Local online platform enabling virtual laboratory practicals

Covid-19 has altered almost every sector, education being one of the main divisions. During this time, students need digital learning materials that will help them navigate through their studies well.

In this regard, O’Genius Panda, a web-based platform, was created.  

 

The platform, a digital laboratory, was developed by young entrepreneurs with the aim of helping high school students’ access different models in sciences and mathematics.

 

Started in 2017, the platform was launched early last year and has gained momentum during this lockdown period.

 

It was backed by young Rwandan engineers who were trying to solve the problems they faced in high school and university.

They wanted to create a solution in order to support youngsters who are still facing the same challenges, like scarcity of laboratories and materials to carry out experiments.

Origene Igiraneza, the founder and CEO of the platform, says where the world is heading in terms of digitalisation, it’s easier to encourage students to do more research. But again, guiding and giving   them support is the key when it comes to keeping them motivated to do more.

More about the app

O’Genius Panda focuses on science as it is an area that has had numerous challenges, like accessing well-equipped laboratories for practical use.

For instance, according to Rwanda Education Statistics carried out in 2018 statistics, 78 per cent of Rwandan schools don’t have laboratories yet they teach sciences.

This digital laboratory enables students to perform laboratory experiments anytime, anywhere without constraints.

Igiraneza says the platform combines the experience of using virtual reality, but then controlled over the computer —so students can navigate through the designed laboratory.

“All the materials are designed like the whole set up one can find in a real laboratory, by only using a mouse to move around to find what you need to learn,” he says.

According to Christian Rutayisire, one of the founders, the content developed can be used during class time when tutors are teaching, and used as a demo to make science more understood.

He says the platform also provides more content, including summary notes, texts books, and evaluations (where they cover the entire curriculum from senior one to six; basically on mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology).

“All that is required for a student is to have a computer, tablet or a smartphone and internet connection,” he says.

This web platform is not a video base, rather, interactive simulation, where a learner can manipulate parameters such as mixing chemicals by themselves.

Igiraneza says students also learn how to apply digital skills, not just learning. 

“We focus on how to bring the application of science to real life as this is something you rarely find in schools,” he adds.

Cedric Mugabo, who is also among the founders of the platform, says it is interactive and gives students all the guidelines they need.

He says the whole idea is to help students not only understand, but remember easily without cramming.

Students share their experience

Theophile Habiyambere, Deputy Head of School and Director of Academics at Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology (GGAST), says during this unprecedented pandemic, the app has been helpful as most teachers have uploaded different questions for students to access while at home.

At his school, for instance, since they started using the platform early last year, students have improved in carrying out experiments.

He says it’s even more helpful during this time as their students are using it while at home.

“In a nutshell, O’Genius Panda as a home-grown solution has enormously enhanced our students’ online classes, from mid-March up to now,” he says.

Ange Noella Abayisenga, a senior six student at Fawe Girls School, says the app has helped her learn and understand more content studied at school, and that the way it’s arranged, it’s much easier for any student to understand even in the absence of a teacher or facilitator.

Through lab models, Abayisenga says she now understands things that they used to learn theoretically and couldn’t understand well.

She notes that it also facilitates students in a way that one can ask questions and get feedback from facilitators or fellow students.

“For revision, this has been helpful, I have gotten used to practicals as a science student. I have also managed to use my time profitably and develop my knowledge in technology,” she says.

Meanwhile, O’Genius Panda platform is working with the ministry of education and other partners for the users to be able to access the content without necessarily consuming their data, so long as they have internet connection.

The platform now serves more than 80 schools with thousands of students enrolled across the country.

Impact to the community

So far, the platform has eight people working full time, managed to provide job opportunities for almost 50 people, especially content creators.

According to research done by this online platform, the average academic performance of students using it has since increased by 10 percent as opposed to before using.

Dr. Christine Niyizamwiyitira, the head of ICT at Rwanda Education Board applauds the app, noting that the ability of young entrepreneurs leveraging such digital tools is recommendable especially during this time where students are now in the dire need to learn.

According to her, she encourages most computer, science students to learn from this and in future, come up with other products that can help others as far as education is concerned.

As REB, she says they look forward into partnering with the O’Genius Panda for the benefits of the learners across the country.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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