Their mission is clear, and 25,000 Facebook fans in just a few months is testament to the need for the service: Helping students excel in school by providing useful revision tools and information. And they couldn’t have launched at a better time.
We were pointed to the newly launched mobile website, www.brainstorm.co.zw yesterday and we were quite impressed with how this new startup is using social media, mobile phones and the internet to deliver educational content. Brainstorm has made a collection of past exam papers for O Level, A Level and Grade 7 students available via a mobile web application. The questions are provided through multiple choice questions with a grading system and personalized report cards for students to monitor their progress. The mobile site also has a study area and other tools typically needed for a student to prepare for an exam.
But Brainstorm doesn’t end with the academic stuff; the site has a category for those studying to get learners driver’s license.
“The mobile phone has been used traditionally as a means of communicating and we want to extend it to more things,” said Brainstorm founder, Mandla Lukaku when we spoke to him about the project. He explained why he’s come up with the solution; “There’s a shortage of physical material and mobile technology can bridge that gap. Exam revision books locally are too expensive for the average family, with an average book costing about US $15. Now if someone is doing 10 subjects that price multiplies significantly and it’s too much for most families.”
“In coming up with Brainstorm we wanted to make the material accessible to more people but we also had to do it as efficiently as possible in terms bandwidth usage so that the content wouldn’t consume a lot of data,” explained Lukaku.
Lukaku says they are looking into other ways to distribute the material to make it even more efficient.
To access the content students have to register for an account using a Zimbabwean mobile phone number. If out of the country, Brainstorm encourages the student to have someone in the country do the registration for them. Once registered, an SMS is sent to the student as confirmation and the student gets US 10 cents credit to use to preview the content. To keep accessing the site, students will need to buy extra credit via the EcoCash mobile money transfer service or YoTime’s point of sale voucher system.
So far students are charged a cent for each O Level and A Level question they access on the system. Those studying for a learners driver’s license are charged 2 cents per question. Lukaku says they are looking into ways to make the material accessible to students who cannot afford the rates and that as they scale opportunities to do this will become clear.