Exams Are Game: Gordon Swaby & EduFocal

Gordon Swaby is 25, confident, articulate, and a college dropout. It is ironic, to say the least: A college dropout creates an education-focused company. But this is exactly what Gordon Swaby did.

Swaby’s story reads almost like the Facebook Founder’s relationship and interaction with the Winklevoss twins, minus the issues. But it’s interesting all the same.

The story goes like this:

Gordon was contacted on Facebook by his cousin about an idea in education. Seeing that it was always his dream to start a company before he finished college, he told his cousin to send him a document giving greater detail on this idea.  His cousin sent him the requested document and he says, “I was blown away by what was in that document”. It was a document so compelling that he would eventually drop out of college to make its contents a reality. But let’s not jump the gun.

He now had the most basic things necessary for starting off a company: desire and an idea. Armed with these necessities he and his cousin set out to build something that would change education in Jamaica. But he would soon be left to walk the journey alone. Gordon’s cousin was pursuing his Master’s degree at the time and could not devote the time necessary to growing and developing the idea.

Still, Gordon was undeterred. He had every intention of fulfilling his dream of starting a company before he left college and as far as he was concerned this was too good an idea to let go of. On March 15th, 2012, he launched the company that would make Education something that young people are intuitively drawn to: a game.

Exams Are a Game

Exams are a game.

Most Caribbean parents would cringe if you made such a statement in their presence. This is unacceptable. Education is “serious matters” in our parts and it has long been heralded that the Caribbean child who understands this is the child who will do well in life. Based on these assumptions many will say that in the 21st century, fewer Caribbean children will do well in life. Please don’t stop reading. Hear me out, I beg!

With the advent of the internet and technology, Caribbean students are exposed to a lot more information but they are also exposed to a lot more distractions in the form of social media and games. According to parents and teachers, more often than not, the distractions win out.

But EduFocal is here to save the day. The company has found a way to draw a bridge between the prize of education and the distraction of games.

The EduFocal platform is built around a concept called gamification: applying game-like elements in non-game contexts. Swaby enthusiastically relays the excitement that these elements such as Leaderboards, Leveling up (experience point system,) prizes and ultimately the spirit of competition brings to learning.

As students level up they get the opportunity to win prizes such as gift vouchers, movie tickets, phone credit. At the end of every year, the students at the top of the leader board win bigger at the EduFocal Excellence awards. They win cash prizes, hampers, and gift vouchers. If this is not cause to keep gaming – well, learning – then there isn’t much cause.

Building Credibility Through Partnerships & Press

If you type the name, “Gordon Swaby” into your Google search bar… Alright. Let me just state it plainly. When you type the name, “Gordon Swaby” into your Google search bar you’ll find numerous hits. You’ll find articles from his homeland in Jamaica, but his name is also mentioned in the Trinidad Express and The BBC. Let’s just say that it is a name well known to search engines.

From the early part of the company’s life Gordon managed to negotiate a partnership with the Jamaica Observer. This partnership would be, and still is important to company growth and building credibility.

“Every Sunday, within the paper, there is an access code which anyone can use to sign up to Edufocal for free.

The access code has a lifetime of 1 week. But it is a week that allows someone to test the platform and decide whether or not it’s a worthwhile experience.

Gordon has also been able to establish some serious credibility and notoriety via press features. Most recently, EduFocal was featured on a Disruption Series on the BBC for its role in education disruption in Jamaica. Just between us, this was where we found out about this Caribbean company.

Try EduFocal

When I first looked at the BBC series, I did not fully understand how EduFocal was disrupting education in Jamaica until I tried it. Because I’m not Jamaican I am not familiar with the GSAT exam. However, I am familiar with the CSEC curriculum and questions because it is a regional exam. For this reason, I opted to test using the CSEC questions.

The questions provided on the platform are similar to the questions that students would have access to in a CSEC multiple-choice Past-Paper booklet. So on one count, EduFocal has done something tremendous by adding the element of technology to something traditionally produced.  Where it takes the cake is with the gamification element.

In my school days, we were expected to do Past-Papers for the sake of doing past-papers. We mustered up our motivation internally. But this generation gets rewarded and is provided with ample external motivation. Because of Edufocal, this generation gets to do Past-Papers and be rewarded with movie tickets, vouchers, and other prizes for doing them.

I understand why the Caribbean parent is willing to pay the small sum of 15US to make exams game – something which can be hunted and taken down – for the Caribbean child.

Gordon Swaby is indeed a name to remember. For now, Edufocal only serves Jamaican education but inherent in its design is the ability to serve education across the entire Caribbean. So we wait and remember his name until Edufocal does just that.

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