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Technology

Online platform turns laptops into classroom

Serene Study platform
Pupil using Serene Study platform by techpreneur Jesse Muiru. PHOTO | COURTESY 

Techpreneur Jesse Muiru desired to tap technology to boost learning in schools. Thus, he created SereneStudy, a platform operating under his company, Cloud School Kenya.

The site, unveiled a year ago, seeks not only to provide quality education but also to make lessons exciting, with interaction between learners and teachers greatly enhanced.

A quick glance at the platform reveals a treasure trove of class notes, audio and video lessons, past papers and exams that are relevant to primary and secondary schools pupils.

For student to benefit, a parent needs to create an account on the portal where the learning material will be shared and exams administered.

Currently, SereneStudy serves an estimated 10,000 students countrywide in primary school – between Class Four and Eight – and secondary school (Form One to Four).

Most of the content on the site is accessible to learners for free. Others are paid for before they are downloaded. Payment is done through a digital wallet that is created when a pupil is first registered on the site.

Payable materials include past exam papers and marking schemes and are accessible on the premium segment of the portal. Each exam paper comes with 15 questions that are marked electronically.

To support slow learners, Mr Muiru has recruited 100 teachers to conduct remedial teaching online.

“We are aware that the 100 teachers we have currently can be overwhelmed if the site gets more students and this is the reason we are still recruiting more,” says the US-based techpreneur.

The idea, he says, is to ensure the teacher-student ratio on the site is in line with the globally accepted standards.

SereneStudy comes at a time when the government through the Ministry of Education has banned holiday tuition in public schools. It also comes in the wake of false starts in the government-sponsored tablets programme for primary schools. These tablets are supposed to have replaced remedial tuition.

Mr Muiru says his platform makes internet useful to children instead of being just an idle tool entertainment.

“For those with children in lower primary children, they have to grapple with the demands to download games that suck the storage capacity of their phones to feed the entertainment needs of their children,” he says.

His platform is riding on the fast rising penetration of Internet and uptake of smartphones in Kenya.

Statistics from the Communication Authority shows that smartphones penetration has burst the 40 million mark and are now the biggest platform through Kenyans access the internet.

Mr Muiru says his dream is to see every Kenyan child reap the positive benefits of the digital age and avoid the destructive effects. He believes solutions such as Serene Study is the right way to go.

Statistics show that majority of Kenyans are using the Internet to watch videos, spending more than six hours daily consuming online content.

Research firm GFK says in its ViewScape Africa study that 97 per cent of Kenyan adults with Internet access are using some form of online service, with nearly two-thirds paying to view digital online content.

The study, which surveyed 1,250 people representative of Kenyan adults with Internet access, shows that one in four downloaded pirated content from the Internet and 94 per cent watch some digital video on YouTube. In the subscription video on demand (SVoD), users aged between 16 and 24 spend a whopping seven hours and 41 minutes a day viewing video.

Therefore, the biggest concern among parents is the kind of content their children are exposed to.

Mr Muiru says he has taken into account such concerns and has accordingly set up a watertight system to ward off predators who are out to prey on young minds.

“With the high penetration of smartphones in Kenyan homes, many parents are finding themselves having difficulty dealing an extra problem of keeping track or controlling the apps their children use when they use their phones,” says Mr Muiru.

He says SereneStudy shields children from online predators while giving parents peace of mind.

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