Historically, college was a time in a person’s life when their budget was just big enough to keep their Spartan lifestyle of beer and ramen noodles afloat. These personal economic recessions were thought to be rites of passage and along with a little help from mom and dad, totally doable. Most importantly they were thought to be temporary because a decent paying job was usually available to any recent grad who tried to get one.
Fast forward a generation and college life seems to be characterized by 5-star dining halls and state-of-the-art athletic facilities. Discomfort is put on hold by
predatory and insidious private student loan companies. It seems that this individualized economic (not to mention emotional) depression waits until after you graduate, and usually starts the first time you get that student loan statement.
Muhammad Bilal Junaid is all too familiar with this new trend in micro-economics. Instead of drowning his sorrows in Mountain Dew and Breaking Bad episodes, Junaid was able to see opportunity in hardship. Like many millennials, Junaid found a job that had room for professional growth but didn’t pay enough to stay on top of living expenses and student debt.
Muhammad was able to make ends meet by freelancing, but had also enjoyed working as a tutor in the past. That’s when it hit him – students (and recent grads) as a group need money and have the capacity to offer tailored academic support to other students.
Turns Out Students Have Debt… AND Answers
Junaid got to work developing a platform where freelancing tutors could connect with students in need of academic backup. Developing the site wasn’t an easy A for Junaid though. At the time he didn’t have his own PC, so he would stay at work (remember his entry level/slave position?) and use the company’s laptop after hours to work on the site. Finally, in March 2012, Muhammad went live with Student Lance.
As fate would have it, this form of extreme bootstrapping payed off and now the site has over 50,000 visitors a month. Pretty impressive considering Junaid built the site from the ground up with practically zero upfront investment or marketing outreach.
The website is pretty straightforward. Users (both tutors and students) sign up for free, and can post either requests or solutions. Student Lance has live support ninjas that can help users out via IM, and even check-in with users if they seem to be hanging out on the site but not getting anywhere for a while.
The online tutoring marketplace concept may be simple but the way Student Lance works is pretty revolutionary. Students get to set the price of their requests, and can review each tutor’s past performance before accepting their help. The process couldn’t be easier for students.
Essentially it’s a 4 step process:
- Wait for a solution
- Rate your tutor
Students can even preview 20% of the solution before they commit to purchasing. It works out pretty well for the tutors too. They get to browse requests, and pick which they would like to help with based on subject and price. They also get to work when they feel like it, making it a pretty solid fit for advanced students and recent grads needing a little extra cash. Tutors can even post solutions to problems that haven’t been posted yet. Flexibility is clearly a company value.
Ethics: Not Just A Section Of Philosophy 101
Now an obvious concern for any site offering this kind of academic support would be the potential for misuse and cheating. Student Lance has taken a pretty strong stand against cheating and plagiarism. Their code of conduct explicitly forbids either, and states that users will be terminated if found to be involved with cheating.
Student Lance’s mission seems to be pretty ethical. Junaid and his team have worked hard to provide an online solution for students who need help. It connects students in need of academic support with tutors who can help and who need a little extra cash.
We all knew the internet was going to change the way people learn. Sites like Student Lance are part of this evolution, and can be seen as one of many tools available to people who want to learn and achieve a higher level of academic success. When utilized properly, the Student Lance online tutoring marketplace can be a win/win for everybody.