Digital education can reach large audiences in Africa when apps are designed to educate and not distract


Jacques Jordaan, CEO at Specno

As children and awkward teens, the opportunity to dedicate time and effort to learning was neither well understood nor as appreciated as it should have been. Only once our lives devolve into an ever-more complex array of decision-making and stress do we, now adults, realise how lucky we were to have had the time and space to dedicate ourselves to learning.

Although we never really stop learning, we are also never again afforded the same luxury of time to dedicate ourselves to education as we once had as children. Even scholars and academics still need to worry about paying bills. We all know that we should invest in continuous learning for our future prosperity, but sometimes we need the help from a convenient, user-friendly app, to make it happen.

Duolingo and Headspace educate and don’t distract

Just like children and teenagers, adults are similarly bound to their smartphones. We all initially — perhaps quite naively — believed that the ability to access the internet so readily via our phones would be liberating, but the avalanche of knowledge, cat photos, and memes has blunted this very useful tool we all carry around with us. But yet, we still want to learn, as can be seen by the popularity of apps that try to educate instead of distract. As the obnoxiously persistent little owl from Duolingo, Khan Academy, Headspace, guitar learning apps, plant encyclopediae, coding apps, and the thousands of other successful phone-based teaching platforms prove, we can claw back some of our ability to teach ourselves new tricks.

All these apps have the same raison d’etre: to teach. But, if you aren’t able to teach people effectively with it, your skills and expertise go to waste and the people who actively want to learn do not benefit at all. This is a net zero outcome and utterly depressing. Unlike the schools of our youth, apps must survive in the free market of our attention and must engineer their own luck if they are to thrive – and given everything available to us at our fingertips, educational platforms will need all the luck they can get.

Digital transformation: understanding the world beyond the app

When it comes to competing in an oversaturated market of online distractions, educational apps must turn to those with a pedigree in digital transformation – not just as a purely technical service. Yes, companies providing such a service can help build a solid technical foundation for any apps’ online teaching efforts, but digital transformation means more than just creating a functional database.

In helping an educator reach the greatest audience possible, a functioning app is only the beginning: a platform built for purpose may tick every box required by the project but could still fall flat on its face if it is unable to compete with other offerings. That is where digital transformation differs from mere app development. Those with expertise in successfully aiding individuals or organisations in perfecting their online offerings understand the world beyond the app: from branding to incorporating a scalable design languagesuccessful digital transformation sets a company or organisation on the path of growing naturally and under its own steam.

But these efforts and expertise go beyond strategic marketing and future-proofing. Successful digital transformation also presents solutions and alternatives to the unseen obstacles standing in the way of successful teaching. For example, the scope of understanding required to be comfortable with financial terms and concepts presented by an app that teaches financial literacy may overwhelm and dissuade further engagement by an otherwise keen user, kneecapping all efforts before they even get the chance to explore the subject properly.

Staying engaged with content presented in the traditional manner (such as text or lectures) requires a deft touch – especially when the materials already seem quite daunting. Those implementing successful digital strategies understand these realities and can incorporate proven methods of keeping an audience engaged; after all, there is a reason why elements such as the gamification of learning content, the creation of an involved community, and the presentation of a professional product are all present among the most successful learning apps.

But it is not just among the realms of education or FinTech in which the efforts of b2b software developers are worth their weight in gold – from retail to entertainment, and everything in between, those who can give you a functional and successful digital presence are as invaluable as the teachers we took for granted as kids. And just like a teacher setting a student up for future success, so do developers provide the tools with which to flourish.


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