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From London to Tokyo to Manila: Quipper exec brings local learning online

By Excel V. Dyquiangco

Nowadays, learning has never been so easy and accessible for students. With just a click of a mouse, they can find everything online—from grammar lessons to solving a quick math problem, and even designing spacecraft that really fly. Having lessons accessible on the Web has definitely changed the way they absorb knowledge.

This has been the goal of Quipper, an electronic-learning (e-learning) platform that seeks to elevate the quality of education as we know it. It is currently transformingknowledge-generation and the teaching environment in our shores.

Founded in the United Kingdom in 2010 and established in the Philippines in 2014, the game-changing service in Philippine education is described here by the company’s country manager, Yuki Naotori.

“The initial service we offered in the Philippines is Quipper School, which provides an excellent overall experience for both teachers and students,” said the Japanese national, who has been living in the Philippines for three years already. “Teachers can access ready-made, K to 12-aligned, Department of Education [DepEd]-sanctioned content and even upload their own. It has an analytics function where they can collect statistics of their students’ performance. Also, it has the ability to allow interaction between students via a messaging system. Learners, on the other hand, can bolster their knowledge in a fun, effective way.”

Aside from Quipper School, Naotori mentioned about their premium service in Quipper Video, where recorded topics by teachers can be accessed through online streaming. Videos on this paid service are accompanied by downloadable PDF versions of the lesson, as well as short quizzes.

Among its unique selling points, aside from being Web-based, is that Quipper constantly updates both its content and platform. “Our services are always enhanced, and our contents are always up to date,” he said. “Plus, we can provide our service at a very low and affordable price. Compared to other global players, our content is localized, and are built by teachers themselves. The system, meanwhile, is built by our global team, many of whom are based in our office in Makati.”

Naotori beams with pride in saying his company’s e-learning services have been adopted by a sizable number of educational institutions across the archipelago, both by private and public elementary, as well as junior and senior high schools nationwide. He is a witness to how Quipper has expanded its roots from in its headquarters in London, and has established its presence in key cities across the globe: Manila, Jakarta, Tokyo, Mexico City, Bangkok and Hanoi.

Growing in the Philippines

Naotori admits dealing with the education sector became opportune for him when he became a father to two children. Both inspired him to think of how he can nurture his kids.

“I always wanted for them to grow outside the country, so that they would have an international mind-set,” he said. “So when I had the opportunity to launch Quipper in the Philippines, I jumped right in.”

Being in the business of learning, he quickly found out he also had a lot of the same to do when he first set foot in the Philippines. From the onset, he was already faced with many challenges, albeit he considered them as “small”. One is speaking the local language.

“Even after three years, I am still trying to learn how to speak Tagalog,” he enthused.

For another, it is all about him embracing the Filipino way of life. “Slowly, I’m imbibing both the people’s language and their traditions,” he said.

Third, working and dealing with the education and learning industry, since throughout his life, Naotori has been involved with other industries, such as telecommunications, banking, insurance and apparel. The difficult part of his job, he shared, is making them see the need of shifting from mainly a paper-based system to something online or digital, especially that technology keeps on changing at a rapid pace.

But he is quick to acknowledge that coupled with these challenges comes the fulfilling part. The towering Japanese said satisfaction comes when he sees the smiles on the faces of Filipino teachers and students.

Leading in learning

Naotori added the Philippines is actually one of the first countries in the world to enjoy Quipper’s innovative service, because the country is a good test bed for the company’s projects and programs. “If we become successful here, then we can expand to other Southeast Asian countries or to the rest of the world,” he said. “In fact, we have started to operate in Indonesia, Mexico, Vietnam and Thailand.”

The Quipper executive admitted the first year for Quipper, back in 2014, was “very tough”.

“We started by trying to reach out to individual teachers who are very much interested in instituting e-learning activities in their classrooms,” he said, adding, “and reached out to stakeholders, who can subscribe to our services by individually calling them, sending them messages and visiting their schools.”

Then, in the latter part of the year, Naotori said he began discussions with the DepEd, then school principals, so that they could bring Quipper’s services to their schools.

“From those who actually tested the product, I recall only one out of 10 remained active. This is because our services are Web-based, requiring good and stable Internet connection,” he said. “Unfortunately, most of those schools had difficulty in maintaining a decent access to the Internet, that is why they had to discontinue.”

Eventually, things began to turn for the better. What started with about 10,000 students enlisting to Quipper services eventually grew to over an estimated 1.2 million subscribers.

When it came to its programs and features, however, Naotori said Quipper has not changed a bit, and that its philosophy still remains: to provide teachers and students with the best available platform in education, along with the tools and equipment to learn more.

“We teach Filipino educators on how to save time preparing for their lessons,” he said. “We keep on improving with our content, starting with English, math and science and then other subjects, such as Filipino, as well as information and communications technology. Last year we also expanded the lessons for K to 12, catering to Grades 11 and 12.”

For 2017, Naotori said Quipper is expecting to welcome more paid users, since Quipper School has been free for the last couple of years. “For Quipper Video, the standard retail price is P3,600 annually, so it is pretty inexpensive, too,” he said.

Leading the change

While technology keeps on growing at breakneck speed—something the local education sector he feels needs to keep up with—Naotori is keen on leading by innovating. “Rather than just trying to keep up with change, we are here to make it.”

As an example, some huge schools and administrators have already adapted to the style of Quipper, which does not require the process of downloading files and other documents.

“We are realizing that sound instructional design, assessment literacy or data-driven decision-making, and innovative teachers are three key factors that propel successful education programs,” he pointed out. “I believe that efforts are more sustainable if these are in place, even if the tools change. While it is not realistic to expect teachers and schools to use all types of technology, it would be ideal if they were to maximize their resources toward achieving their instructional and school improvement goals.”

For factors that hamper the local education sector, Naotori cited slow Internet connectivity, cost and availability. Plus, the wanting quality of learning resources, such as textbooks, also contributes to decrepit learning. “Old editions are still being used,” he said. “Some institutions are also hesitant to invest in technology, whether hardware or software.”

His advice to expats in the country who also want to follow in his footsteps: “They should find a good business partner if they have plans for expanding.”

And for everything else in life? “I say, ‘que sera, sera…’ or ‘whatever will be, will be’.”

For everything you and Quipper do for local education, domo arigato gozaimas, Naotori-san.

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