Folens boxes clever with online learning spin-off


START-UP NATION: Apierian:The educational publisher is answering the demand for digital learning with the creation of

Contraction in the education industry led schoolbook publisher Folensto innovate, resulting in the creation of a high-tech online and mobile learning spin-off company named Apierian.

Interactive revision website, which was launched this week, is the first venture of the spin-off.

The site provides Leaving Certificate students with interactive revision guides, exam tips, sample answers, multiple choice exams, instructional videos and the ability to practice oral and aural examinations.

An online migration of the education sector in other countries, increased use of the internet for revision purposes and a need to focus on digital learning to future- proof the company led to the creation of Apierian and clevernotes, according to Apierian chief executive Brian Halpin.

Migration online

"Between improvements in broadband speeds and huge developments in mobile devices, students are much more tech-orientated these days. Thus we wanted to connect with them digitally," he says.

"Students still write out stuff as their exams are still written. However, they tend to do much of their research online and spend a lot of time online chatting to friends etc, so we couldn't ignore the digital learning space."

While he believes the migration online will take away from the purchase of revision books, Halpin says businesses have to move with technology.

"We think the future is online so we wanted to focus heavily on the digital learning space."

Halpin is also the head of product development at Folens, having joined the educational publisher in 2009 to lead the transition of products from traditional textbooks to blended learning programmes combining print and digital solutions.

Even though Apierian is financially backed by Folens, it is a completely separate entity, according to Halpin.

"Folens makes revision books and Apierian provides interactive lessons online. We feel there is no need to buy revision books when you can do so much more online. We didn't want to compete internally, so set up Apierian as a separate business."

The company spent 2012 developing the clevernotes website with the help of 40 teachers, many of them schoolbook authors, state examiners and e-learning specialists.

The site is aimed at students rather than teachers and delivered online and on mobile devices. So far it provides interactive revision in geography, English, French, history, Irish, home economics, business and biology, with additional subjects including maths and chemistry being rolled out in the coming weeks.

"When it comes to oral and aural practice we really excel. Students can listen to sample dialogue, record themselves and play back to ensure their pronunciation is spot on. No textbook can teach that."

The site also runs competitions to win driving lessons, mobile phones and concert tickets as an incentive to students, but also to provide some light relief from intensive studying.

While many of the revision notes are free on the site, students must pay a €50 registration fee (although there is an introductory fee of €25 at present) to gain full access to all the lessons, sample answers and interactive tools. Some 1,500 students have registered on the site already.

Exam preparation

The €50 fee is the equivalent cost of a two grinds, yet the students get full access to revision notes, tests and interactive lessons in many subjects, according to Halpin.

He believes the company has the ability to branch out into other sectors and countries.

"We see similar opportunities particularly in the UK. If we can get the model right we can go anywhere there is any form of exam preparation.

"We are also keen to migrate into third-level, corporate e-learning, continuing professional development and professional certification."

The company currently employs 11 people in Dublin, but it is hoped that number will be expanded to 25 in the coming months.

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