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The App Changing The Educational Game, One Snap at a Time

A “snap and ask” service, the app encourages students to take initiative in their own hands

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BY Jared Carl Millan - 03 Jul 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

When Hong Kong native Timothy Yu graduated from university with a degree in risk management, it didn’t take long for him to realize that his passions lay elsewhere; a career in finance wasn’t doing it for him. So he decided instead to pursue what he found to be deeply satisfying, which happens to be teaching and enlightening students.

While he was still in university, he had set up a small-scale tuition center and discovered firsthand the disappointing condition of the tutoring industry in Hong Kong. He described it as costly, inefficient, slow, with special focus on spoon-feeding students information, focusing on the “knowing” aspect of education instead of on the “learning.” It was high time for a change in the business model, he realized, and he wanted to be that change.

So Snapask was born.

An app that connects you with a private tutor in a matter of seconds, Snapask started as a “snap and ask” service. You take a photo of a question you need help with, and then moments later a tutor will respond and guide you through it. It has since evolved into a more dynamic experience, utilizing photos, audio recording, and text messaging to better help students’ demands. More importantly, Snapask is a student-driven experience. It encourages students to take initiative in their own hands. There’s no spoon-feeding here.

Like Duolingo before it, Snapask gamifies the learning process, making it more interactive and fun and which then fosters students’ enthusiasm—and to great effect. “We have students telling us how they've improved their grades since using Snapask, with some students sharing that they would like their favorite tutors to answer their questions, it's a feature that we're looking to add in the next couple of weeks,” Clement Tay says, Snapask’s head of Southeast Asia.

Tutors play a crucial role in Snapask’s operations. They help students revise for tests, explain homework, and fill in missing knowledge and information. They base their tutoring methods on a student’s curriculum, grade level, and academic goals; every subject from primary school to junior college is covered.

Thus far Snapask employs over 17,000 highly qualified tutors, all of which have impressive credentials, graduates from some of the world’s best universities such the University of Oxford and the National University of Singapore, while others are retired instructors and teachers.

Some of the Snapask’s best tutors earn up to $1,200 a month, but with great perks come great responsibility: in order to become a tutor, one has to go through a rigorous screening process to ensure that they have all the necessary qualifications for the role. It doesn’t end there. Every session is reviewed, and every tutor is rated by their students to ensure top-notch service.

Snapask is currently in three countries—Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore—but it has recently expanded in Malaysia, receiving a $5 million funding from Kejora Ventures, backed by the Charoen Pokphand Family, Cai Wensheng, chairman of Meitu, and Welight Capital, founded by former Tencent executives, to expand into Southeast Asian Markets.

Thus far, the biggest challenge the company has faced is figuring out the dynamics between a team that is distributed across different countries. “At the end of the day, a company can only function and succeed with its people, working together as a team,” says Tay. “Of course as we grow as a company, we start identifying new ways to collaborate better remotely and keeping ourselves aligned.”

Snapask’s goal isn’t to replace the traditional, face-to-face tutoring, but to complement it, support it where it is lacking in order to provide students a more rounded learning experience.

“With traditional tutoring, depending on where they're from, students may anywhere get between 1-3 days a week of tutoring,” Clement Tay says. “Usually these sessions are filled with revision, and then more homework. Snapask empowers the students to self-learn confidently, when they're working on assignments and homework at home where tutors and/or parents are unlikely to respond or support them in a timely manner.”