As schools were forced to close down to mitigate the risk of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, many students had no choice but to move to online learning. This encouraged teachers, professors, parents and the students themselves to experiment with education technology (EdTech) tools and resources, says Dr Lindy Ledohowski, co-founder and CEO of EssayJack Inc.
“The overwhelming majority of students who would otherwise be in school are now in some form of remote or online learning situation. Before the pandemic, online learning and EdTech tools were seen as something nice to have. Today, they are required.
“People can no longer be resistant to online education and the newer technologies in the field. They need to familiarise themselves with it because the change is here to stay. Remote teaching tools are going to become part and parcel of any education environment from now on,” says Ledohowski.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) estimates that nearly 1.3 billion pupils in 186 countries have experienced school closures because of the pandemic. In Malaysia, all learning institutions, including private schools, have not been allowed to operate throughout the duration of the Movement Control Order (MCO).
EdTech is a fast-growing industry. According to a report released by global education market intelligence firm HolonIQ, EdTech expenditure fuelled by artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to grow at 11% per annum, reaching US$341 billion by 2025.
EssayJack is one of the EdTech tools that have been in the market since 2016. Built by Ledohowski and cofounder Dr Rueban Balasubramaniam, the interactive web platform pre-structures student essays, reduces writing anxiety, and allows educators to provide customisation and feedback.
Today, the platform has more than 30,000 users. Its distribution partners include Nelson, iGroup and University Book Store Malaysia. EssayJack has offices in both Canada and Malaysia. The latter is where most of the staff members reside.
Being an educational platform, EssayJack was not immune to the pandemic, says Ledohowski. “As we sell to schools and higher education institutions, we have to deal with a long budgeting and decision-making process. This process may start in August or September, where we provide them with a pilot that may be free or very cheap. This process will be ongoing until March or April when we hope to close the deal.
“It all came to a screeching halt. They told us that they are now just figuring out how to support the teachers, professors, parents and students. That’s okay, we completely understood. It is alright for them to only come back to us when they are ready to continue the conversation,” says Ledohowski.
In response to the present crisis, Ledohowski says EssayJack will be free for new sign-ups until the end of June. The aim is to help students prepare for the rigorous academic writing in English. “It is not their fault physical classes have ceased for now. Some teachers can be very creative with their online content delivery, while others struggle with it. I don’t blame them; it is very hard to turn into an online teacher overnight.
“Many of the students will be enrolling in tertiary education next year. Some may not necessarily have confidence to write academically. This is why we are offering EssayJack for free. We have also built a host of other resources such as blog posts and videos to support teachers and parents,” says Ledohowski.
She adds that this decision is also made because the team does not feel it is the time to be milking people for money. “Of course, this will impact our revenue stream in the short term. But we want them to know that we are providing them with a real service. In the next few months, when they are ready to pay for it, we will turn on the payment gateways.”
EssayJack will be rolling out a number of features by the end of June. This includes automatic feedback, powered by AI and natural language processing. The company will also launch a custom course that will prepare students for tertiary education sometime in July or August.
“This course is for those who are worried about missing the last few months of school. We will introduce them to basic building blocks for tertiary education, such as writing methodologies and literature reviews,” says Ledohowski.
Commenting about the company’s journey so far, Ledohowski says she is happy with EssayJack’s growth as an EdTech company. It will continue to help people become better writers and achieve their dreams. “That’s really what it is about. We want to help in our own small way for people to write well, get their desired jobs and pursue their dreams. I think that is a valuable contribution and it makes me very proud,” says Ledohowski.