Against all odds – a cloud-based learning system for Ivorian students

Against all odds – a cloud-based learning system for Ivorian students

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Etudesk, a cloud-based learning management system in the Ivory Coast is opening new worlds to students. It was all made possible by one remarkable man who did not want to take no for an answer, Lamine Barro (pictured).

“When you truly believe that education is the largest investment any person can make in life, you muster the strength to overcome all odds,” Lamine Barro, CEO of Etudesk, told Content Cows director Piet van Niekerk in an interview for Brussels Airlines magazine, b.Inspired.

It took Barro four years, 30 unsuccessful applications for startup investment and 500 failed pitches for assistance before he successfully developed Etudesk: an easy-to-use cloud-based learning management system that can be used by learning institutions and businesses alike.

The idea for Etudesk first came to Barro in 2012 during his first year at Péléforo Gon Coulibay University in northern Ivory Coast while studying biostatistics. The learning environment was challenging because of the lack of infrastructure and resources. As chairman of the Information Technology Club he founded, Barro wanted to assist the university administration to build an e-learning platform. “After my initial research I realised that of the 560 academic institutions in Ivory Coast, only eight were offering online learning programmes. The cloud-based platforms were extremely expensive, while the open source systems were notoriously difficult for non-tech people to use.”

Barro decided to create his own e-learning company and called it Etudesk. His aim was to create a straightforward system that would assist academic institutions and companies to develop online learning courses which could accommodate videos, information packages, quizzes and exam papers.

It was not as easy as Barro initially thought. “The startup community was not yet developed in Ivory Coast. It was difficult to find business mentors, technical skills and investors. Etudesk was a complex project and I battled on my own.” His applications to startup programmes and hundreds of pitches for assistance simply fell on deaf ears.

Then, in May of 2016 he made a breakthrough. At a developer meetup he bumped into Franck Dakia, “a humble but passionate web developer”. Dakia not only shared his vision, but they found that in the way they motivated each other the project picked up so much momentum that they had the platform ready in a couple of months.

The new Etudesk platform is designed for schools, universities, training centers and businesses who want to share learning or training material with students or employees online. It can also be used to share new product information with customers. Once a user has been registered, they create their learning page. “It’s as easy as creating a Facebook group,” explains Barro. “An online editor – especially developed for Etudesk – assists the user to build the learning courses, which can be shared with other teachers for editing. Ultimately it is shared with learners. A dashboard makes it possible to follow all page activities and track the learning progress.”