A women-made team of experts in innovative learning has designed the system that has the potential to grant access to modern education to kids around the World. PressPad is a mobile technology backbone of this teachers app project.
Mobile apps are an integral and natural part of everyday life – we use them to communicate with each other, get the daily news, read magazines, make purchases. But apps potential is much greater and the WhyBlueSky, a Polish-based startup, proves it.
Their overall idea was to create sets of professional training for teachers in Africa. They wanted to reach out to educators located in Nigeria. The question was how to distribute their premium product in the country with limited access to the internet.
The answer was controlled digital distribution with a mobile app from PressPad.
Because Africa is known for its wide adoption of mobile phones even in the remote parts of the continent. Thanks to newsstand-like mobile app WhyBlueSky started improving education in Nigeria.
And this is just the beginning.
Nigeria is a huge, English-speaking country with almost 200 million inhabitants. 46 percent of them lives in extreme poverty. The education is free and government-supported, however, there are not enough places in schools. In Lagos, the largest city and former capital, with 21 million citizens, there are fewer than 2 thousand public and 20 000 private schools. Access to educational innovation is highly limited.
All these circumstances were a motivation to create the educational project based on mobile technology. The goal was to give educators from Nigeria accessibility to modern teaching methods, which were out of their reach before.
How was it possible that the idea of the mobile academy for Nigeria turned into such a powerful achievement? What was the beginning of this project? And what role does PressPad mobile publishing platform play in this process?
I talked about all those intriguing details with Ewa Golik, a member of WhyBlueSky team.
Ewa, could you explain what exactly is your product and how it works?
Sure. The product: mobile app with training courses for primary school teachers + boxes with teaching aids + lesson notes to start with. Our courses teach teachers how to use the 21st century teaching methods (like Activity-Based Learning, Project-Based Learning) to make the lessons engaging and in the same time, to develop the 21st century skills among the students (skills like: problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, decision making, entrepreneurship, etc.)
All these components are centered around the mobile app. We include additional features like offline workshops. WhyBlueSky also sells content licenses to edu-trainers and educators.
So many possibilities! What was the inspiration to start this project?
Agata Wilam, the CEO, co-founded the Children’s University Foundation in 2007. It grew to become the biggest European after-school program for kids. The program is based on live events with scientists, practitioners, innovators, etc. Until 2015, when Agata left for WhyBlueSky, it engaged over 600 000 kids, parents, scientists and teachers. The CU team figured that it is a pity that only children who live in cities where the CU is present can benefit from the program. They decided to create online lesson plans – based on live events – for teachers to download and to be able to reproduce the exact same teaching in classrooms. The platform with lesson plans received the Google Rise Award in 2014. Then, Agata decided to go global and this is how WhyBlueSky was born in 2015.
Why did you decide to dedicate your materials to teachers from Nigeria?
Google Analytics advised us so 🙂 We’ve looked at the statistics and figured out it might be a good market for our product.
But the beginning was quite different. Our direction was natural for majority of startups – we decided to target the USA with our lesson plans and make the product recognized. After a while, we figured that American market is spoiled with innovative educational products and teachers are not too keen on using yet another novelty.
In Nigeria, access to educational innovation is limited, same as to the internet which is relatively expensive too. However, almost all Nigerians have mobile phones and can access internet this way. For our courses, they do not need much of internet access – they only need it to download the courses and then they can use them offline, which is a huge advantage.
So a mobile platform is necessary for you to…
…get accessibility for our clients – they would not be able to use our product if it wasn’t delivered through the mobile app. So we’ve gained quite a lot thanks to PressPad solution 🙂 At this point over 1500 teachers have benefited from our course, and we expect many more soon.
I understand. What value do you see in the mobile applications from PressPad?
They’re light and allow for the offline usage. It really is THE thing. This means the innovative content we distribute is accessible for our clients, which is the core of our value proposition. Also, we like the fact that we can easily replace the files after we have upgraded the content in any way.
What is your business model?
WhyBlueSky provides self-study solutions to teachers from Nigerian schools from all market segments. I use the term “market segments” as so far we have worked with private schools. You should not be mislead by that term private school though. In Nigeria, there are not enough public schools to accommodate all children from the rapidly growing population. Therefore, private schools have mushroomed, but a lot of those are low-income schools, serving low-income families – in Europe we associate private schools with something targeted at a richer crowd.
With the lowest-income schools, we use flexible pricing: a given school pays for the program the equivalent of a yearly fee it charges for just 1 student. In many cases the yearly payment amounts to as little as 15 000 NGN, which translates into almost 42 USD.
You’ve got your own custom free samples. How does it work for you?
It gives the idea of the product before the purchase decision. Most of the times our prospective clients say that it is not enough for them though – we understand that and it gives us space for further talks with them.
Selling product needs a promotion strategy. What does it look like in your case?
We partner with local organizations that associate schools – this way it is easier for us to gain access to prospective customers. We use Facebook too. We do a bit of cold mailing. We participate in conferences/fairs from time to time.
How do you keep in touch with your customers?
We communicate with our users via WhatsApp groups. WhatsApp as a medium is very popular in Nigeria and it works quite well. Teachers share photos and videos of their work with us, they ask questions and comment on a product on a daily basis.
What is the most difficult for you in all this?
I guess “time factor” is the most difficult issue for my team. In Nigeria, the experience of time is quite different than in Europe. When you schedule a meeting at 10:00, you can expect people to start showing up at 10:30 and they will keep arriving until the end of the meeting. This makes business talks quite challenging in terms of keeping everybody on the same page.
Our impression is that Nigerians (well, not all of them, but I allow myself to generalize for the purpose of this interview) live in “here and now” sort of setting – they don’t think too much of the future, don’t plan too much, kind of “que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be”. Personally, I love this attitude 🙂 but in terms of business making it can become a struggle.
What about the future, do you have any mid-term goals you would like to reach? What shall I wish you?
Reaching out to public schools in Nigeria would be one of them. As for the broader vision, our general idea is to be present in all Sub-Saharan Africa, so I guess you can wish us that.
Fingers crossed! Thank you, Ewa!
WhyBlueSky put a motto on their website saying that education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. We are fully supportive of this kind of viewpoint.
Encouraged by their success, we feel daring enough to modify this statement a little and say that mobile applications are the most powerful weapon you can use to change the education system.
As PressPad, we are glad that our mobile solutions participate in such an exciting project. There’s no better motivation for us to develop our products than seeing how they are improving people’s lives.