Young entrepreneur making significant strides with revolutionised online educationWednesday, April 08, 2020
When Ricardo Allen declined his Fulbright Scholarship, little did he know he would be helping to further the educational development and achievement of thousands of secondary students across the Caribbean, by creating One on One Educational Services Limited.
Since its inception in 2014, the company has provided e-learning assistance to more than 50,000 students across the region, even in the aftermath of natural disasters.
“One on One started roughly about six years ago as a tutoring company, providing quality personal extra classes for students in and around Kingston and St Andrew. We started tutoring mathematics and we quickly got into the sciences,” the chief executive officer and founder tells JIS.
Allen recounts how quickly the company grew, creating the need to reposition classes online.
“We moved from 50 students to 500 to 1,000 students within two years. We then realised we were bursting at the seams and we could not continue in the physical classrooms. We then took the formula we had, which allowed students to perform so well that personalised 10 to one ratio formula, online. The company recruited some of the best teachers within the Caribbean to create lessons in the form of online learning videos for students,” he said.
E-learning enables students to learn anywhere and not be distracted by occurrences in their physical environment. Students go through classes at their own pace, as they can pause, fast-forward, and rewind lessons/topics.
“We're in the business of enabling companies, governments and students to learn online, using instructional technologies and content that have been developed for the Caribbean,” Allen notes.
Allen recalls how, in 2016, a partnership with telecommunications provider Flow pushed the company's boundaries and led to its further expansion.
“We teamed up with Flow to allow more persons within the Caribbean to have access to our online learning programmes. We helped to create what is called 'FLOW Study' which allows Flow customers and non-customers to have access to our resources on their smart devices without any Internet charges,” he explains.
Allen explains that the collaboration enabled students to access lessons and classes without the limitation of Internet connectivity, a valuable commodity which is scarce during times of natural disasters.
“When Hurricane Irma and Maria hit the Eastern Caribbean in 2017, we were called by the governments of the Eastern Caribbean community to fly a team down to the location to help keep students in school, even though the physical buildings were destroyed,” he said.
In 2017, Hurricane Irma was the first category five cyclone to ever hit the group of islands. Two weeks later, Hurricane Maria, another category-five cyclone, devastated the islands of Dominica, St Croix, and Puerto Rico.
“In Dominica, students were out of school for six months. But because of our online programme, the country increased its overall academic performance that year,” Allen said.
The company's efforts during that unfortunate period was commended by and received a nod of approval from the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).
“CXC saw what we were doing, in helping students to stay on track with their studies, and thought to partner with us to expand our online presence, by working with them on their learning platform Learning Up,” Allen said.
He notes that as recently as last year, when another natural disaster threatened the education system of another Caribbean island, One on One again answered the call to provide online educational support.
“When Hurricane Dorian devastated The Bahamas, One on One Limited was again called in to provide e-learning solutions. Sandals Resort teamed up with us so that students could receive schooling every week on our platform. We streamed the content, and Internet connectivity was not a problem. Students were able to learn at their pace and convenience,” Allen said.
The young CEO beams with pride as he notes that 95 per cent of the students using One on One Educational Services receive a grade one or two in mathematics and English. He highlights how inspiring this is, as Jamaica actively seeks to improve the national mathematics average.
“While we've excelled in the online classroom space, we've also transitioned into allowing other universities and companies to use our services. Online learning is the future, every Caribbean country should have a strategy to keep students and teachers in schools connected in the event of natural disasters. We have a very high probability of being affected by natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and, in recent times, pandemics,” Allen said.
Meanwhile, as the Caribbean grapples with the effects of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on health, the economy, and education, One on One Educational Service Limited has joined the fight against the virus.
“In response to the closure of school buildings due to COVID-19, we've partnered with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to roll out e-learning solutions. We have our One on One classroom product, which allows any teacher to sign up at https://classroom.1on1lms.com/ using their Gmail address, invite their students and teach their live, online class, and that's free for the rest of the school year in light of the virus outbreak,” Allen said.
He adds that a similar product is being offered for businesses, if staff meetings or training sessions need to be conducted.
“It's unfortunate that less than 10 per cent of the Caribbean is learning online, especially given the flexibility that online learning provides. We are doing our part, we're big on education and we love our country and region, so providing services during this time was an automatic response,” Allen said.
As it relates to tertiary institutions, the 30-year-old innovator and former Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) fellow, shares that the company created an online platform for professional development that is being launched next month.
“The platform will allow any university in Jamaica to start offering their courses and issuing their certification online, and anchor that certification to block chain technology,” he said.
This, Allen said, is another way the company hopes to provide solutions to curb the disruption of learning at the student and professional levels during times of environmental disasters.
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