Nigenius is an edtech solutions platform that matches home tutors with learners, generates well researched, vetted lesson plans and teaching resources. In this interview with co-founder Kelechi Uchenna held at Edugist offices, he sheds light on how the website works to deliver value to students. Excerpts:
Can Nigenius be used by students of all ages or is it geared towards a specific age range?
First of all, it’s important to know what Nigenius does. We have a platform dedicated to teachers. On the website, there is a login and sign up at the top, that takes you to the teaching resource platform which is a teacher-facing application, students don’t go there.
Our second offering is providing students with home tutors. For that aspect, we cover K-12, that is from kindergarten up until grade 12 or senior secondary (SS3). We also offer services like coding and robotics tutoring schools which we cover for grade 1 to SS3. We do not currently offer science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for nursery level at this time. So, in all, we cater to K-12.
Is there a way for parents to monitor their children’s progress and performance on Nigenius?
On the tutoring side of the business, parents get a learning report of their children’s performances at the end of every tutoring cycle, say each month, through emails. The report informs the parents of the tutor’s comments on their child, their areas of strength and weakness, the tutor’s interventions, and also recommendations to parents.
What has Nigenius user-experience feedback been from accessing the platform on mobile devices and computers?
Yes, we’ve got great feedback, visitors give us thumbs up on the website. We have also received negative feedback which informs our plan to build a new version of the lesson planning application this year.
But we paused it to focus on more revenue generating features, like the home tutoring feature, for example. The platform was built in 2018 as a mobile app and the web version was built in 2020. And what we have planned promises to offer a more remarkable user experience.
There is a ‘Teacher Support’ feature on the website. Tell us more about this feature and why no contents have been added to it.
So the plan was to do something called ‘Teacher Support Training’ (TSTs) where teachers could onboard and sell their training courses to other teachers. As such, a consumer teacher could visit Nigenius to check the training, sign up and pay to access the training videos and resources. The money would then be paid to the training course owners with Nigenius taking a predetermined commission. But the initiative didn’t pick up.
Oh. It’s a good concept. Do you have plans to revive this feature?
No. We are going to be taking out that feature in our next iteration. It’s a concept we tried out but didn’t work, so we will close it.
Is Nigenius interactive, allowing students to practise and test their knowledge?
We don’t have a student-facing application yet. We only have an avenue where a teacher can teach students online through the platform.
Ok. So students are basically passive.
Yeah. Students are the final consumers and the indirect beneficiaries of the platform.
How frequently are new contents added to Nigenius?
Honestly, we have not added new content since the first time we uploaded content on the platform. We plan to do so this year but like I said earlier, we’ve had to focus on the revenue-generating side of the business because the lesson planning application is not really revenue-generating yet, so we set focus on the path that can help us build a business because we need to pay salaries and operating costs.
We need to grow. So the path that helps us do this is the home tutoring side. And we’ve been building our administrator platform for the tutoring side and also the side that manages the teaching resource platform. When that launches, we can get you a tutor in less than 30 seconds. We can generate receipts and invoices quickly. We can generate tutor profiles almost instantly. So you go to the website, see different tutors, you can drop reviews or book a tutor. So automating makes the whole process seamless.
Also, on the new admin platform, it will be easier to upload resources when we are ready to do so. For example, we can upload a thousand lesson plans at once.
How does Nigenius ensure that lessons and materials align with state and national education standards?
The lessons and materials on Nigenius were originally built, aligned with the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) curriculum. We don’t want to build something that the teachers in the country can’t use.
What strategies have you put in place to ensure tutors consistently get matched to learners?
Obviously, the demand for teachers is lower than the supply of teachers. We have over 800 teachers on our platform but we have roughly a pool of about a hundred to 120 parents seeking tutors. As a result, we can’t satisfy each and every tutors. But how do we do the matching?
We have a database of teachers and a database of parents when they make their requests. With these, we’re able to align tutors with parents based on their specifications. This is done on the current administrator platform. We are improving the algorithm on the new administrator platform which helps to get parents the best options based on their requirements and most importantly, their location.
Most of your student consumers attend private schools, yeah?
Do you have plans of penetrating government institutions?
Yes, definitely. We are open to working with the government. We are trying to execute some partnerships but they are still in the pipeline. Of course, we want to reach the teachers and students in the public schools. And we have a couple of projects we are going to be launching this year targeted at public schools. For example, we have a hardware application in the works which we plan to make it run offline so it can be accessible to more users without an internet connection.
How does Nigenius protect student privacy and ensure data security?
Parents get to see only their children’s data. Our data is secure on the cloud and we respect everyone’s privacy. An interesting thing we have done on the lesson planning platform for teachers is we see the search queries made on the platform, to signify that people are accessing the platform, but we don’t know who is running the search queries. Every user has a unique name, but we don’t know who searched for what. And parents also get to see their children’s results and performances, direct to their emails, uncompromised.
Do you have plans to integrate Nigenius with other educational technologies and software?
Definitely. In terms of APIs and basically, strategic partnerships, which would be mutually beneficial to both parties.
What is the cost of using the Nigenius?
On Nigenius, you can get a home tutor for your child to run three lessons per week (twelve lessons per month) in maths, English and basic science for as low as 35,000 naira. You can even get a coding tutor on Nigenius for as low as 35,000 to 40,000 naira. So that is the benchmark, 35,000 naira, which is less than a hundred dollars.
For the home tutor service, you work with subjects in high demand, right?
Yes. But we have tutors across all subjects. On the lesson planning application, we currently have resources for maths, english, basic science and social studies for grade 1 to 5.
What about secondary school level?
Not yet. But in the next iteration, we plan to onboard for junior secondary and senior secondary.
Are there options for flexible pricing or discounts?
Yes, we offer five to ten percent discounts for customers on special occasions. And we’re also bringing up something called loyalty points. So as a parent, the more you subscribe and get tutors, you get loyalty points. When your loyalty points get to a certain level, you get one class free.
Are there any other additional costs associated with using Nigenius?
No additional costs.
Other than internet connection, of course.
(Smiles) Yes, other than online connection.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Read Edugist review of Nigenius website here.