Sana Toor’s ideal route to a career in neuroscience passes through medical school.

But to get there, Toor, a first-year student at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, needs to master calculus. So, when she realized in January that she needed a little help this semester, she turned to an app on her smartphone that was unveiled to Fordham undergraduates this fall.

The app is similar to those that allow customers to summon a ride with Uber or Lyft. Students seeking a tutor for a class they’re taking put in a request for a specific time and place, and if a student tutor who has completed the class finds that the request fits their schedule, they accept the request.

Any student can become a tutor provided they have received at least a B+ in that class and have been trained on how to instruct others. Tutors are paid $15 an hour with funds from the offices of the deans of the Fordham College at Rose Hill and Fordham College at Lincoln Center. (The app will be available to Gabelli School students in September.)

Toor, a native from Farmington, Connecticut, heard about the app from one of her professors, and after downloading it to her phone and putting in a request, she met with Arina Medvedeva, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience and visual arts. The two have met for both in-person and Zoom meetings eight times this semester, including a two-hour cram session before her midterms.

“She’s amazing. … I’m doing a lot better than I would have without a tutor,” she said.

Quick, Easy, and Free

Toor said she’s found it helpful to work primarily with Medvedeva but has also used the app to book other tutors.
“I’ve had SAT tutoring before, and for one session, I felt like I didn’t learn anything, and it was also so much money for an hour,” she said.

But the fact that I can just send out a request and in five minutes, I’ll get a tutor, and Fordham will pay for it? I think that’s amazing. I’m glad I’m taking advantage of it.”

Earning Money on Their Own Schedule

Medvedeva is also a fan. This semester, she has been tutoring three other students in Applied Calculus on Friday afternoons and evenings, and one more with whom she meets occasionally to review statistics. In addition to working 10 hours a week on campus as part of work-study, Medvedeva, a commuter student who lives near the Lincoln Center campus, tutors for at least five hours a week.

“I love helping people, and I think I have a talent for explaining things,” she said.

“It’s also an opportunity to refresh my memory. Right now, I’m taking chemistry, and there’s a lot of math. I understand better what’s going on because I’m also tutoring.”

Charlotta Lebedenko, a senior at Fordham College at Rose Hill majoring in chemistry and philosophy, has responded to requests on the app for tutoring in organic chemistry and biochemistry.

“What I like about it is … we get to choose what and when we want to tutor, so I know I’m always going to be prepared for the sessions,” she said.

“The app is nice, I like how it’s formatted, the payments come in super quickly. The online virtual platform is really nice.”

A Flexible, Peer-to-Peer Model

The move to an app-based tutoring system was spearheaded by Tracyann Williams, Ph.D., assistant dean for student support and success at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, and Christie-Belle Garcia, Ph.D., former assistant dean for student support and success at Fordham College at Rose Hill.

Williams said the program, which both she and Garcia discovered independently, is not meant to replace all tutoring happening at Fordham, but to augment it. It’s an example of the University being flexible in how it offers services to students.

“If we have other tutoring systems and resources, that’s awesome, because that means we’re serving students on multiple levels and multiple capacities. That’s a very exciting prospect,” she said.

“I’m very interested in this peer-to-peer model because students get experience working with each other and building connections with each other. They’re building cross-campus connections at a time when students are suffering and are saying it’s hard to meet people.”

There are currently 180 courses that are covered through the system. Math is the most popular, along with other STEM disciplines and philosophy. A handful of departments have not opted in, but most have, said Williams.
Maura Mast, Ph.D., dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, said that in the summer of 2020, the college piloted online tutoring for summer courses, and expanded them in the next academic year. That experience led her to consider this system.

“Tutoring needs to be supported with strong training and oversight. This offers all of this, plus the flexibility for students to arrange for tutoring when and where it works best for them,” she said.
“I’m delighted with the strong growth in utilization over the past six months.”

Laura Auricchio, Ph.D., the dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center, called the app a “game-changer.”

“Instead of expecting students to work around schedules set by the university, it allows them to decide when, where, how, and with whom they want to learn. It’s an important step in our collective efforts to rethink our systems and structures with an eye to ensuring that student needs are always at the center of our policies and practices,” she said.


Patrick Verel is a news producer for Fordham Now. He can be reached at [email protected] or (212) 636-7790.