Daptio: the SA startup personalising education with adaptive online courses


Online learning in South Africa is still in its infancy. But many regard the African continent as the next frontier of online education, with the market showing signs of massive potential and room for investment. Daptio is on the supply side of this chain and hopes to “bring things back on track” by using deep analytics, and providing personalised learning to teachers, students and content creators in Africa and other emerging markets through its online software service.

UNISA (University of South Africa) has an annual pass rate of 15%, says Daptio founder Tabitha Bailey. That’s a worrying statistic for one of the country’s most widely-used tertiary institutions. Bailey set out to challenge this, and in 2008 launched Together We Pass, which currently helps around 4000 long distance students per year with their studies by connecting them to online study groups.

Through practical, hands-on experience and working with distance learning students from UNISA, Bailey soon realised that there was a great need for a “deeper level of assistance” than what’s currently provided. She decided to turn to cloud-based adaptive learning — a concept that allows online courses to adapt to the specific needs of each individual learner.

Research found that students in adaptive learning environments consistently earn higher achievement scores. It has also found that educational publishers who want to provide more useful content needed to focus more on adaptive and collaborative learning.

Founded in 2013 and based in Cape Town, Daptio uses artificial intelligence to help students, mentors and teachers to understand the proficiency level of each student as well as match the relevant content.

Though funding is one of the startup’s biggest issues, Daptio struck a deal with startup incubator and software developer Playlogix, which offered to build the software in exchange for equity. It has also further received bridge funding from the Western Cape’s Department of Social Development fund, Ikhamva Labantu.

Unlike Together We Shall Pass, Daptio doesn’t solely rely on students as a market. Instead, it offers software as a service to publishers and other content creators who need new, cutting-edge ways to present their content to end users, namely students.

Daptio has an emerging market focus and Bailey says it’s “the first content agnostic adaptive learning platform in Africa”. Daptio enables underserved communities to “move away from the current one size fits all education model that is failing”.

The software consists of three main parts: the Student, Teacher and Content Creator dashboard. These dashboards are then installed or implemented into an existing piece of software for which a licensing software fee will be charged for content publishers. Student data is then used to encourage improvement or focus on relevant areas of content. Bailey further explains:

“We also enable self-directed learning, as the student knowledge profile clearly and quickly shows students (and their teachers) where the knowledge gaps are, and how to fill them. No other system in the market today is able to do this. We are also able to give content providers a cutting edge solution that they can market to their current value chains — improving their own offerings and reputation.”

The focus is on the little things. Daptio offers videos as links, for instance, so students on phones have the option to watch them later on different devices or areas with better data connectivity. “[Daptio is] also built to fit into whatever technology our client currently uses, from a plain website to full learning management system, ensuring that many potential competitors become key clients,” Bailey points out.

Daptio example

Students or teachers has access to the individual learner’s course analytics which can then adapted to their performance.
A recent study by US-based international research company Ambient Insight has discovered that self-paced e-learning revenues in Africa reached US$250,9-million in 2011. By 2016 this number will double, if not triple, in most of the 16 countries surveyed. The growth rate for cloud-based e-learning products such as Daptio in Africa is a massive 39%.

Daptio’s key local competitors are Get Smarter, Funda and ReThink Education. Though Bailey says that “many key competitors are becoming clients as they wish to add the Daptio software as a layer on their current offering (such as The Training Room Online, Pearson, Macmillan and Green Shoots Education)”.

While there are existing international competitors in this industry (Knewton, Smart Sparrow and Dreambox), Daptio hopes its local relevancy will make it stand out from the rest. “We are uniquely built to face local challenges, including being mobile first, and in that our content is broken into bite-sized chunks for low data usage and ease of consumption by students,” Bailey tells Ventureburn.

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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