Akadasia, a Singapore-based edtech startup has launched FREEJOO, a digital ecosystem to empower educators worldwide. FREEJOO has three core features – skillEd, designEd and collabEd – which allow educators to access pedagogy-based professional development courses to upskill their teaching, use digital tools to design engaging lessons for their students or courses for fellow educators, as well as collaborate and network with one another respectively.
Since August 2020, FREEJOO’s pilot programme has been used by over 130,000 teachers across 36 countries and onboards about 8,000 new users every month. Currently, 16.5% of registered users have converted to paid membership to unlock more features and 60% of these are monthly active users. Today’s launch is hotly anticipated by more than 18,000 educators who registered on the waitlist. Apart from individual teachers, FREEJOO’s customers include government departments such as The Department of Education in the Philippines as well as educational institutions such as Singapore Polytechnic.
FREEJOO works on a freemium model and at just US$20 per year, educators will be able to unlock access to the full range of professional development content designed by global experts.
Most recently, Akadasia has signed a three year exclusive partnership with Julia Gabriel Education (Singapore) where they will be developing more than 50 professional development courses that are catered to early childhood educators. The course content is available in English as well as other Asian languages such as Bahasa Indonesia, Hindi, Filipino and Vietnamese with more languages being added regularly. Akadasia is also part of the current cohort under EduSpaze, Singapore’s first edtech accelerator supported by Enterprise Singapore.
21st century educators to nurture 21st century learners
According to the UNESCO-UNICEF-World Bank survey in 2020, 69 million trained teachers are needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of universal access to quality education by 2030. However, there is an acute shortage of trained teachers globally. Furthermore, more than 60% of teachers believe that they do not have access to relevant, affordable, and accessible professional development courses with regards to 21st-century education.
Since 2006, there has been a strong emphasis on nurturing 21st century competencies in students. Such skills include knowing how to apply their knowledge in a real-world environment by thinking critically, meta-cognition, digital and technological literacy, civic responsibility and being able to work with cultures other than their own – all in the context of modern life. However, recent research has shown that the challenge in bringing about these desired improvements lies in the lack of context-specific understanding of teaching practices as well as a meaningful way of supporting educators in their professional development. In other words, how can we improve educators’ 21st century skills to help produce 21st-century learners?
“We cannot divorce the classroom setting from the increasingly globalized and complex world that it exists in. If what students need to learn goes beyond rote, then there needs to be a concomitant shift in teacher pedagogy to match,” says Neelesh Bhatia, CEO and co-founder of Akadasia. “We believe that the teaching profession is arguably the most important in the world. Hence, we need to empower and support educators by first recognising the notion of teachers as learners.”
This is evidenced by the experience of Dr Alejo Aralar, a 62 year-old Associate Professor at Bicol University College of Medicine in the Philippines who signed up for FREEJOO’s classes on “Introduction to Online Teaching”, and “Creating your First Online Course”. “My first online course was a daunting task for me since I am not very computer-savvy. I was hesitant at first because I didn’t know how and where to start. It took me one or two days to grasp the thought of teaching my first course before I started,” said Dr Aralar. “I always asked the help of FREEJOO’s course administrators whenever I encountered problems and they immediately responded. At last, after a week, I created my first online course on “Family, Community and Preventive Medicine” and I requested a feedback session and was easily granted. The comments and suggestions were very helpful.”
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