Eric Lam, CEO
Education technology is today viewed as an enabler for the end user, i.e. the students. However, a mere software or platform cannot entirely replicate the impact that a competent educator can have on a student and his learning capabilities. Even after considering the giant strides that e-learning has taken in the past few years, much still relies on educators rendering learner-centric instruction. “Unfortunately, the education landscape today hasn’t changed significantly from what we know in the not-so-distant past, and educators these days are not really far more concerned about learner-centric instruction than their contemporaries 10-20 years ago,” begins Eric Lam, CEO, Amdon Consulting, a provider of education management and interactive content development. With the digital age descending upon us, several learning management systems providers simply assume that users (educators and learners) will drastically adapt to this digital tsunami to incorporate all sorts of technology-based methods of instruction. Consequently education management systems have evolved to cater to such perceived needs, yet not ample attention is paid to whether the infrastructure (Internet) can support such interactions. Another critical factor which is not reflected upon, is whether the resultant management systems have become far too complicated for teachers to adopt and students to use.
It took an industry insider’s perspective to view the situation holistically and remedy the challenges faced by the content providers and the content consumers; this is how Eric Lam came to establish Amdon Consulting. “Most education technology companies focus on the technological aspects (bells and whistles) and forget user experience and human design elements. At Amdon, we have a keen focus on pedagogy being an integral part of our digital products,” Eric adds. The organization today aims at building the world's largest wholesale e-learning marketplace, connecting content providers to content consumers throughout the world and especially in the Asia Pacific region. This is done through Amdon’s current and growing network of partners- private institutions, K-12 distribution networks, publishers and professional training providers. All have their learning materials and their users on the company’s proprietary platform, PageWerkz, which uniquely enables e-learning to take place with little Internet connection and then completely offline, seamlessly, and natively on all devices. This one of a kind e-learning platform is the result of a collaborative effort from educational experts, graphic artists, coders, and technology experts.
Redefining the E-Learning Landscape through PageWerkz
The advent of the digital age has reshaped the education industry in a massive way. Specifically, the anytime, any where, on any device premise is rather compelling; however, this strategy makes an assumption that the user will have uninterrupted access to high speed Internet. Unfortunately, the reality is far from that. For example, according to a report published by Education Super Highway, 23 percent of school districts nation wide (U.S.) are still not meeting the minimum Internet access goal, leaving 21 million students without the connectivity they need for digital learning. “This figure is close to 10% of the entire population of the US, and these are just students we are talking about; and it’s the United States that we are talking about!” Eric states. This problem is compounded in Europe and Asia, and especially Southeast Asia, where a significant proportion of the learning population may not have the assumed required level of internet access for digitally demanding content.
Addressing this concern, Amdon designed PageWerkz, a proprietary e-learning platform that can enable e-learning to take place even when offline, yet enabling synchronization of feedback and submissions to the cloud even when there is intermittent Internet connection. And learners can consume the learning content through native PageWerkz Apps on different computing and mobile devices seamlessly with the same elegant user-experience. “Unlike massive open online courses (MOOCs), where eCourses are hosted on online platforms that demand a consistent broadband internet access, PageWerkz presents content in an affable manner, as those in e-publishing platforms, offline,” explains Eric. The quick and seamless navigation on the PageWerkz App attests to the fact that Amdon has spent significant effort to simplify the user experience to allow for the technology to serve the user and not be burdensome.
How does PageWerkz transform the user experience? By making eCourses look like dynamic digital books, PageWerkz uses the familiar rules of how to use an ebook to maintain a high level of user-friendliness. Not only this, the eCourses/books are also enhanced to maximize their digital capabilities; within an interactive eCourse, students can quickly jump into their content from their library of other eCourses or books and, once downloaded, take them anywhere at any time without an internet connection. To begin their e-learning they simply open a ‘book’ and with that work on assignments, draw answers, create graphs, take embedded assessments, and these actions can be performed offline. This is a fundamental shift in design for eCourses because they usually take the form of a folder-based organization of digital assets separated from each other. PageWerkz integrates the assets and functions where they rightfully go with no confusion as to where they are - in a ‘book’.
Even the complexities of using LMSs has been put to the background in PageWerkz. “An LMS is usually designed to optimize data flow and often at the expense of the user, who has to take the trouble to accommodate the design of the system in order to fit that flow,” Eric explains. With PageWerkz, a user can simply press the ‘Submit’ button on any assignment embedded on a page with the ‘Submit’ button on it. The system itself knows who their teacher is and the PageWerkz system can do this when there is merely a brief internet connection. In the background (and amidst a brief internet connection), the teacher can then receive the assignments from their students within his version of the eCourse/book. In an offline environment, he can then mark and provide feedback on each submission. And with a brief connection to the internet, all of the marked assignments - along with the feedback goes back directly into every students’ books. Additionally, the marks for each assignment are automatically compiled for easy access and export to the teacher’s grade book of their choosing. The whole platform there fore provides content creators with the power to create app-like eCourses that work seamlessly on all mobile and computing platforms in just one operation. Simply put, PageWerkz enables content creators as well as content consumers to take advantage of digital technologies while countering the challenges that would befall them otherwise.
Building a Wholesale E-Learning Marketplace
Any business has two components, the provider and the consumer. In terms of an e-learning marketplace, the two components are the provider of content or learning material and the consumer/adopter of content or learning material. A typical e-learning market, which merely provides a platform for the provider to put up their course products, relies almost entirely on 'footfall' traffic to get potential users to adopt the content. However, the provider still requires investing substantially in marketing their courses to draw such footfall to their site on the platform in order to successfully sell the product. Marketing is expensive and it still does not guarantee a sale. On the other side of the spectrum is the consumer, who might later realise that the course as presented on the e-learning platform is not suitable for his/her specific needs. Needless to say, this model leaves a lot to be desired and is a loss-loss scenario for the provider as well as the consumer.
Our Vission is to be the world's largest operator of a whole sale e-learning market palce connecting publisher, course provider, student group and any learner world wide in a group seamless ecosystem
Amdon’s whole sale e-learning model is designed to turn the situation into a win-win for both parties. “We actively seek out the appropriate consumers in our network to recommend just the right learning content (in our provider network) for them to consider,” explains Eric. Armed with an intimate understanding of the consumer’s needs, Amdon can recommend appropriate changes to be made by the provider. Since the sale in question is a bulk sale, the provider welcomes the recommendations. “This changes the entire dynamics of the e-learning marketplace business and that’s why we call everyone in our network a partner and not a client,” Eric further adds.
Amdon has built a strong global network of both publishers and schools from across the globe. This partnership network is an integral part of the PageWerkz Ecosystem, connecting content providers with content consumers, facilitating the sale, flow and adoption of content in bulk (thus ‘wholesale’) through Amdon's relationships with their partners on both sides of the ecosystem, and more importantly Amdon's understanding of pedagogy, assessment and education needs of learners.
Backed by prominent investors such as Tan Chin Hwee, formerly founding partner in Asia for Apollo Global Management LLC; one of China’s largest e-learning providers of professional education; and Mind Stretcher Education Group, Singapore’s largest tuition chain, the company has been growing at a steady pace since its very inception. The company has trained over 7,000 professionals and 50,000 students worldwide, developed more than seven highly successful education game titles, and pioneered an interactive textbook model that has won multiple awards worldwide and gained international traction. Looking at the impressive names associated with the company and positive numbers, it is safe to conclude that Amdon has been successful at building a niche for itself in the e-learning industry. And, a major factor that led to the company scaling great heights is the holistic approach adopted by Eric in terms of conceptualizing solutions that address the burning need of the education industry, i.e. to make learning desirable.
Making Learning Desirable Again
The process of learning can be quite challenging. Capturing the attention of a millennial who already has more than enough distractions at hand, requires the study material to be easily palatable. “Learners often experience a disconnect between what they are learning and what they (thought) they needed to learn in order to apply the information in their immediate circumstances. On the other side of the table, teachers often struggle to make their lessons as palatable as possible, with little success, and those who had access to digital content struggled with infrastructure woes,” explains Eric. This compelled Eric to work towards building solutions that could bring forth a better and more productive way of approaching the learning conundrum. The Amdon team studied, experimented and formulated a series of unique pedagogical approaches to bring about relevance-based education in and outside of the classroom, and founded Amdon as a company to bring this to the marketplace through its interactive textbook content, games, and PageWerkz.
“Our Vision is to be the world's largest operator of a wholesale e-learning marketplace, connecting publishers, course providers, student groups and any learner worldwide in a seamless ecosystem,” says Eric. The company has been making great strides in achieving its vision and Amdon’s work in pedagogy has been endorsed by Dr. Rodger Bybee, a world renowned expert in science education and assessment as the ‘21st century’s response to a 21st century vision (of education)’. Amdon was also invited by Ted-Ed to showcase its pedagogical abilities, collaborating with Ted-Ed to produce an educational feature that has garnered more than 50,000 views in less than 10 months and nearly half a million views by today.
Amdon is now working towards developing a comprehensive gamification environment, complete with analytics and adaptive/personalized learning technologies, to be integrated into PageWerkz during the next few quarters. These add on features have been made possible owing to the company’s capabilities in innovative technology development, pedagogy, assessment and curriculum structuring. “I firmly believe that in the very near future, some one from a remote part of Asia can present a report card generated from the PageWerkz Universe as proof of understanding (and learning achievement) to any top school in the world and be considered for admission into that school, without having to be first educated in a premium institution in the same country as that school,” concludes Eric. Amdon is well on its way to redefine the rules that the e-learning industry has been playing by.