Tech Talk: An online tutor to help you ace exams Updated – March 01, 2020 Exam season is just around the corner with younglings in every household missing family functions so they can study for preliminaries. Lured by the false promise of “it’s all chill once the high school is over” many are giving it their all. Extra classes, tuitions, past papers, crash courses and what not. And trying to make that journey a little easier is a Karachi-based startup. Meet, an online platform that offers intermediate students customised video lectures in Urdu based on local education boards. Go to the website, register with your name, email address etc and enroll in the relevant year and module. And then learn at your own pace, do the real-time assessments or solve past papers. Currently the startup is catering to Sindh and Punjab board students, offering content for science (pre-engineering and pre-medical) subjects. You’re probably wondering why we need a dedicated platform for intermediate education in the first place when there exists the YouTube that already boasts great content and at no cost. “YouTube can be very distracting with all its suggestions and the advertisements in between and is therefore not an ideal platform for education, especially at such a young age when their attention span is already limited,” says Mustafa, adding “This is why we went for a learning management system and deployed open edX (the platform developed by Harvard and MIT) and brought in other technology such as Learning Glass to replicate an environment similar to the classroom.” MyInterAcademy is basically a brand of Leaning Pitch, an ed-tech startup lau­nched by Syed Wajahat Ali in August 2018 and incubated at the National Incu­bation Centre, Karachi. Just a month ago, they brought in Murtaza Mustafa, who was last working for major school management software, to oversee the product.

And he has come with a clear goal: get up to 100,000 students within a year. How? Unsurprisingly, the penetration strategy is through discounts, including free crash courses for virtually everyone as exams approach, and slab-wise merit scholarships as well as need-based ones. But how sustainable can that possibly be, right? “We see this as more of a social enterprise and are talking to corporate to channel their CSR funds towards our initiatives,” says MIA head. Then obviously there’s a whole other world of grants and non-governmental orga­ni­­sations which they have in mind but are yet to explore. For a tech startup that wants to scale fast, having content as your brand equity sounds like an expensive affair. Not only does it require a sizable team for all the production, but even the data hosting comes in at a hefty cost. “This is certainly a challenge but currently all our content team is on the payroll so there is no additional upfront cost as such to produce more videos,” says Mustafa.

Another challenge in taking the content route is that it’s highly vulnerable to piracy. Multiple users accessing the same one account or far worse, recording the video and uploading it elsewhere are a few risks that pose a major threat to MyInterAcademy. So what remedies have they put in place to protect their intellectual property?

“We try to educate users by warning them of the consequences of piracy like the penalty of Rs500,000. But apart from that too, there are other protection measures such as digital watermarking or splitting the video into smaller bits so it gets time-consuming for anyone to pirate it,” explains Murtaza.

So far, the startup has stuck to its own full-time team for content development, thus giving it full rights over all the videos produced. But Murtaza wants to change that and introduce a revenue sharing model, similar to the music streaming platforms.

As for revenue streams, they have multiple packages including a complete year-long package which can be as low as Rs16,200 (currently disabled since exams are pretty close) or the same can be spread over a monthly fee. Alternatively, you can purchase by the module or even by chapters.

Within the ed-tech content producers, there are some players that tried to pull off something. While the Lahore-based NearPeer offers higher education courses such as university entrance tests, Sabaq from Islamabad operates at the school level and seems to have a much broader range and traction. Then what makes MyInterAcademy different from the rest?

“The other platforms are limited to video courses while we offer a learning management system as well, allowing you to better keep track. Then we make use of the Learning Glass, which makes our videos more interactive compared to others due to the presence of an instructor,” explains the head.

“Also, all the players in this space are working only for Punjab’s curriculum while we are catering to students of Sindh education board as well,” he adds.

The question then is whether education is all about understanding the curriculum or the purpose is incorporating other things like building relationships with your peers and teachers, sharing experiences etc. But for the million-plus students currently in intermediate worried about their future, the focus is towards acing the exams and towards that end, platforms like MyInterAcademy can serve a massive gap left by an incompetent state.


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