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SA edtech startup launches to assist students prepare for exams

A local edtech startup, Examsta, has launched an educational web app to assist high school students in preparing for their upcoming examinations.

The app is available free of charge for users

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Founded by former science and mathematics educator Marie de Wet, Examsta is currently in the testing phase and provides study material for the South African, CAPS, and IEB high school exams. Currently, the app provides questionaries to prepare students in Grade 10, 11, and 12 Life Science. The app is available for users free of charge. 

De Wet has plans to add History and Geography by the end of the year. Users will be able to access all the available study material for an annual subscription fee of R100. 

Examsta plans to become a zero-rated platform, meaning that data costs are eliminated, enabling less privileged learners to access the resources provided. In addition, a teacher’s platform will be added to the app to assist learners and monitor their progress. 

Created by a teacher for learners

With a wealth of experience in the educational field, De Wet has worked as a qualified teacher and is currently completing her Masters in Educational Technology. With an innovative spirit and passion for education, the founder of Examsta has nearly 10 years of teaching experience going above and beyond to teach children. An example of De Wet’s efforts to teach students from low-income communities via Whatsapp.

De Wet created Examsta in order to focus on “content-heavy” subjects such as Geography and History. Previously, many e-learning platforms focused on Physical Science.

She was first inspired to create Examsta in 2017 while she was learning Catalan through Duolingo. While De Wet was a Life Sciences teacher, she found that she could make better use of the time spent in a class with her students. 

“I thought ‘why am I wasting so much class time teaching content when kids could just learn content via an app’. My thinking was that class time should be used for deeper learning activities like engaging in debates, doing practicals, and running simulations,” explained De Wet. 

She also became frustrated with the lack of South African (CAPS and/or IEB) aligned content.

“Furthermore, it was tricky finding interactive content for Life Sciences as online resources are typically focused on Physical Science (Chemistry and Physics),” added De Wet. 

Innovative inspiration 

It was in October 2018 that De Wet had finally taken the first step in building the app. 

“Following a family tragedy in October 2018, I finally decided to throw caution to the wind (or ‘YOLO’ as we said back in 2012) and set about building an app for learning exam content,” said De Wet. 

She taught herself enough programming to build a functional prototype and in June 2019 she was able to hire two front-end and back-end developers named Stiaan Smit and Andre Dreyer to take over the project while she developed the content from scratch. 

De Wet has managed to self-fund the project by working on other projects for other companies. 

“I work as a freelance instructional designer and ed-tech consultant. I have made a few vague attempts to get funding but the networking and proposal-writing are so time-consuming that it feels more practical to simply work for money and then funnel it into Examsta. That way I know I definitely have the money and can plan accordingly,” explained De Wet. 

Examsta became ready for user-testing in April 2020 and has been implemented in various Cape Town schools. However, facing the challenges of Covid-19 and the lockdown, Examsta had to undergo online trials. 

To date, the app has been tested on 500 learners in Cape Town. A survey conducted on the use of the app found that 81% of the participants found it to be a useful learning tool. 

Accessible learning 

Examsta aims to provide learners with an accessible learning tool that provides an alternative and more effective way of studying. 

De Wet created Examsta to provide learners with accessible learning that tool that provides a more effective way of studying. 

De Wet explained that there is a misconception about studying in that it is a “passive process of rereading information, taking notes and hoping to internalise knowledge”. She further explained that testing learners allowed for active learning. 

“According to researchers, this ‘retrieval practice effect’, helped students achieve marks that were, on average, one grade higher, while also reducing test anxiety,” said De Wet. 

Examsta provides students with various quizzes that are based on the South African school syllabus. Each quiz is set to include ten to fifteen multiple-choice questions along with clear explanations and diagrams used to explain answers. 

With the upcoming exams in November, De Wet has urged learners to visit the Examsta website to get free access to the Life Sciences study material to help them prepare. 

“Learners have had a tumultuous year, full of interruptions, challenges, and stress. Examsta promises to give them a helping hand, making sure that they can easily access learned information and reduce test anxiety for their all-important matric finals”, De Wet concluded.

Read more: Seven African tech startups receive funding
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Featured image: Supplied 

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