This semester, I discovered that I need some extra help with some of my data science coursework involving physics and statistics, so I went looking for online tutoring services that could help me. I was thrilled to learn that my library has a partnership with Brainfuse so that I could get help with physics, statistics, and a variety of other subjects as much as I wanted, free of charge. Today I will be sharing my review of Brainfuse and how it can help support students with understanding classroom materials.
What is Brainfuse?
Brainfuse is a tutoring and e-learning company that provides free live tutoring and educational resources for cardholders at participating libraries, schools, and universities. Users have access to tutors during times set by their institution (mine is 2 PM-11 PM) where they can have a live hour long session to go over concepts from class, homework problems, or work on studying for a test.
How to access Brainfuse
Brainfuse can be accessed through their website, as well as through apps on iOS and Android. Since I frequently do homework on my desktop computer, I prefer to use the Brainfuse website on my computer, though I do appreciate the ability to take pictures on my iPad or Android phone and have them sent to my tutor in a desktop session in real time.
Brainfuse is available for a variety of subjects for grades K-12 and college. Subjects include math, reading, social studies, and science for grades K-12, as well as biology, physics, chemistry, statistics, and calculus. Students can also study for specific exams, including the SAT and ACT.
I've had Brainfuse tutoring sessions for the following subjects:
- SAT Accommodations for Low Vision
- ACT Accommodations For Low Vision
- Five Websites That Help Students With Low Vision In The Math Classroom
Once an account is created with a participating institution and the user has logged in to the site, they are taken to the Brainfuse homepage which contains three sections for "Expert Help", "Study", and "Collaborate." Each section has 2-4 options that users can choose from, with live tutoring being the first option under "Expert Help."
Getting a tutor
When opening live tutoring during tutoring hours, users can choose their grade and subject from drop down menus, and then be connected to a tutor. They do not need to set a certain time interval or wait for a specific time before they can start a tutoring session.
Tutoring session layout
The tutoring sessions consist of a whiteboard and chat window. The chat window is on the right side of the screen, where users can type messages to their tutor in real time, as well as send images and files. The whiteboard takes up most of the screen and has lots of options available for writing, typing, drawing, and more. Primarily, I use typing and drawing, as well as the equation editor.
I primarily use Brainfuse with magnification tools such as Magnifier or Zoom, and have found that to be the most effective way for me to use Brainfuse. Unfortunately, Brainfuse does not seem to support NVDA at this time.
On mobile, I can use VoiceOver with ease when accessing a live tutoring session in the Brainfuse app or in the Google Chrome web browser on iOS. However, I can't read text on the whiteboard with VoiceOver, only the chat window.
One of the awesome things about Brainfuse though is that it can be accessed from virtually any web browser, with no special softwares or extensions to add. While this may not relate to accessibility in terms of assistive technology, it's certainly awesome to see that it can be used by older computers, mobile devices, and by those who have limited tech skills.
My Brainfuse session
For my most recent session in physics, I had been struggling with some homework questions that related to physics in one of my Python programming classes. I kept getting really weird answers and wanted to walk through the process of setting up equations with a tutor.
After going to the Brainfuse live tutor website and selecting "12th grade physics" as my subject (since college physics was not available and these were fairly simple problems), I waited about a minute before I was connected to a live tutor. I typed a message explaining that I needed help with some equations relating to velocity, and then started typing them on the whiteboard in large text. I wrote out what I had done so far, and then read feedback from the tutor that they wrote in the chat window and on the whiteboard. Once I got a better idea of what was going on, I was able to solve the problems easily and independently.
Altogether, I spent about an hour with my tutor and was able to replay the lesson later when I had trouble solving a different problem.
Tips for having a great session
Here are my tips for having a great session with Brainfuse:
- Come in with specific questions, not just confusion over a topic overall. I like to come in with a few practice or homework questions
- If you want to write on the whiteboard and have a touchscreen, use a stylus if possible
- Don't expect the tutor to solve questions for you or give you the answer right away. Take the time to learn the topic and it will work better in the long run
Some of the other services that Brainfuse offers that I have not tested include:
- 24/7 asynchronous writing center for reviewing papers - just copy and paste your paper, press send, and receive feedback in about 24 hours
- Skillsurfer subject help for learning about different topics and studying for exams, including AP exams
- Live language help for Spanish
- Tutoring for all subjects available in Spanish
- Private virtual study rooms for group collaboration
Brainfuse is a super helpful app that has helped me tremendously with understanding concepts that are covered in my classes, as well as helping me study for tests. While I am sad it does not work well for screen reader users on desktop computers, I recommended Brainfuse for people that use screen magnification, mobile screen readers, or those who want to learn something new.