Michelle Durand/Daily Journal
Rohun Saxena, co-founder of peer tutoring site Eduko and ambassador Ben Beiers, demonstrate how students log on to ask and answer each other’s questions in return for volunteer hours.
If you are a high school student with a burning question at midnight, where do you turn?
Online, of course.
And thanks to three juniors with a bright idea and a $10,000 LinkedIn Innovation Grant, one growing online option is a nonprofit foundation and site where peers tutor each other around the clock and students can earn precious volunteer hours needed for either graduation or to spruce up college applications.
Eduko — which means “education” in the international language Esperanto — grew out of an idea by Mountain View High student Rohun Saxena, Monta Vista High School student Aditya Sachdeva and Sacred Heart Prep student Eshan Govil. The three realized the need students have for academic help in the late and wee hours when in-person tutoring isn’t feasible.
“We’re up at 11 or 12 and there’s no real good place to get anything at midnight,” Saxena said.
To use Eduko, students create an account and go to the site when stumped. Users choose from seven categories such as history, literature, physics, biology, chemistry and entrepreneurship and type in their query. The topic restrictions prevent users from throwing out a non-academic question like “What should I wear tomorrow?”
Those able to answer — known as ambassadors — see the question and respond. Some replies come in minutes while sometimes it can take up to three hours. But even on the longer end of the wait, those involved say it is a quick route to a conclusion and the goal is to assemble a database where users can search for previously answered questions.
Some of the questions are specific facts — a math equation for example. But many tend to be more conceptual, such as the significance of a particular battle. World War II is a popular subject lately.
Once the answer is given, the questioner rates the response and, if it is unclear, can mark it “cloudy.” The goal, Saxena said, is not to appear negative about either the student posing the question or providing the answer. Hence, the teacher is a an edukisto (educator in Esperanto) and the learner is an edukato (student). A edukisto can also be deemed “certified” by having A grades in the subjects they answer, be recommended by an ambassador and provide a weighted GPA of 4.0 or above.
Saxena and the other founders conceived of Eduko last January or February and were applying for the LinkedIn grant by the spring. His mother, Roli, said she didn’t give her son’s idea a lot of weight when she first heard it — “he’s always full of ideas,” she said — but realized his commitment as the teen team put together the application and ultimately secured a coveted grant to launch the platform which uses the tagline “Learn. Educate. Volunteer.”
The site has been up and running about six weeks and has already drawn more than 100 active users from the United States and even Canada, the United Kingdom and India. The ambassador corps is also expanding to multiple public and private high schools throughout the Bay Area and they, along with the founders, are actively culling more participants through presentations and meetings with teachers, students and principals. They also have a Facebook page.
The platform has a place for users to flag inappropriate answers but Saxena said that abuse option hasn’t been used yet.
Saxena concedes Eduko may not have the personal touch of in-person tutoring but said the logistics are better, the opportunity exists for anonymity among students sheepish about their questions and the nonprofit offers the dual benefit of providing a micro-volunteer opportunity.
Ben Beiers, a 16-year-old San Carlos sophomore at Bellarmine College Preparatory, is one of those who appreciates that component. Beiers, who Saxena said is the site’s top answer “ambassador,” has a yearly service requirement and said it can be hard for some students to find the time for on-sight volunteering. Beiers, who tends to favor answering history questions and has more than 400 volunteer minutes accumulated, often logs on at night and earns 10 minutes of hours for each answer.
Beiers said the platform works, too, because students are more comfortable going to their peers for help.
“They know we’ve taken the class and had the questions before,” he said.
He likes knowing he’s helping others and — perhaps most important — finds it fun.
“It doesn’t seem like work,” Beiers said.
For more information or to sign up, visit www.edukofoundation.org or www.facebook.com/EdukoFoundation
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102