Although not new in the United States, the Bonnenote service of fee-based homework completed by more than 500 specialized “editors ready to respond in a few minutes," has been equated in France to the American taxi service and is being called “the Uber des devoirs,” or "Uberized homework."
“We have seen Airbnb shake up the economy of tourism and Uber transform the transport sector," the financial newspaper Les Echos noted. "By the same logic, a newcomer, Bonnenote.fr, intends to revolutionize the National Education and the market of tutoring."
With a few clicks, “students or parents who help their children with their homework and want to save time," according to the Bonnenote site, can send in their assignment that will be handled by active or retired teachers, professors of higher education, senior high school students or university students, depending on the level required.
Bonnenote.fr explains that pupils and students can find help with more than 100 subjects and that they can "call writers specialized in specific subjects and academic levels to help them carry out quality assignments." The site promise homework without plagiarism.
Potential clients include francophone students from around the world, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada and all French high schools (lycées) abroad. Victor Der Megreditchian, the founder of the start-up which is raising funds via the crowdfunding platform Seedrs, sets its valuation at €1.7 million, and is aiming initially at 5.5 million potential customers in the French-speaking market.
He intends to recreate the model in Spain, Italy and Germany within six months.
The price paid by students or their parents varies according to the academic level of the homework, paper or dissertation, the number of pages and the deadline. It starts at €7 per page and reaches an average €60 per assignment. The tighter the deadline, the higher the price.
The General Syndicate of High School Students, SGL, denounced "the Uber of homework" as "a commodification of education that will increase the inequalities between high school students able to pay for their homework and the less well-off."
The high school organization is demanding "the suspension of the site Bonnenote.fr in its current model and any initiative of this type," according to a statement.
Various other education, parents and teachers organizations have questioned the pedagogical value of the services and denounced it as a form of cheating. “During the exams, the student can only rely on their own resources,” warns the SGL, asking that homework support at schools be reinforced.
To test the quality of the service, the daily newspaper Le Parisien commissioned a dissertation on philosophy and then had it corrected by a professor who rated it eight out of a maximum 20 points.
"Our goal, on the contrary, is to help students understand, with the help of a professional editor," Der Megreditchian explained. “These editors receive 70 to 90% of the duty-free price. Its' a business similar to that of Uber."
The site insists that it hires only "meticulously selected professors, Ph.D. students, graduates, students at the end of their studies, who all have the common interest to help and share their knowledge."