When a lot of big companies reduced or canceled their internships due to Covid-19, Trym , Jakob and Magnus saw the opportunity right away. Now they have launched a 6-week internship program for talented students that are passionate about learning new things. We got a chance to talk to Jakob Erikstad, one of the co-founders at Realfagshjelpen, about the company and the internship program.
6AM: How does Realfagshjelpen work?
JE: In short, we provide those who need extra guidance on school subjects with the best science-students in Norway. A typical user is a high-school-student who wants some assistance with math or other science subjects. Some might need the curriculum explained in an alternative and new way to grasp the concepts, while others just need a little help to reach a top grade. We are very proud of our tutors, who are the key ingredient in our product. They are all top students studying a science-related program at either NTNU, UiO or UiB.
6AM: Do you remember how you got the idea that has later become Realfagshjelpen?
JE: In my experience, students are never as productive as when they are procrastinating during the exam preparations. During the spring semester of my first year, me and Fredrik (one of the other co-founders) started talking about our experiences with private tutoring. I tutored a couple of students as a side hustle and Fredrik had previous experience from a private tutoring firm. This got the conversation going - maybe we could start something of our own? After that, we realized we had lots of very talented friends that could step in if we suddenly had gotten more customers. We contacted Spark NTNU and got the ball rolling.
6AM: It's amazing that Realfagshjelpen creates jobs for students this summer when a lot of companies had to cancel their summer internships this year. Tell us a bit more about your summer internship program?
JE: Our internship program is unique in its kind and ambitious at the same level as those carried out by the big consulting houses this summer (who have not canceled their internships), both in terms of challenges, talents and number of people. Realfagshjelpen has a total of thirteen interns this summer divided into four teams with different focuses. For instance, two of our interns, Olav and Isabel, work in one of the teams that develop a brand new product that will be launched sometime this fall for privatister (those who take additional courses to either improve grades or meet necessary prerequisites for getting admission into their dream education program).
6AM: Do you have any advice (to parents, teachers) on how to motivate kids to study?
JE: There are many things that could be helpful, and we have addressed a few things in this article on our blog. A key to motivation is progression – most of us know the frustration of being stuck at one point, not knowing how to move forward. Having someone to sit down with, being able to discuss the problem, and looking at it from a new angle can often be very helpful. While doing this, it is also very important to find the root cause of why something is difficult. Most kids struggling with math have knowledge gaps from previous topics. This must be addressed first.
We often see that it is challenging for a teacher with a large class to dedicate enough time to each individual. Therefore, it is important that parents provide the "missing" help to their kids, even though it takes a lot of time and resources. This is the key to the kids' academic achievements, as well as their general happiness.
6AM: What is the most challenging about the situation now?
JE: In the early stages of the pandemic, we had to transition from mostly physical tutoring to everything happening digitally. This required a significant effort, and also investments in digital pads for our tutors. On the bright side, this effort has borne fruits as we now are very confident about the quality of our digital tutoring.
Now things are running more smoothly, and our challenges are probably very similar to what many are experiencing at this time, namely keeping up good coordination and team cohesion when the physical component of working together is removed. However, having Whereby run constantly in the background might help a bit.
On the left: One of the co-founders, Magnus, is holding a free course for students who need help with mock exam preparation (tentamen).
On the right: Jakob Erikstad and Trym Haakon Blaauw