This Free Online Learning App Could Revolutionize Edutech in Africa – Hypertext – htxt.africa | Team Cansler

“Learning isn’t easy,” admits a hardy Dylan Evans, who looks more like he should be wrestling crocodiles in the outback than promoting an edutech platform. Online learning is perhaps even more difficult.

The Beeline co-founder and CEO told Hypertext in an interview that to make this easier for Africans, at least, his company aims to bring “free, quality education to the masses.”

Founded by three Cape Town entrepreneurs, all under 30, Beeline is an online platform focused on young people and professionals, with a core focus on readiness and employability. “The change in the unemployment rate comes first,” he told us. Unemployment, Dylan believes, “…is the greatest challenge facing South Africa in the short term.”

Dylan Evans, co-founder and CEO of Beeline. Image Source – https://www.linkedin.com/in/dylan-evans-b0b10b183/.

While traditional schooling is undergoing some reforms across the country, it just isn’t fast enough for Beeline and its creators, who recently closed the company’s first round of funding for a cool R3 million in preparation for a beta launch.

The platform recently underwent a soft launch in July and is still under development by the company. “It’s a ridiculously complex application,” said an almost confused Dylan, “…and we launched it within eight or nine months of development.”

with beeline, effectiveness is the word of the day. The platform was developed with a number of unique features borrowed from social media, video games and of course other online learning platforms.

On Beeline, gamification is key. Users can earn more bee-themed virtual currencies the more they learn.

The platform exists to address the lack of effective online learning spaces available for the low-skilled workforce in South Africa. It is totally free and easily accessible on all app platforms and online. All users need is an email address.

Once signed up, users can explore the many learning paths quickly and efficiently, as the company aims to eliminate as much friction as possible. “The hard part is getting the content in the right order to accomplish the goals you need to accomplish, hence the name ‘Beeline’ – the fastest way to get from point A to point B,” he told us .

Beeline’s Explore tab allows users to find the content they need.

According to Dylan, who has spent his entire career in the South African training field, the original idea of ​​the platform was to create a “personal usage platform for storing learning resources”. However, this later evolved into a way for users to access others’ personal platforms and thus share online learning resources.

Because of this, users can create their own learning paths for other users to use. As the community grows, the educational content on the platform will also become scalable, much like YouTube or AirBnB. Beeline chose this community curation as a means of aggregating online educational resources.

Users can create new learning paths or “Beelines” on any topic. Beelines may even have questions to ensure information is preserved.

While it’s easy to search for educational material on Google, it’s difficult to find exactly what you need, when you need it. There is also the problem that most of the materials will focus, for example, on an American or European perspective, with South African learners having to adapt. With Beeline, “there can be a lot more niche programs for the groups that need it. With a community approach, the content can also be very scalable and viral,” he says.

Dylan hopes that Beeline’s community curation will bring together the best and most relevant online learning content on the web in one place – itself.

However, the question then becomes, with all this user-created content, how will Beeline ensure that its solid teaching material is still there?

According to Dylan, the solution is an in-depth community review and rating system that is currently being worked on. However, since the platform is currently still in beta and only about 1000 users are involved in pilot programs, Beelines is being reviewed and evaluated by a community manager from the company.

As more users log into the platform in the future, Dylan envisions a method for users to identify specific creators with high ratings and popular Beelines. This ensures that the crème de la crème goes up and the chaff stays down for the benefit of the users of the platform.

This method ensures that “it’s very quick and easy to find quality content versus non-quality content,” Dylan adds.

We think Beeline could have something here with its unique community curation system, revolutionary for learning platforms, and intuitive online learning paths. If we were younger, we wouldn’t mind learning some of the more boring subjects via the multimedia-enabled Beelines.

Apart from community generated content. Businesses looking to use Beeline for employee training, which is where the developers hope to monetize the platform the most, will be able to pull company-rated Beelines from specific libraries. These programs are reviewed either by Beeline employees or by verified corporate trainers and content creators.

As South Africa and Africa as a whole experience disparities in who has access to the internet and who can use connection technologies due to socioeconomic factors – known as the digital divide – we asked Dylan if Beeline had any plans to go to zero-rate his Platform, thus allowing users to access it without being billed for the data consumed by the platform.

He told us that while zero-rating is a future plan for the platform, the platform is currently non-zero-rated through a partnership with MTN’s Ayoba.

Instead, Beeline works with minimal data consumption. Dylan explains that everything uploaded to the platform is “data wise” optimized. Other future plans to improve accessibility include the platform having “completely offline” capabilities.

With it, users can download the app, for example when using a hotspot or public WiFi, log in and then download a Beeline where they can later work on it offline at home without needing internet. The company is exploring ways to get its online learning algorithms to run natively on smartphones rather than in the cloud.

Recently, the company also received a grant from MTN and Ayoba to create a lite version of the Beeline app. This version, Dylan says, gets a zero rating.

“So you can access all your Beeline content for free via MTN using the Ayoba app data.”

Dylan says Beeline’s agreement with MTN was strategic. Telekom is Africa’s largest mobile operator and Beeline has big dreams of expansion.

“The problems we face in South Africa are very similar to the problems in the rest of Africa. Europe and America have different problems, and their solutions don’t solve the same problems that we do,” he said.

For this reason, Beeline is pushing to Africa, hopefully to solve the same problems. Beeline’s plan, as Dylan notes, is “Africa first before we move on to other developing countries.”

He adds that Beeline intends to expand into sub-Saharan Africa over the next six to eight months, starting with local neighbors Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Kenya is also a target in the near future as Dylan says his company has ties in the fast-developing tech-centric state.

“Beeline gives me goosebumps at least once a week,” Dylan laughs, “to delve into new potential of what this platform could bring.”

He says he has handed over the reins to his other businesses and projects to focus full-time on Beeline, as he believes it is on this platform that maximum impact can be made.

He reluctantly tells us that he thinks Beeline could be a unicorn company when it comes to his financial ambitions.

Unicorns are privately held startups that are valued at $1 billion and up. There are very few unicorn companies in Africa, including the likes of Andela, OPay and Flutterwave.

The first African unicorn was Nigeria’s e-commerce powerhouse Jumia. In 2022, Jumia’s earnings were $53 million.

“Solving a big problem with a product is what I’ve always wanted to do. I haven’t seen any other product on this scale that can do what Beeline can.”

For now, Dylan says the “funding hat” is off and developers can focus on just building the app “at least for the next two years.”

We’ll have to wait and see if Beeline ever achieves the acclaimed “unicorn status” Dylan believes, but passion, mission and drive is a powerful combination indeed.

The Beeline app can be downloaded for both Android devices and iOS. Alternatively, you can find it online here.

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