Online tutoring made easy with Paper Video

Fish Hoek High School alumnus Chris Mills has turned his love of maths and tutoring into an online tutoring system.

As exams loom, the sound of grinding teeth is heard as pupils vent their frustrations, wishing they could have just that little bit extra help when they need it, and not have to pay loads of money.

And this is where Chris Mills and Paul Maree and their idea of internet tutoring come in to the picture.

Their idea was to make tutoring really accessible. And now, since the end of May, they have a way of making it really, really accessible, by using micro-cards in smartphones, tablets or computers.

In 2014, Chris and Paul got together to develop an online tutoring system that uses tutors going through past exam papers, teaching and explaining concepts that will be tested again.

They now have more than 8 000 videos, with 10 000 micro-lessons, linked directly to actual exam questions from past exam papers in maths, physics, accounting and life sciences (biology).

Their new idea of a microSD card means that pupils need not worry about internet access and will be able to watch the tutors whenever and wherever they want.

“A student can listen to the same explanation over and over again and it will never get impatient, or call you stupid,” said Fish Hoek High’s Greg Hawtrey, himself a maths teacher extraordinaire, talking about Paper Video’s maths tutorials.

“The tutorials are very well presented, and the explanations are clear and well thought out. Paul, the maths presenter, is really quite entertaining, and I never get bored listening to him.”

Perhaps it’s because Paul, who lives in Gardens but who went to Westerford High, was once a lead singer for the band The Beams, although he says he was “more of a cowbell soloist”.

Certainly, that’s one of the reasons that Chris gives for approaching Paul when thinking about Paper Video – that, and the fact that Paul was a maths teacher.

Chris also has a background in teaching maths and Greg remembers Chris well from his Fish Hoek High days before he matriculated in 2003.

“He was a very capable student and mad about maths. He got 98 percent for higher grade maths.

“It was no surprise to me that he got into something like this. He had previously written a book attempting to help first year students with maths which is also part of Paper Video.

“I think he and Paul make a great combination. Chris is very clear about what is problematic for students and has some teaching experience too.”

Chris, who now lives in Century City, had been doing “a lot” of private tutoring. Ten years’ worth in fact.

But he became frustrated because tutors could teach only one pupil at a time, they had to make an effort to get together and there was no quality control on the tutoring pupils got. After a detour via his book and a project trying to link students and tutors online, Paper Video emerged.

“Paper Video’s mission is to make excellent teaching and extra support accessible to all,” said Chris. Initially, pupils had to go through the Paper Video website or the Paper Video app. Now pupils can use the microSD card.

“The microSD card works very much like a flash drive – except it can be inserted into any Android device (or Windows computer with the aid of a USB adapter that we provide for free),” explained Paul.

“The phone or computer will then play the selected explanation video off the card. This eliminates the need for data, which is unaffordable for many learners.

“Now, instead of using their data to watch the videos, pupils can spend their data asking Paper Video teachers any questions they may have.

“The Paper Video website allows learners to comment or ask questions on any solution videos, similar to the way that one comments on a YouTube video, and the questions are answered by the teachers who present the videos.

“With so many learners in South Africa from all socio-economic groups having their own smart phones, the cards make it possible for everyone to have a good teacher in their pocket,” said Chris.

It costs about R300 for what works out to be 40 hours of teaching, but there are sponsorship possiblities for those who can’t afford that.

Paper Video and the Actuarial Society of South Africa have set up a public benefit organisation, the Actuarial Society Education Trust (ASET), where companies can sponsor tutoring through their corporate social investment budgets. More than 10 000 pupils have been sponsored so far.

To find out more, you can visit www.papervideo.co.za or email info@papervideo.co.za