Getting excited about EduSnap, an app championing free education

(This exclusive interview first appeared here on Domain of Singapore Tutoring Experts on 21 May 2014.)

Heard of EduSnap? It is a made in Singapore learning app which was launched by a social enterprise last year in both the iTunes and GooglePlay stores. As the name clearly suggests, it provides an interactive database cum sharing platform where students can post photo snapshots of Maths and Science problems they are stuck with, and subsequently receive hints/suggested solutions from a pool of volunteer tutors and their peers. We managed to get in touch with the folks behind this project, and understand more about EduSnap's journey, challenges faced and upcoming aspirations.

QN: A very warm welcome to all of you, and thank you for spending some time with us today. I am sure readers are extremely curious as to who the founders of EduSnap are, so how about a round of introductions to kick things off?

ANS: We are a team of 3 (comprising Anders Tan, Luck Chia and Shaun Tan) who graduated last year from Singapore Management University and quit our jobs to devote our energies and time fully to this Social Enterprise.

QN: How and under what circumstances was EduSnap initially conceived? Did the final product differ significantly from first thoughts mapped out on the drawing board?

ANS: We have always talked about how helpful it will be if we had a similar application during our schooling days. Since we volunteered heavily at VWOs, we got to interact with the beneficiaries and that further motivated us to act on our idea. It was then or never.

Other than design differences, the application’s functionalities unfolded in accordance to what we had in mind a year ago.

QN: Was EduSnap coded by a third party vendor, or by one of you guys? How long did it take for version 1.0 to go live, and what were some of the more prominent bugs faced along the way?

ANS: The entire application was developed in house. We only managed to come up with the first version in 4 months =(. The challenging part is to make the application available on both Android and IOS platforms. Android development was more straightforward as we have acquired the relevant skills in school. Development on iPhone, on the other hand, was definitely much harder as it was a total different framework and programming language from Android’s.

QN: How about taking this opportunity to articulate in detail some of the lesser known, yet equally useful features of the EduSnap app?

ANS: The application is pretty straight forward. A simple and interactive educational QnA platform for users to ask any school-related question or homework from anywhere during anytime.

QN: EduSnap received external funding from the Social Enterprise Association (SE Association) as well as the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE)- to the tune of how much if it is convenient to divulge? Were the applications reasonably smooth, or fraught with various administrative difficulties?

ANS: The application went reasonably smooth. They have been an excellent source of support and help. Please go to them if you have any idea that you would love to explore and work on. They provide great mentorship to assist with your SE's direction and most importantly, help you realise your ideas.

QN: It is noticed that mostly Mathematics related questions are featured in the app- what about other subjects?

ANS: We have expanded to cover science and we are definitely working hard to cover more subjects in the near future. Our current focus is to gather the necessary resources to cover both English and Chinese languages.

QN: Based on past statistics, how long does it take on average for a question posed to receive a well formed response? What happens to an unsolved problem after a specific amount of time (eg 24 hours) has lapsed?

ANS: To date, questions will, on average, receive well formed responses in less than a hour. All our volunteer tutors are registered in a private notification list and will get notified once a relevant question is posted. All of volunteer tutors and partners are working very hard to make sure that your scenario does not happen =).

QN: You succeeded in bringing on board a considerably large number of tuition centres (12 as being mentioned on your website) which contribute trained current/Ex MOE teachers and highly experienced tutors. Are these centres being compensated monetary-wise for their efforts of participation?

ANS: No, they all do it because they believe in the same cause. We are equally surprised when we approached these educational centres. The owners, many of whom are also educators themselves, were more than willing to provide the necessary guidance, resources and help =) .

QN: It is totally understandable a social enterprise requires a sizeable amount of funds to sustain itself, hence the introduction of a paid version of the app where assistance comes from a selected group of professional educators. Would the quality of solutions provided within the free version therefore face any significant danger of being compromised, since (from our appreciation of the situation) untrained individuals are permitted to transmit incorrect, unchecked opinions however good-natured their intentions are?

ANS: The "paid version” was an idea that never came to fruition. Although we had many whom suggested that we should charge for this service, we just could not get past ourselves to implement the paid version. So no, the EduSnap app will remain free for all students and parents; We will continue to stand firm in our belief that the cost of basic education should never be pass onto parents and students.

QN: While EduSnap is at the moment a fresh breath of air in the local education context, it is most likely only a matter of time before other companies with comparatively similar ideas jump onto the app bandwagon. Have you pondered about the next step of evolution, and product differentiation to stay both relevant and special?

ANS: Competition is good. This means more free education for students and parents ;) .

QN: What do you guys hope for EduSnap to achieve in say, 5 years' time? Any other projects you plan to develop alongside EduSnap?

ANS: Our only project we have in mind now is to streamline the application to make it more user-friendly and effective for our students and parents. In the near future, we hope to bring our platform into schools.

QN: Any final words you wish to offer our readers?

ANS: The application is free so please feel free to download the application onto your Android devices and iPhones; Post any doubts you may have. Our volunteer educators and moderators are more than willing to help with your enquiries. So keep your questions coming in. Students are also welcome to provide help to your peers =) .

It was enjoyable doing this interview with you guys. Keep up the good work done on EduSnap, and may your presence grow larger with each passing day as more students benefit from your selfless endeavors!