Fredrik Jansson – Youschool Creator (Part II)
May 31, 2021
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by Arabella Seebaluck

Youschool creator Fredrik Jansson was inspired by his own issues with learning to create the Youschool solution. An app whose Yougismo, a unique reflective device, allows you to share your screen and see other people’s computers in real-time. His ideas was developed by the need to feel like you’re at school, even where you’re at home…

Back in 2004, I used to think, why do I need to go to physical places? Why do I need to go to a physical school to meet my friends? Because if you boil down to what education actually is, especially, higher, it’s passing your exams, it’s about classmates, maybe a book and then access your teachers. Those are the four things you really need in order to succeed.

I kept asking myself why I should go to a building for that. Why go to a certain place in order to get access to those kinds of things? One of the reasons, throughout history, that schools were developed were for parents so they can leave the kids go out to work. So, there’s other functions than just the educational.

So that’s how schools were set up and how education has been done ever since. End of story. My decision was to see this from an angle and I got into tutoring, which is done outside of school buildings. There are loads of discussions in Sweden on the subject of tutoring. Nevertheless, there is a demand for it.

It appears that school isn’t always conducive to education. People don’t really learn that well there, so they look for tutors. That’s what attracted me to look at the problem of traditional schooling differently.

The problem with schools is they are run in many countries by politicians. So, they are not in a run in a way that actually maximises the results in terms of education. I only realised this because I would ask: why are we doing this? And the response would be: “oh, because we have to.”

In the politics of education, there is a very narrow framework. And there are checkboxes that you need to be able to check and those are not correlated to learning, in my opinion. So, I needed to pivot a bit because there’s no way I could change the way school are being legislated in Sweden.

In private education, however, there are no rules. But at the time, most of the tutoring was done by going to someone’s home. That’s when I got the idea to go online. By going online, it was cheaper. Not by having lower quality but because I could have two or three students at the same time.

I got a job at EF education in 2010. So, I was a product and technology manager for two and a half years there. During that time, I always said that why is education always focused on selling English in all different types of form. And there was a huge market online. That showed me the potential in private education as a business.

Almost 2 billion people wanted to learn English at the time. This was super scalable online. You could sell an English language course to anyone with a smart phone from Brazil to Russia, to Indonesia. It didn’t matter. They had the same philosophy about English as I do with maths.

Our development team was based in China. So, I spent quite some time there. That gave me the experience of the Chinese market. You know how important education is Asia. It’s not the same as in Sweden or western countries when education is sometimes an option. The cultures and approach to education are quite different in the east and west. I feel it’s declining in our part of the world [Sweden] right now, whereas it’s the opposite in Asia.

So, that’s what I was doing at EF. There was the online version of a teacher centre. It was for English, which is a bit easier because you can answer lots of things with an AI. You say the word for car and then you drag and drop the picture of a car and you get a point. So, it’s easier. Anyway, my experience there inspired me with the idea of doing the same thing for math.

The format was self-study, group lesson and private lesson. This is where I thought of adapting this to peer-to-peer study. Let’s say, if you and I are friends, we should be able to go online on Youschool. That was the idea. But then, if we can’t help each other, if we need more help, we need a group lesson. Should you need help with a specific topic, you can have a one-on-one. Those are the three kinds of business models that we have at Youschool.

If you look at school from the business perspective anyway, it’s a marketplace for buyers and sellers in education. The children they are the beneficiaries of education, but it’s the parents who pay for it. So, through the years of adapting this product to the market, I also learned a number of things.

For instance, I thought, why not have a global school? Education is localised, of course, but higher education is mostly in English. There are also many teachers out there who speak English in addition to their own languages. That’s how we began to have that mindset of a global school.

Then Covid happened. And the things I had been thinking of over the last 16 years… of having an online school, that was sort of forced on people across the world. Over one billion kids couldn’t go to school and had to learn from home.

So, one of the problems that came up during the pandemic home-schooling is engagement. Listening to anyone is hard. It’s boring. But if children have to be hands-on, draw, write, give examples and so on forth, the engagement increases ten-fold. Time would also go faster in the online classroom and there would be more learning taking place.

But right now, people are just going online and listening to a teacher delivering content. It’s just the same process as at school. They are attending, marking themselves in their class and then just switching off.

School should not be about attendance. I know it won’t change but.. maybe in the future people will look back and say “oh how did you get points for attendance?!” It’s the same as getting points, let’s say, because you’re logging into your workspace when working remotely.  

The Yougismo is a reflective device which allows you to share your screen and see other people’s.

Q: How do you see it changing? Now that this situation is forced on us. Irrespective of Covid, where is this headed for you?

Frederik: School is a top-down institution, right. If you look at how education started so many years ago through church and religion. It was always the minister or the priest speaking from a pedestal. It was always one-to-many.

So, we have had this, where the teacher speaks for forty minutes and then the student opens up the books. And then students can practice. That’s how its ben done across the world. One-to-many… and practice. And failing in massive numbers. In Sweden, 60% fail math. Sixty. As for the rest, barely 20 to 25 % barely make it. There is huge unemployment in Sweden, as well as other European countries.

So how can the internet remedy to that? The biggest difference now with internet is that we are not going to have one-to-many. We are going to have a network of learning. And that’s actually the best way to learn.

With a higher demand in education and learning, I would say the education structure is changing and if you have the right setup, learning will take place like it does organically. Then it boils down to something else. Let’s say you give the Yougismo – the Youschool reflective device – to students and you enable them to connect you students at MIT or Yale or Princeton, or Oxford or Cambridge… this can be a motivational factor. They can interact with these students and learn from them. They can also understand that if they study hard they can have a better life.

That’s already how it is in Asia. They want to learn, they want a better life. So, the motivation is already there. Imagine now if you enable them with the Youschool structure. It would be like a building, and you were not able to access it because it was in a foreign country. And now we are opening it up to anyone.

It’s now also based on motivation. If you are motivated, you will be able to learn anything. You can see these trends with all of the apps that exist out there in the world. So, the next step is the network. You give the Yougismo – the Youschool reflective device – to every student in the Middle East enable them with a platform where they can post and ask for help. The engagement then would go through the roof.

I think that’s the next step for education. The structure of education is changing, and Covid is accelerating that. Now as you cannot always have a one-size-fits all, you will have personalised learning experience. Exactly like you have personalised Netflix experience. Or personalised Facebook experience. It won’t be like you and I will have the same path in order to learn what we are leaning. You might have a different book, you might have a different teacher, but the end result will be the same. So those two things are the biggest changes that will happen to education. The ones who can facilitate both will have a fantastic future.

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