TxtTutor is a new text service that aims to take the stress out of learning for Junior and Leaving Cert students. Launched in September, the service can send daily texts to students with content specific to their learning needs.
We spoke with Aaron Jackson from TxtTutor to find out more about the service and how they aim to help students with their studies.

Q1 Hi Aaron. Can you explain what TxtTutor is and what service you provide?

TxtTutor is a completely new method of educating. We are a startup whose aim is to provide a learning companion that stays with students throughout the academic year and provides them with succinct, relevant and vital information via text message. The messages themselves are designed around the leaving certificate and junior certificate syllabus with additional material provided by the tutors and stress management bundles provided by Dr. Anne Jeffers.

Earlier this year, both myself and my business partner Greg Sorushanov, created TxtTutor. Greg is the technical genius at our company. He was instrumental in realising this vision and without him we would be lost. The idea itself came from working with a private school in Maynooth called The Rye Institute. They provided a service that used expert level tutors – educated to Ph.D. and Masters level – to provide different and innovative ways of teaching. We wondered how we could reach more students with novel ways on educating and engaging with them.

The idea of remote learning and how it could be effectively achieved was debated for some time and we decided that instead of trying to use technology to disrupt or change the learning process for students, we should look at how to compliment their experience and offer a service that reaches the student at their level, with something useful to them. TxtTutor was born.

We know that most of them have smartphones but we did not see any point in limiting access to our service so we decided to deliver via text message. This had many benefits such as allowing everyone to access it and read it but also presented us with the difficulties of restrictive size limitations on the texts themselves. It was a challenge for our tutors that really pushed the boundaries of education in a new way but it was also an experience they found very rewarding, especially when the saw how students received it and enjoyed it.

In addition to the educational aspect of a student’s life at exam time, there are other concerns that influence the chances of success. One of these is stress. It is a major factor, not just for students, in impeding thought capabilities and pressurising a mind to breaking point. We wondered how we could help with what we are doing so we spoke with a senior consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Anne Jeffers, about offering our students a service that would contain information and best practises on how to reduce stress in one’s life and also provide the tools and frameworks to understand how to tackle those situations. She helped us to design a bundle of messages that address key aspects of wellness and how to reinforce the good behaviours that lead to a more balanced life. Every student who signs up with TxtTutor receives these bundles. This part of the service is free as we believe a stress free mind is one that is open to being educated.

Q2 When did the service launch?

We launched in mid September 2014 but have just started a 2-2-2 pilot series that offers leaving cert students the chance to avail of 2 modules from 2 subjects for 2 months – completely free.

This pilot is designed to do 2 things really. 1) To help us shape the service moving forward to best match the needs of students and 2) to introduce students to this learning method and enable them to try it before signing up for the year.

Q3 How much does it cost?

TxtTutor was designed to supply students with daily messages. At one text per day, this works out at €9 per month. If you want more modules and move it up to two texts a day, then the price goes up accordingly. We have priced it all ‘per text’ but offer bundles, pilots and savings through combinations of package to enable students to benefit from this learning system in an affordable way. We were very careful not to price students out of this service.

Q4 Can you explain how the process works?

We tried to keep the process of signing up as simple as possible so as not to confuse people.

  1. Goto www.txttutor.com & watch the video. Don’t worry, its only 1 minute long!
  2. Select modules from a comprehensive list on the subjects page.
  3. Select modules within each subject by clicking on them and then selecting your level – Leaving cert, higher or ordinary for example.
  4. Click ‘Enrol’ at the top of the page to see what you have selected already. Add as many modules as you want or need help with.
  5. Click on Checkout.
  6. Now you can see an overview of the modules within subjects. Click Next.
  7. On this screen we take your phone number and you select from what date you want to receive the texts, how many per day (up to 3*) and the order of the modules you will receive – so you can match how you are learning in school. Click next.
  8. This is the screen where you make payment. At present we take full payment although we are expanding this to allow for monthly payments

* We limited students to 3 texts per day to ensure the effectiveness of the learning companion. Our research suggests that too many texts in one day can lead to information overload that is counter productive.

Q5 Who created the course material you provide?

Our tutors are an amazing collection of talent people with a dedicated and learned position on education with a powerful drive to improve the learning experience of students in Ireland. Each of the subjects has a different tutor with some having one for different levels. We wanted to work with tutors who were not only passionate to work with us on this new idea but also those passionate about educating in general and we are lucky enough to have worked with some really great and talented people. Each of the tutors are either native languages speakers, hold Ph.D’s or are at masters level in their subjects. All of them have extensive experience teaching students at 2nd level through private tuition.

Txt Tutor Subjects

Q6 Currently your service is aimed at second level students. Do you plan to expand to cover other groups in the future?

Not a the moment no. There is a perfect storm of curriculum, technology adoption and fit for purpose for TxtTutor and 2nd level. We want to expand our services to be more inclusive of the parent and offer additional services through an online education platform but these are our future ideas. For now we are concentrating on spreading TxtTutor in Ireland and then looking to expanding to the UK for GCSE’s , A levels and O levels.

Q7 You also provide wellbeing and stress management tips. Can you tell me more about this?

There is a lot of literature available on this, both online and offline. Children need to feel safe in order to learn—if they become stressed in school, their brains will spend more energy on self-protection than learning. This is not only true for children but all of us really. We know about this problem but almost no education service addresses it as an important element in the learning experience. We decided to address it. I had a personal connection to Dr. Jeffers so I asked her how we would go about incorporating something into our service that would address stress. She designed a bundle of texts that provide information on wellness, advice on what to do to feel better and how to relate to the world around you. We felt that offering this on top of the educational content would provide students with insight and information to help them cope with the pressures of exams and studying.

Q8 What’s the best way for people to get in contact and find out more?

We are available on most of the normal channels. Our website www.txttutor.com, has a form where you can get in touch and our phone number is on there too.

Our email is [email protected] and we are also on Facebook and Twitter

We encourage people to like and follow us as we use social media to provide special offers and bundles with like and share campaigns coming this year.

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with me on [email protected]

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