Globally, online education is on the rise. Since 2010, MOOCs (massive open online courses) started gaining traction, often facilitated by traditional learning institutions. In recent years, a trend emerged towards specialisation and hands-on learning experiences - learn by doing (with Datacamp
serving as an outstanding example from Belgian soil). The major shift that's taking place when we observe the move from traditional education to online offerings is the global reach. It makes sense to invest in niche learning initiatives that serve a specific audience.
We got in touch with Anny Cooreman and Lucas Hermans from the Eureka school
, with its main location near Leuven, Belgium. Within our team and direct surroundings, we knew multiple people who had attended the Eureka school at some point throughout their education, so we were curious to listen to the entire story of how the school grew into what it is today.
Eureka was founded in 1990 by Anny Cooreman and Hedwig van den Bosch as an institution that (individually) guided gifted children with learning disorders towards the Belgian examination commission. By 1996, they were formally recognised as a school, yet operating without government subsidies. The offline approach
Learning disabilities and special educational needs can determine a gifted child's life and career. Proper intervention early on in the learning trajectory can prevent the disorder to turn into a shortcoming in day-to-day life. This can be considered as the mission statement of the Eureka school: to teach children to overcome their problems by using their talents, and to make them thrive despite a significant disadvantage. 'Learning' can and should have a much broader definition than the traditional approach in the public schooling system, and can take shape in various forms or means. Teachers and counselors at Eureka don't operate from a standard set of principles or tools, but rather from a wide range of hands-on experience. The online approach: enter CleverKids
Over the years, various learning strategies were tried and tested, with a population of many tens of thousands of children. Don't just take our word for it: watch a video (Dutch)
With the rise of digital channels, all stars aligned to map these strategies into an online experience, which would be less 'teacher-dependent' but more generally available to anyone who needs help. The dream of CleverKids was born
: to build an online learning platform with tailored, hands-on education trajectories for children between the ages of 6 and 14 who are struggling in the traditional schooling system. We set out to build a digital experience for the 10% of children with learning disorders.Various points of view
At Panenco, we carry a fundamental belief in the constant intertwining between user-, business- and technological interests when building a digital product.The user perspective
: the fact that we set out to build a platform for young children who might have a hard time with reading or writing, was a major parameter to consider. The user experience is all-defining, and, frankly, quite challenging in this setting. Furthermore, children learn in a broader context with multiple stakeholders involved: parents, teachers, speech therapists, paediatricians, .. you name it. Our targeted user base was not just the child, but the entire surrounding context as well.The business perspective
: our guiding principle from day 1 was to help children, not to make a quick buck. We mostly ignored the business aspects in first instance, and solemnly focused on creating the best possible learning experience. Naturally, the platform will need to be(come) self-sustaining and find a revenue model. We're currently working on an accessible pricing model based on a monthly subscription fee per user.The technology perspective
: we opted for a SaaS delivery model on public infrastructure. We set up an agile software delivery process. On a sprint-by-sprint basis we (still) define, design and develop user stories that turn into shippable product increments.
We faced numerous challenges and impactful decisions along the way while building this product. We're excited to take you through the journey.