Artificial intelligence (AI) is already revolutionising e-learning as schools increasingly adopt disruptive technology to make learning more interactive and engaging.
LoHo Learning is a local startup betting on AI to increase access to good quality education to schoolchildren countrywide.
James Ong’ang’a is the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of the company, which was established last year, as an offshoot of airobi Securities Exchange-Longhorn Publishers.
Longhorn has a minority 48 percent shareholding in the startup.
In an interview with the Nation, Mr Ong’ang’a says birth of the startup was inspired by rising costs faced by the publisher after collapse of Pan Paper Mills and the ban on logging led to a sharp rise in price of paper.
This meant that most of the paper used by the publisher was imported or recycled, but importation too was becoming expensive as the shilling weakened against the US dollar.
“In 2017, Longhorn sat down and started to conceptualise how publishing is changing. They then developed Longhorn Digital, a department to create innovative educational solutions,” says Mr Ong’ang’a.
Inspired by the explosion of the AI industry, in 2022, the firm decided it was time for the department to become a separate business. This led to the establishment of LoHo Learning.
Global turnover from AI is expected to surpass more than $300 billion annually by 2025 from $190 billion in 2018, according to industry reports by research firm Global Market Insights.
LoHo Learning has now incubated two products: Kalamu, an AI e-learning platform where learners can ask AI to explain educational concepts, and LH eBooks, which are interactive and contain videos, puzzles and simulations for experiments.
The startup charges each learner Sh1,000 per year to access the AI content and Sh500 for ebooks.
The firm has already put 45,000 assessments on the AI platform, including interactive assessments, illustrations, short notes and questions.
Teachers can use the questions to set homework assignments or to create work schemes.
“Let’s say you are at home doing your homework and of course the teacher is not there. By using Kalamu, you can ask a question and the AI will break down the answer to you in a way that is easy to understand,” said Mr Ong’ang’a.
LH eBooksare tailored for both the 8-4-4 learning system and the new competency-based curriculum (CBC) and all content is approved by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD).
The library has 80 ebooks headlined by an atlas that contains up-to-date information about world events, leaders, locations and other relevant information for learners.
“A typical atlas is normally out of date quickly as a publisher cannot physically print new copies whenever events happen. It usually contains information about past events. But with a digital atlas, we update new information such as current governors, Cabinet secretaries, senators to ensure learners get an atlas that is accurate,” says Mr Ong’ang’a.
Another key anchor in the ebook library is a Swahili dictionary known as Kamusi ya Watoto,he says. The dictionary is interactive and contains pronunciations, definitions of Swahili nouns and pronouns and pictures as well as videos.
The CEO says LoHo Learning seeks to ease access to learning by providing its books both for online and offline use. This means that learners can download books when they are connected to the internet to read them offline.
“We have begun working on ensuring that our content is inclusive for learners who are differently abled. We have started with the deaf and we have embedded our ebooks with a sign language interpreter,” he added.
Mr Ong’ang’a says LoHo has netted 120 schools who are using its online version and serves about 38,000 learners. Some 22 schools in Dadaab are also using its offline version.
A major challenge facing the startup is lack of electricity and internet access in some schools, especially in rural areas, as well as lack of sufficient funds allocated to public schools towards adoption of new technologies for learning.