Kshitij Sainani, founder of Learnstar, an e-learning platform for creatives and professionals, said educational technology (edtech), using software and hardware to improve learning, has the capacity to increase the Sub-Saharan Africa literacy rate at 67.27 percent as of 2020.
In this interview, Sainani discussed how edtech platforms like Learnstar, can also be a solution to poverty, unemployment, and other development challenges in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Can you tell us about Learnstar’s background?
Learnstar is an online education platform focusing on unique subjects not typically taught in traditional schools but are in demand in Africa. We’re currently offering courses in creative areas such as music, music business, sports, sports management, and fashion, including the business side.
What sets us apart is that our courses are not just designed by celebrities but also taught by them. For example, Asa Asika, Davido’s manager, teaches our music business course, Swanky Jerry covers fashion, and Wavy the Creator guides aspiring artists. We have many other well-known figures who both create and instruct the courses.
In the future, we plan to expand into tech and business, aiming to teach practical topics like taxation and insurance often overlooked in traditional education but essential for the average African.
What is the motivation behind this edtech platform and the expected impact?
The driving force behind our initiative is a firm belief that education is the key to solving the multitude of challenges we face today. Whether it’s the lack of job opportunities, corruption, poverty, or low literacy rates, I genuinely believe that education holds the answers but we lack access to high-quality education. Also, some teachers, school staff, and administrators are not always the best of the best. This is where technology can play a crucial role, and it’s our vision at Learnstar.
When we started Learnstar, we identified a need and opportunity in the education technology sector, especially in the creative field. We saw a substantial gap that we believed we could fill, drawing on our two decades of experience in Nigeria.
To provide some context, the entertainment and creative sectors have been major contributors to Nigeria’s economy in recent years. Looking ahead, the EdTech industry is projected to grow into a $1.8 billion market in Africa. This offers a promising opportunity, especially in creative education, where there is currently no platform in Africa offering non-traditional subjects.
Tell us about the curriculum and how you developed the courses?
The curriculum is based on non-traditional subjects. We’re starting with six but we plan on adding one each month, so 12 in a year. By the end of next year, we should have 18 courses on the platform with one additional going forward from there.
There are two main aspects of the curriculum, which is research from Google Scholar, textbooks from other course-platforms like YouTube or Udemy while the other, the essence of the course comes in when the tutor-celebrities are giving their day to day life experience as well as the secrets and the tips and tricks of the industry.
We have about five to six hours sit-down with the mentors and celebrities to share the secrets that you cannot learn online, and lessons personal life experience, inculcated into the course.
How are mentors selected, and what is the course duration?
We aim for the top-tier, A-list mentors. Currently, we connect with them through personal contacts, including friends and family. We’re always on the lookout for the best talent to join our platform.
Course durations typically range from two to four hours, depending on the specific course. Each course is divided into different modules, with each module lasting about 15 to 20 minutes and including quizzes. We offer both short courses and masterclasses, which usually run for two to three hours. Furthermore, our approach is influenced by the shorter attention span of today’s generation, especially millennials and Gen Z’s.
We believe in providing concise yet comprehensive courses. Upon course completion, we plan to offer scholarships to students, giving them the opportunity to attend practical, in-person programs lasting three to four months, potentially in locations like Dubai or other countries. This approach prioritizes hands-on learning over traditional online education.
Can you tell us about affordability in terms of schools fees
Our platform is designed to be affordable for everyone. It’s not a premium or expensive option. We offer three subscription plans: three months, six months, and 12 months. On average, it costs about N 30,000 to 35,000 per month. It’s worth noting that this payment doesn’t cover just one course; it provides access to all six to 12 courses. Think of it like the Netflix model for master classes, where you pay one subscription fee and gain access to everything.
How inclusive is Learnstar, and how do you keep students engaged and motivated?
LearnStar is affordable and accessible to everyone. We provide digital resources, including audio-visuals and e-books for physically challenged students. As for engagement and motivation, our focus is on delivering high-quality educational content created by experts. We believe that when students have access to the best materials, they naturally stay engaged and motivated.
What are your goals for LearnStar’s growth?
There are two aspects to our goals. First, we aim to train the next generation of African stars, helping them access scholarships and internships to further their education and careers. Our success will be measured by the achievements of our students. Second, LearnStar aims to contribute to the growth of the nation and the continent by increasing employment and literacy levels. We are planning for a 2 percent growth on both fronts.
How have you secured your database and website, and how much funding has been invested in Learnstar?
We plan to engage angel investors, multinational corporations (MNCs), and venture capitalists (VCs) to support our growth. We offer branding opportunities to our partners in exchange for funding. Our priority is to ensure data security, and we have implemented safety measures to protect our back-end and customers’ IP addresses.
What licensing is required for LearnStar?
Securing the necessary licenses is a challenge, but we are in discussions with the Lagos State government. They are assisting us in connecting with the Federal Ministry of Education for accreditation. While LearnStar provides its own certification signed by us and our mentors, government accreditation is essential. Although the tech space currently lacks significant government involvement, we see a growing responsibility and interest from the government.
How can users access LearnStar?
We’ve been diligently working on LearnStar for the past 18 months, and we are excited to announce that our official launch is scheduled for January 29, 2024. This will be when users can access and benefit from our platform.
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