Meet InstaEDU’s new lesson space, just in time for back-to-school

InstaEDU Lesson Space

Making online tutoring just as effective as in-person tutoring (if not more!) has always been our goal at InstaEDU. A big part of that is our lesson space, which has come to boast not only video chat, a whiteboard and a text editor, but also a code editor, screen sharing, whiteboard enhancements like a grid and math shapes, LaTeX, and much more.

Today we’re thrilled to introduce the next upgrade to InstaEDU’s lesson space. It has all the features you’ve come to know and love, coupled with some big improvements that will make your lessons more effective than ever before. When you start your next lesson, you’ll see some immediate visual changes (woah! green!), but behind the new colors and new design, there’s big new functionality, too. Curious what we’ve added?

Resizable Whiteboard: Once you’re in a lesson, your whiteboard will scale to fit your browser window. Need more space? Increase the size of your whiteboard by resizing your browser. And, if you’re working on an 11-inch laptop and your tutor is using a large external monitor, our system understands that and sizes each of your whiteboards to fit accordingly. The end result: it will be easier to work on complicated problems that require lots of computation, as well as keep all your work for multiple problems on one page, instead of using multiple whiteboard pages.

Flexible Chat: You can now drag the windows for video/audio chat and text chat around your lesson space. Instead of requiring that both be banked on the left-hand side of your lesson space, you can place video, audio and text chat where you want them (or easily minimize them if you like!). This is super useful if you’re doing a video lesson and don’t need text chat, or a text lesson and don’t need audio — the new lesson space lets you choose how to make the most of the space on your screen.

Full-Size Attachments: If you’re working on a problem set or other document that you’d like to upload to the lesson space, your document will now upload at its full size, making it easy for you and your tutor to see and review it. If the upload is larger than your current whiteboard, just scroll to see the entire attachment.

Shapes & Colors: We’ve added some new shapes (hexagons and pentagons, which are especially useful for chemistry lessons) as well as new colors to the whiteboard.

If you want to play with the new lesson space before your next lesson, you can check it out in the demo lesson space. We’re listening to your feedback, adding the features you ask for most frequently, and continuing to push forward on our goal to make InstaEDU tutoring as effective as it can be. We’d love to hear your thoughts, so let us know in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or over Twitter.

Meet an InstaEDU Intern, Part 2

InstaEDU Intern Xiao XA couple of weeks ago we introduced you to Andre H., one of our summer interns. Today, I’m excited to introduce our second engineering intern, Xiao X., a rising senior from Cornell University. Xiao’s first day was actually the day we announced we were joining Chegg, so he’s definitely had an exciting start to his summer.

Here he gives us a little behind the scenes look at why he chose to intern for InstaEDU, what he’s excited about working on, and his big plans for the summer.

Welcome to InstaEDU! What are you going to be working on this summer? 
Thanks! Very excited to be here. I’m a software engineer, and so far I’ve been fixing little annoying bugs in our code. After getting more familiar, I’ll spin out some cool new features for our tutors and students. Stay tuned…

Why did you want to intern at InstaEDU? What was exciting to you about the company? 
I actually tutor on InstaEDU and made quite a bit of money. Heard about it from a friend and Insta-ntly (hehe) loved it. It’s super easy. Super convenient. Never had a bad experience, and the students are always appreciative. I also wanted to learn how startups are managed, and coming to a startup whose service I use was a no-brainer.

What do you hope to do when you graduate?
No idea.

What was your favorite subject in school growing up? 
History. I love reading about ancient civilizations, especially about dynasties in China and how the country transformed. I’m also interested in the rise of major religions, and how Jesus and Muhammad inspired so many followers (over 3.6 billion today) millennia after their deaths.

Anything you’re excited about checking out in the Bay Area this summer while you’re here?
Coming from a freezing New York, the weather and the beach are a constant lure here. Maybe checkout all the cool companies in Silicon Valley. I’m also hoping to make a trip to Disneyland in L.A. sometime. It’s gonna be a great summer.

Interested in interning or working at InstaEDU? We are hiring!

Exciting news: InstaEDU is joining Chegg!

It’s an exciting day at InstaEDU HQ — we are thrilled to announce that InstaEDU is being acquired by Chegg. Chegg has been a close partner of ours for the past year and shares our mission of improving the lives of students. Through working together, we’ve seen an opportunity to combine forces and build an amazing platform for students and tutors everywhere, one where it’s possible to rent a textbook (digital or hard copy!), ask a quick homework question, research a scholarship opportunity, and then access a tutor, all in the same place.

What does this mean for our current students and tutors? This is just the beginning and we have big plans for InstaEDU. As part of Chegg we’ll continue to operate as we always have, but with their resources behind us, we’ll be able to build out new features and improve the InstaEDU experience even more quickly. With that said, our end goal remains the same; getting students connected to amazing tutors, whenever help is needed.

Read the press release here: http://investor.chegg.com/press-releases/press-release-details/2014/Chegg-Agrees-to-Acquire-a-Leading-Online-Tutoring-Network-InstaEDU/default.aspx

Have questions? We’re here to answer them! Just send an email to support@instaedu.com.

Meet an InstaEDU summer intern (and get to know our entire team a little better)

andreSummer is always an exciting time for us because it means we get to welcome interns at InstaEDU HQ (and of course, make big plans for back to school). This summer, we have two great interns joining us on the engineering side of things and can’t wait to see what they build (hint: interns here do a LOT more than fetch coffee — in fact, we’ve never had an intern fetch coffee for anyone except him or herself). We asked Andre Haas, one of our engineering interns and a rising junior at UC Berkeley, a few quick questions so we could get to know him better. Here we go!
Welcome to InstaEDU! What are you going to be working on this summer?
Thanks! As an software engineering intern, I will be working together with the other developers on tasks to improve InstaEDU’s service.
 
Why did you want to intern at InstaEDU? What was exciting to you about the company?
I was attracted by the opportunity to participate in sprints and work on tasks to directly improve the product. I believe that InstaEDU will be a great place for me to gain real work experience, since I will be working side-by-side with full-time engineers.
 
What do you hope to do when you graduate?
Although I have not completely decided on my career path after graduation, I am considering pursuing a Master’s or doctoral degree. On the other hand I see the appeal of directly entering the work force and growing my knowledge and skills that way.
 
What was your favorite subject in school growing up?
Overall, my favorite subject in school was math; however I particularly enjoyed taking AP Computer Science in high school as well. It really sparked my already growing interest in computer science at the time.
 
Anything you’re excited about checking out in the Bay Area this summer while you’re here?
Although I live in Berkeley, working in San Francisco is an opportunity to learn about the food here and familiarize myself with the city.
We’re thrilled Andre has joined us for the summer, and we’re always looking for more great people to join the InstaEDU team on a permanent basis. If you’re interested in learning more about the team and what we’re working on over here, make sure to check out our newly updated Jobs page. Our team is growing quickly and we’re currently hiring for a variety of roles in our development and product teams. If you’re as excited about InstaEDU as we are, we’d love to hear from you!

Take InstaEDU on-the-go with our new mobile-friendly site

Mobile version of instaedu.com

As a student, you’re often running from school to part-time jobs…to extracurriculars…to the library…to home (and then doing it all again). We know your life as a student is increasingly mobile. That’s why we’re thrilled that InstaEDU is now mobile, too — our site is now optimized for smart phones and tablets.

Here’s how it works:

1. Look at your phone. Does it look “smart” — AKA does it have a mobile browser on it? Good.

2. Go to InstaEDU and log in (or sign up for an account).

3. There is no step 3. You should now be set up to browse and message our top tutors and set up or change a lesson!

All of the interactions you know and love — requesting lessons from tutors, messaging tutors about upcoming lessons, finding new tutors to work with — are there. One feature we think is perfectly designed for students on the go, is written lessons. If you come out of a tough class or confusing lecture, you can snap a picture of something you need help with or clarification on; from there, you can upload it to our site and send a written lesson request, all from your phone. While you can’t actually do a live lesson on your phone (yet), this only the beginning of many big plans we have for a fully mobile learning experience.

Try it out and let us know what you think!

SAT Challenge Problem, Part 5: A Garrulous Groom

The SAT recently announced some changes to the famed test and one of the biggest updates is getting rid of “SAT Words” — hard-to-remember multi-syllable words that students learn for the exam, and then … promptly forget.

Unfortunately, the update isn’t taking effect for another 2 years, so if you’re prepping for the May SAT, you’ll still need to spend time learning “SAT Words” but there are tricks to getting the right answer.

Here’s a typical problem and how to approach, from InstaEDU tutor TeLing C.

SAT_Challenge_Problem_Series_-_Google_Drive

One way to answer this type of question is to memorize a significant number of vocab words and then check each word pair against the sentence, but that’s not TeLing’s approach. Hers relies more on understanding first what the question is actually asking, and then using a process of elimination to find the answer quickly while covering for any gaps in vocabulary. Here’s her strategy:

The first thing I read the sentence and make sure I understand it. Then I look at the blanks, and figure out what sort of word goes there. The first blank needs to be a word that means talking a lot and the second one needs to be one that describes someone who doesn’t want to talk.

 

I can just look at the first blank and start to eliminate answers.  A could be a possibility, since garrulous means excessively talkative, so I won’t rule it out. B can’t be the answer because grandiose means impressive or magnificent. C can’t be the answer since vociferous means basically talking loudly.  D can’t be the answer because melodious means something having to do with melody, the groom wasn’t singing. E doesn’t work because munificent means large and generous.

 

So, by process of elimination, our answer must be A. You don’t actually even need to look at the second word in this question, but you can double check that A is right by seeing that reticent means disinclined to talk.

 

Looking for some more help on the verbal section of the SAT? Get in touch with TeLing C. or one of our other stellar SAT tutors.

 

The Best AP Test Prep Strategies

Online AP Test Prep

AP exams start on May 5, which means if you give yourself this week off, you have (gulp!) a little over a month to get ready. Fear not! Whether you’re prepping for a single AP exam or have a slate of five you’re trying to tackle, we’ve collected the best advice for getting prepped for AP exams from around the Web. (And, if you need some extra help, we know where you can find an online tutor who can help).

Tips and Tricks for the AP Calculus Exam from an AP Reader

This easy-to-digest Slideshare from an AP reader has plenty of good tips for getting a 5 on the AP Calculus test. One I particularly like: If you’re feeling nervous, skip around on the multiple choice to answer “easy” questions first so you can build your confidence. She also says it’s imperative to show your work on the free response, so make sure to write out all the steps you’re taking and formulas you’re utilizing to arrive at your answer. You can practice this when you’re studying; do the easy problems you spot first in your assignments, instead of going through them one after another. Hopefully you’re already showing your work when you do your homework; if you aren’t, get started doing this ASAP.

AP US History DBQ and Free Response Strategies

Great advice for tackling the non-multiple choice sections of the AP US History exam BenchPrep (they make online test prep curriculum). For both, the advice starts the same: READ THE PROMPT. Taking a few extra minutes to make sure you understand the prompt thoroughly will pay dividends once you start writing — an awesome essay that doesn’t actually answer the question being asked isn’t going to get you the 5 you’re looking for. For the DBQ essay, use the documents provided to create an outline, with a strong thesis leading the way. Make sure to cite the documents in your essay! And for the free response, a thesis and a strong outline are equally important. Practice makes perfect, so work with classmates to come up with a few different test questions and then do the work to write the essay.

6 Tips for Rocking Your AP Classes

Ok, so this article isn’t specifically about preparing for the exams, but it contains loads of helpful information on how to approach the last month of class pre-exam week (minus the part about doing your summer reading — you’ve already done that of course :) ). Yes, it’s obvious not to procrastinate, as the author advises, but she also has a point: If you’re putting off studying a certain AP Physics chapter because it’s hard or you don’t understand, you’re better off tackling that chapter sooner rather than later (the material isn’t going to get any easier to learn). The advice to try different study methods is also valuable. If you’ve been taking notes in a notebook all year, experiment with re-typing those notes. Or, instead of studying with a group, spend time cramming solo for a few nights.

Advice on AP Bio from from AP Graders

This blog post contains super practical, actionable advice gathered from feedback from readers of the AP biology exam. First, pay attention to the specific words used in the free response section of the exam. Know the difference between describing something versus explaining something, for example (hint: describing equals providing details that help someone visualize an object, explaining equals using words to explain a phenomenon or why something happens). Other expert advice includes being precise in your answers — if the question asks for four examples, give only four and not three or five — and knowing that when a question asks for the effects of something, they want both positive and negative effects. Read through this post, then use the advice to help form your study plan for the next four weeks.

I can’t cover advice for every single AP class in a single blog post, but if you want more help devising a study strategy or talking through best practices, get in touch with one of our online tutors. They’ve taken the classes, studied for the exams, and gotten the top scores — and they’re ready to help you do the same.