Fear the Tutor - Final Report

I) Define the Problem

Recently, many websites have emerged that provide resources for students to post opinions on professors and classes at the University of Maryland, such as RateMyProfessor.com and OurUmd.com. However, this tactic does not exist yet for tutoring services. In many buildings throughout campus, there are frequently fliers posted all over the walls and bulletin boards, advertising tutors for various subjects. These fliers simply provide a phone number and name, so the student has to decide whether or not to use the tutor without any recommendations or reviews at all. A website providing reviews and recommendations for tutors would allow University of Maryland students to choose the perfect tutor for their needs. The website would provide reviews of the tutors, as well as information about each tutor, such as name, phone number, price, and availability. Additionally, the website would be promotional for tutors, who could create accounts and post their own resumes and search for work.

For this website, we are targeting students of the University of Maryland who are searching for tutoring services, as well as students, faculty, staff, and other members of the University of Maryland at College Park community who provide tutoring services. The students can use the website free of charge to find tutors in the area and make the decision of which tutor to use based on ratings, pricing, availability, and content area. The tutors can sign up for an account with Fear the Tutor and create a profile to display their services to all viewers of the website. There is a spot to upload a picture and write an “About Me” section. The tutor can also provide his/her e-mail, phone number, subjects available for tutoring, and pricing per hour.

II) Audience

Our audience is the students of the University of Maryland at College Park who are looking for tutors and the students, faculty, staff, and other members of the University of Maryland community who are offering their tutoring services. Students can use the website, free of charge, to find an appropriate tutor for their class, schedule, and budget. Tutors can use the website to help promote their tutoring services. In the buildings all around campus, there are thousands of flyers posted across every available surface, advertising a tutoring service. Most contain only the most basic information: a name, a subject, and a phone number. In most cases, students don’t know enough information about the tutor to feel comfortable committing to a session with him. This website allows the tutor to promote himself much better, by providing an entire profile page of information including a name, a picture, an e-mail address and phone number, an average price, a list of what classes are available for tutoring, and an “About Me” section where the tutor can describe his approach to tutoring.
We chose this audience because, as a combination of both students and tutors at the University of Maryland, we have experienced the struggle of trying to find an appropriate tutor based on availability, referral, and budget. We feel that the University of Maryland student body is a perfect audience because there are over 26,000 undergraduate students all taking classes in the same general vicinity of College Park. This website provides a way for the large mass of people to all have an opportunity to find a great tutor within College Park, so neither the student nor the tutor has to travel far.

III) Distribution of Work

For the first three phases of this project, the Fear the Tutor group consisted of four members: Joe Chapline, Michon Edmondson, Katie Mackey, and Sarah Reehl. We approached the first three phases trying to split up the work as much as possible, and it ended up that one person would often take the leader role on one of the phases and the other group members would add their input on the different phases. For example, for the proposal, we all met as a group to go over some general ideas and then Katie created the document for the proposal, and the rest of the group reviewed it for accuracy and clarity. For the User Needs, we again met as a group, and then Sarah and Michon worked together to create the write up. We all worked together to create and get feedback from the survey we created for the User Needs section. When the design portion came around, we each presented the group with our vision for the design of the website. Rather than voting to choose the best existing design, we all worked together to decide on the best aspects from each drawings and merge them together to form a final design for the website.
After the design phase, we had a few weeks to work on the prototype phase. When it came time to actually start with the implementation, we had two differing ideas on how to create the website. Joey, Michon, and Katie all thought using Ruby on Rails would be the best and most efficient way to create the site, and Sarah thought it would be better to use mostly Java and HTML. This large difference, along with the fact that it was extremely difficult to find times for all four of us to meet for weekly meetings, led to the team breaking into two separate teams. Since the split, our team has been working extremely well together. We have been meeting at a regular time, 10am-12pm, once or twice per week depending on the work load. We have been all doing an equal amount of work, and were able to get a completely new, Ruby on Rails, functional prototype running on time, just two days after being told of the group split. Since then, we have split the work very evenly. The three of us have worked together on the final phase of the project, coming together to produce a website we are all proud of. Joey has worked on the back side of the website, developing all of the basic functionality for the website such as the database entries, the search bar, the new entry page, and much more. Katie worked on the design aspects of the website, making most of the graphic features and working on a lot of the HTML/CSS code. Michon helped Katie with the design as well as played the “Project Manager” role, making sure everyone stayed on schedule and writing up most of the descriptions throughout the project.

IV) Current Solutions
The site http://www.universitytutor.com/ is a current solution to the problem, but the search is location based. Tutor's are not associated with specific universities. Instead, Tutor's are only associated with subjects.

V) Solution

Overview of Solution
Fear the Tutor addresses the needs of both Students and Tutors by allowing both users to easily navigate and utilize the website. The site has a basic layout that remains consistent, but renders different forms in the center of the page. With little to no page motion, the user feels in control of the system. There are large bright headers and links on the top of the page that contrast with the corkboard background, making navigating very visible and accessible. The main links at the top of the page include: “Home,” “Find a Tutor,” “Search for a Tutor,” “About Fear the Tutor,” as well as links to “Sign-Up,” and “Sign-in.” Once signed-in, the links for “Sign-Up,” and “Sign-in,” are replaced by “Edit Your Profile,” and “Sign-Out.” The site provides informative feedback after a Tutor has signed-up, signed-in, signed-out, as well as a few other tasks.

The site addresses the needs of Students by allowing Students to browse tutors easily. A student can search for a specific tutor by course, or sort the list of tutors by price or rating. Students do not have to sign-up to be able to search for a tutor.

The site addresses the needs of Tutors by allowing Tutors to create a profile that displays their contact information, the courses they tutor, as well as any other information they want to include in an “About Me” section. Once a tutor has created a profile, the Tutor can login at anytime and update their profile. For example, if a Tutor wants to add a Course to his list of courses, he can easily do so by logging-in and editing the list of courses in his profile. 



The homepage provides links to other pages as well as links to sign-up and sign-in. The bright colors of the links contrast the background making everything visible.

Find a Tutor Index
The Tutor index page lists all the Tutors in the system. Users can sort Tutors by name, rating, and price both ascending and descending. Also, the name of the tutor is a link to the tutor's profile page.

Tutor Profile

This page displays a Tutor's profile. It contact information, Tutoring Information, and Courses available for Tutoring. Also, it includes an "About me" section as well as a location for a photo. A user can rate a Tutor; however, this feature is not fully functional at this time.

Search by Course
Any user can search for a tutor by Course. After selecting "Search Course," the user will be redirected to the index of Tutor's but it will only display the Tutor's that tutor for that specific course.

This page allows a Tutor user to sign-up and include the price per hour, contact information, and a description of themselves. After a Tutor has created a profile, he can then go and add courses to his profile. Also, a tutor cannot provide a rating for himself even though there appears to be an option. This is just a default value of 0 that is displayed to let the user know that their rating will be initially be 0 after signing up.

If a Tutor already has a profile, he or she can sign-in using this simple sign-in form. The user has options for the site to remember the user as well as a link to recover their password (We have not set up the outgoing email settings so this does not work).

Homepage (Signed-in)
Once a user has signed in, links appear to edit profile and sign-out. Also, the site provides informative feedback that the user has successfully signed-in and displays who they are signed-in as.

Edit Profile
A Tutor user can edit their profile once signed-in. This page is similar to the sign-up page, but includes a list of courses the Tutor tutors students in. In addition, there are links for a tutor to add a course to the list or remove a course from the list.

Add Course
This page can only be accessed from the edit Tutor's profile page and allows a tutor to add a course to their profile. After adding a course a Tutor is redirected back to the edit profile page, where they can repeat the process to add additional courses.

Transition Diagram


Tutorial/Help Provided


Our site has an "About" page that provides some basic information about how to use our site. It briefly describes the purpose of the site and how a Tutor can create a new profile. However, we feel out site has a very simple design that shouldn't be confusing to novice users.

In addition to the "About" page, the site provides some informative feedback when a user signs-in, signs-up, signs-out, and adds a course to their profile.

VI) Usability Study
Our usability study was divided into two parts, the pre-test and post-test. The pre-test was 6 questions long and the goal of this portion of the study was to help us extract more information from the participants. The post-test was four questions long, this is where we asked our candidates about specific features of the website. All of the participants completed the study both as tutors and tutor-seeking users. Our study was distributed via survey(which can be found here Survey)and in this survey the user was given step-by-step directions on how to complete the study as both types of users. We had 8 total participants.

The participants in this study were all college students, class level and major were not an important factor for our study participants. However, these participants were experienced Internet users, spending and average of 35hrs per week online. Many of our users had also used tutor rating sites before such as Ourumd.com and ratemyprofessor.com.

We learned a lot by completing this survey. Our participants pointing out what they liked about the site, didn’t like, and submitted suggestions on features they would add to improve Fear the Tutor. The top five things we learned from this study were:
  • We needed to create better labels to make navigating our site more intuitive.
  • Remove the rating feature from the create profile page.
  • Improve the search feature
  • Improve the user rating system for tutors
  • Adjust the layout of the website (spacing issues)

In the final prototype we have fixed the following:
  • Improved the search feature
  • Created a way for users to sort through tutors
  • Improved the website layout

VII) Issues and Future Work

We would really like to improve the rating system, which includes removing the rating option from the 'create profile' page, and add a comment feature. We believe by implementing these features the amount of information about the tutor would make selecting one a lot easier. These would be our next step if we had more time to continue working on the Fear the Tutor site.