UniTuition: Bridging the knowledge gap in third level students

Sean Judge and Orla McCallion set up their new online grinds service to connect students with peer tutors

UniTuition is a new online grinds service designed to help third-level students.  It was set up in 2014 by Sean Judge (right) and Orla McCallion

UniTuition is a new online grinds service designed to help third-level students. It was set up in 2014 by Sean Judge (right) and Orla McCallion

 

UniTuition is a new online grinds service designed to help third-level students fill crucial gaps in their knowledge.

It was set up in 2014 by Sean Judge and Orla McCallion and to date has recruited around 100 tutors and has 1,500 active users.

“What’s different about us is that we partner with third level institutions to connect students with peer tutors,” Judge says. “Our tutors are senior students and recent graduates who provide exam-focused individual and group lessons to junior peers from their university campus.

“When Orla and I were at college we both provided private tuition to students to earn some extra income,” he adds. “But even when we’d graduated I was still contacted by people who had been given my name. This made me realise that there was a gap in the personal tuition market. I set up a simple website in Trinity College to test the concept and following a positive response I teamed up with Orla who validated the idea in other colleges.

“Convinced we had good business proposition we set up UniTuition and launched the business in April last year.”

Judge and McCallion first met at athletics club Clonliffe Harriers, where both competed as sprinters.

They went to Trinity College Dublin together where Judge studied business and economics and McCallion studied psychology. Judge worked for NCB Stockbrokers and McCallion for IQ Content before both ended up working for Accenture. They left their jobs in February of this year to go full-time into developing their business.

Module-specific

UniTuition provides students with module-specific tuition and sessions, which are booked online and take place on the university campus. Payment is made electronically at a flat fee of €35 per session (the cost goes down for multiple sessions) and UniTuition makes its money by taking a commission on each booking. All tutors are interviewed to establish their credentials and the company is still recruiting suitably qualified graduates for its panel.

“It is really our partnership model that makes us unique,” Judge says. “We partner with college bodies such as student unions and these partnerships effectively position us as the centralised marketplace for peer tuition in each institution. We also work with individual colleges to ensure our service fits in with their educational requirements.”

Judge says students often find it difficult to identify someone who can help them plug their specific knowledge gap. “In fact there are many people out there in their college with the knowledge,” he says. “UniTuition bridges this connectivity gap.”

UniTuition is now in operation in eight colleges in Ireland and Judge says the business model will travel.

The company is in the process of expanding into the UK and also has mainland Europe in its sights.

“We will be entering these markets through partnerships with relevant student and educational bodies in each region,” Judge says.

UniTuition is based at the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) where Judge and McCallion are currently participating in its LaunchPad programme for entrepreneurs. The NDRC is supporting the venture with an investment of €20,000 and it cost around €10,000 to build the initial software platform.

Competition will come mainly from private tutors but Judge believes many of them will sign up to the UniTuition platform when it is launched in their institution.

“We can provide them with a much higher volume of students than they would otherwise get,” he says.

“We’ve launched our service at a time when most people, particularly those in college, want to be able to organise and book things instantly from anywhere on any device. We are the first to bring an online tutoring marketplace to the third level space and our partnership model is enabling us to enter and capture markets extremely quickly.”

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