It’s every student’s dream. A game that helps them prepare for exams, while winning rewards and cool prizes at the same time.
That’s the concept behind the recently launched website, EduFocal. An interactive learning community, aimed at assisting students to become better prepared for the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) and the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC), using the popular role-playing game (RPG) technique.
RPGs are games in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting, or through a process of structured decision-making or character development. Actions taken within many games succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines.
Over the past few years, games such as Pokemon, Final Fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons have made the RPGs concept extremely popular, particularly among the technologically savvy generation. As such, Creator of EduFocal, 21-year-old, Gordon Swaby believes this is the new way to learn.
“We want to change the way (students) learn; challenging the status quo, changing the way students interact with students and the way students interact with teachers,” he says.
He notes that the goal of EduFocal is to use technology to enrich the student’s learning experience outside of the classroom as well as to help “innovate the way we move forward with technology in education”.
He informs that he came up with the idea to create an online learning centre in 2010, not knowing exactly what the process would involve. After much hard work, consulting, sleepless nights and more than two million lines of coding, EduFocal Ltd. was launched at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on March 15.
With an air of accomplishment, Mr. Swaby tells JIS News that the online learning centre is an “intuitive product that isn’t only cool and fun to use, but also boosts students comprehension and retention skills. EduFocal's mission is to become the premiere social learning platform in the Caribbean”.
He further notes that "EduFocal was build with the student’s need in mind." Drawing reference to the game Pokemon, the former Holmwood Technical High School student says the website will operate in a similar fashion.
“As you progress through the game Pokemon, you would earn experience points and you become stronger and stronger, levelling up as you go along,” he explains.
He informs that similarly, the interactive learning community will offer preparatory questions for GSAT and CSEC.
As students go through and complete the questions on EduFocal's website, they will be rewarded with experience points, which allow them to ‘level up’. The more experience points students get and the higher up in levels they go, they will be able to unlock rewards from EduFocal.
“These experience points will be very important as they unlock quite a few incentives for our users. For example, when a student gets to level 65 in any particular subject, they will unlock the ability to become an expert student, which means that they will be able to set questions congruent to EduFocal guidelines for other students to answer,” he says.
After creating enough questions, expert students will be able to earn credits, which they can redeem for cash from EduFocal or to make purchases in its online store, he adds. Students will also have a chance to win prizes from various sponsors.
The questions presented to students will be prepared by qualified educators in the various subject areas including English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, History, Geography, Information Technology, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Social Studies.
The educators will be paid through a pool of funds set up specifically for their remuneration. Mr. Swaby is hoping to add more subjects over time as the website increases in popularity.
Students can access the EduFocal website at: www.edufocal.com at a cost of $200 per month or $2,000 annually.
Within the next two weeks, students will be able to purchase EduFocal vouchers from sales agents enlisted to visit schools across the island. Mr. Swaby informs that eventually, students will be able to purchase vouchers at over 3,000 outlets island-wide, based on a recent partnership with Transactions E-pins.
“What this means is that wherever you are able to get an electronic phone card you can also get your EduFocal voucher. Persons will also be able to pay online using a credit card or through Paypal,” he informs.
At present, EduFocal Ltd. employs three persons, with the 21-year-old leading the company as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO). There is also Shane Shipston, who is the Lead Programmer and Paul Allen, also a Programmer.
Mr. Swaby envisions that by the end of 2012, EduFocal will have at least 10 persons employed full-time through various departments ranging from sales to technical support. He also hopes that within a few months, he will be able to bring his services to students across the Caribbean preparing for the CSEC.
EduFocal’s vision and mission have been fully endorsed by the Ministries of Education, and Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (STEM).
Noting that the “way we engage our students has changed forever”, Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, says concepts such as EduFocal are undoubtedly the way forward.
He says that in terms of extra lessons or remedial learning, “EduFocal is going to open up an entirely new vista for many students, who have difficulties with the ordinary ‘warp and woof’ of the classroom”.
“Hearing about this invention, EduFocal, fills me with a lot of hope for our future…because what is quite clear, as we look across the educational enterprise in the world and in Jamaica, is that we have to devise new ways to engage our students. The minds of our young people are far advanced and far changed from the traditional measures,” he states.
Meanwhile, Minister of State in the Technology Ministry, Hon. Julian Robinson, says the creation of EduFocal illustrates that there are many talented young people in Jamaica with worthwhile ideas, who are just seeking an opportunity to translate those ideas into commercial products.
Mr. Robinson assures that the government is committed to providing the avenues and infrastructure for more bright and young Jamaicans to come forward. “It is sad when too many applications, too many of the solutions to our problems come from abroad, when we have so many youngsters in Jamaica, who have the capability to produce the solutions themselves,” he states.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter