tutor profiles, which display a tutor’s availability, video bio and hourly rate. Depending on tutor experience and subject matter, hourly rates range from $75-$200.
Creator Nathan Kane came up with the idea for Smart Alec after seeing the limitations inherent in tutoring companies — including the one he started and formerly ran, Practice Perfect.
“The vast majority of the tutoring companies out there are taking huge finder’s fees,” says Kane. “A tutor will be doing 99 percent of the work, and they’ll only be making about 25-35 percent of what the parent is actually paying. Really, the tutoring companies are capturing a huge amount of the money that people are spending on private education.”
In essence, Smart Alec takes out the middle man. The app also helps students and tutors avoid some of the other hurdles tutoring companies face, like trying to match a limited number of tutors with students who have busy schedules. It also cuts out the need for phone calls, which Kane says many students fine “antiquated.”
By creating an app, Kane says he hopes “students can take control of the process, and be proactive.”
“Our goal is not just to match students to tutors, but also students to students, so we can actually create the ideal small group class,” says Kane, who notes that they hope to add group classes down the line.
The 50 tutors currently on Smart Alec’s roster are cherry-picked for their strong education credentials and previous tutoring or teaching experience. The company hires about 4 percent of its applicants, says Kane.
"The best tutors are also empathic," says Kane. "Often a student, especially in high school, is so stressed out and as so much going on, that they just need someone to kind of be there, and listen. The way you teach a lesson on one day might be different than the way you teach it on another day, because they'll be in a different mental and emotional state. That's something that's just as important as subject matter expertise."
Like the company's namesake, Smart Alec wants to "elevate" the tutoring process and leave both students and tutors feeling fulfilled.
Alexandar and Aristole would be proud.