- Excursion: 120 minutes
Excursion to Sofatutor
Today, we did the excursion to Sofatutor, a start-up that offers tutoring via an own platform. We could learn a lot by the guys who showed us around.
One was Colin Schlüter, one of the founders and current CEO and CTO. He also studied International Media and Computing at HTW. The other one was Lutz Vogelsang who is director of the video-production, the most central didactical element on the Sofatutor portal. Colin was not the only one who studied International Media and Computing (IMI) – and there’s a pattern behind that. As IMIs we are somehow between software- and media-engineering and didactics of new media.
The platform was published in 2009 and it mainly began as video platform offering videos that were created by tutors themselves. They would send in their complete videos and Sofatutor would be the platform for pupils to browse for them and profite from them. As Colin said, they weren’t really thinking about the quality of the contents at this time – isn’t this like we developers would do, first develop a platform and think of the businesses processes afterwards? The CTO gave a nice statement: “We should think of ourselves to be DevOps, not only developers”. He was more focussing the technical part, but I also think that it’s important to think of business processes as well.
So, Sofatutor has become quite professional today. They extended their process of having tutors being responsible for the video production chain themselves and now have a large business process until the final video is created: people creating concepts for the contents, employees being responsible for planning the final videos and the arrangements and people supporting the final teachers to produce a high-quality video in all belongings such as a clear voice and ideal light situation. The content planning became more important: having teachers and people with didactical background arranging lessons, covering all topics of the German curriculum which differ in each federal state – and this is a big challenge in Germany’s educational system because even contents are named different!
Of course the company is not resting, but developing more didactical ideas and extensions of the current content-production processes. One didactical idea is to have a variety of exercises, such as simple multiple-choice questions but also more interactive ones like “fill-in-the-blank” texts, games where you have to connect words and so on. We also got the chance to join the weekly review meeting where some departments presented their current projects – the product department was showing further concepts for extravagant exercises. And those exercises have to be connected to the existing video material – here you need clear didactical concepts and that’s where Sofatutor does a good job by having expertise from teachers and professors. The German educational publisher “Cornelsen” even supports Sofatutor, for example – I think this can be seen as a good signal.
An important feature that Sofatutor introduced was the live-chat function. Pupils can chat with a bunch of teachers within a daily-fixed time (17 – 19h I guess). They will be assigned to a teacher separated by discipline (physics, mathematics,..) and the chat offers a lot of functions to make long-resting explanations possible, such as drawing functions and so on. Sofatutor also offers an extended individual teaching service where you have to pay more money for sure. The pupil can do just what I experienced in my school-time: making appointments with the tutors to meet in face-to-face-sessions and learn things that they learned in school.
So as you can see, Sofatutor does a good job of combining traditional tutoring with new media elements, especially interactive exercises and high-quality videos. They have a lot of didactical expertise and are researching how to improve their video production. The vision would be to have an automatical process from the content-creation and the video-plot conceptualization towards a generated video. That’s what StartUps need to be: innovative in creating business processes on such level that they are competitive.
The technical parts were interesting, too: Sofatutor uses Ruby as backend technology and Angular.JS on the frontend-side. They need to focus a lot on creating a good user experience because of the didactical background and the target group of their products: pupils of different levels and ages.
So let me state what I should learn today:
- I’m able to define the main idea of Sofatutor’s business concept.
- The student understands how StartUps basically work.
- The student can give sketch the video-creation process of creating high-quality didactical videos.