Interest in digitial learning keeps growing in Africa

Learning is part of our daily routines. Be it in a formal classroom, training or office setting or the informal cultural and societal norms we pick up every now and then, one thing is constant; we are always learning.

While we are accustomed or conversant with the traditional forms of learning, e-learning remains a relatively new phenomenon to us. A delayed mobile penetration and internet proliferation boom could easily be blamed for the late adoption of e-learning as a cheaper, more flexible and much more convenient way of learning.

With a host of corporate organisations and formal educational or government institutions incorporate e-learning solutions into their operational models, local entrepreneurs and spotting rewarding opportunities in this space and are quickly setting up firms to the growing need for digital learning resources.

DoviLearn is one of Nigeria’s brightest prospects in this field. Launched by Dovichi Services, a Nigerian startup with interests in e-learning, digital marketing and commerce, DoviLearn is an online education marketplace for skills acquisition or career upgrade. It is Nigeria’s leading, and one of the first fully integrated E-learning portals. Driven a vision to “to make learning digital”, they offer a diverse range of courses in Human Resources Management, Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Financial Management and Mobile Software Development.

In this interview, Okeke Vincent Chidozie, founder of Dovichi Services, takes us through the journey to launching DoviLearn and his plans for digital learning market.

In an earlier interview, you revealed that you did some dilly-dallying before landing on a definite plan for Dovi Learn. Can you take us through that journey?

Yes, that is correct. My company is Dovichi Services was founded in 2014, basically as a technology company; we have 3 business arms, which were, ELearning, Digital Marketing, and Ecommerce, everything we do still evolves around the IoT – Internet of Thing, and we were bent on having our own technologies within the internet space.

While the internet bubble continued to blow up in Africa, and also in Nigeria precisely, we became desirous in launching our own internet products, we initially launched an integrated Digital Marketing platform called DoviSuite.com, while that continued to grow, we were on the ready for a new venture, the idea for my company was to create a niche in the Nigerian market, knowing that knowledge is power, we started working on ELearning platform, hence DoviLearn.com

How did you spot an opportunity for digital learning?

This is indeed a very good question. Like I started in my previous comment, knowledge is power, People in my country Nigeria were ready to learn, acquire new skills, and knowledge that can help them grow their businesses; many would grasp for information online, carry out researches through the Google, attend on-ground lectures. In fact, I remember my cousin Mr Bright Oleka who is currently a Director in my company, coming down all the way from Abuja to attend a tech-training in Lagos, of which he had registered for with about 50, 000 NGN. I myself, I attended a couple of trainings of the sort in the past and paid fees, this was years back, but the thought still remained in me.

I started working on an ELearning project that can enable people take courses online, and still be able to engage with their instructor(s), instead of traveling that far. DoviLearn is not just an ELearning portal, the technology also features an ELearning community, where candidates taking courses/training online can engage with their instructors, or other co-candidates in the community.

One great opportunity for DoviLearn in the Nigeria market, is that we are localizing contents, yes, and that is key. When we launched, we launched with foreign made courses on our portal. Because many Nigerians instructors do not have courses or their trainings already digitized, we went for what was available, which were foreign were instructor’s contents. Now, more local instructors are becoming more aware of ELearning, hence digitizing their courses and making more revenues from them by selling them online. As at now, DoviLearn is accepting courses/training contents from local instructors.

If an Instructor can organize a training with a projected 200 participants, who may pay about 50, 000 NGN to attend, that same instructor can still digitize that training, by having some camera men on-ground to cover it, and producing it, and take the video version online, on DoviLearn.com, and begin to sell to sell it as a course at more affordable rate, maybe 10, 000 NGN which make it more affordable, therefore, more candidates can participate. From our projections, that instructor can make over 300% revenues in 3months from that course compared to on-ground training, with same marketing budget used for both. There are just so many limitations with on-ground training.

Why the name Dovi Learn?

Well, I would state that it all started from the name “Dovichi” which came as a revelation to me by God I believe, sorry to say. Even though the name makes up some abbreviations of my names – Okeke Vincent Chidozie, thus, we tried to create uniformity with our brands in the market despite their distinctive industries, hence DoviLearn.

You have some of the world’s best trainers and instructors towards delivering training contents on the portal. How important do you think partnerships in enhancing your chances of success as a startup?

Yes, in everything you do, you should never settle for anything lesser than the best. At that early stage when we started in 2015, we were desperate, when I say desperate, I mean desperate for the best. We went into partnerships with major players in their distinctive industries on some subject matters, who already specialized on making ELearning courses, and stroke deals with these players. So we were able to get good courses on our portal, when I say good courses, I am referring to training content and production quality.

Now that we are seeking for more locally made courses/training contents, the idea is for the local instructors to emulate a set standard.With that, it means that we are able to compete with global ELearning leaders like Alison.com, Coursera.com, Udemy.com, SimpliLearn.com and others, we refused to settle for less, Dovichi will never settle for anything lesser than the best.

Your long term mission is to digitize learning, a model which is built on simplifying and enhancing access to educational material. On a scale of 1 – 10 where would you say Dovi Learn is in achieving this mission, and why?

Another great question. Like you may already know, our mission is simple; to digitize learning system in Nigeria. We want DoviLearn.com to become the training power-hub in Nigeria, and Africa, to equip entrepreneurs, start-ups, working professionals, civil servants and other businesses on the right skill-set they/their team may need to accelerate.

For us to achieve this, we need to have the right kind of ELearning technology which can help simplify learning, then have the right kind of training contents. We have the technology now, so we have scaled through that, we have some courses, about 45 courses on our portal currently, but that isn’t enough considering the large market we have.

Therefore, our business model is to partner with local instructors who have the relevant professional knowledge and maybe certification if necessary, to make digital courses or training contents, provision them on our portal, in a revenue sharing formula.  So we are bringing opportunity for instructors/trainers to start making money through ELearning, and also providing a large online training hub. That is basically the model.

Based on these things said, you will realize there are processes, or maybe stages, if you like to call it that, which basically includes having the right platform on the ready, having the courses, and having the awareness. We have passed through the stage of having the platform/technology, we are just somewhere in the middle of both having the courses and having the awareness. For courses, we have about 45 courses now, our projection is to have a minimum of 500 courses by 2020, and for the awareness, we are just getting gradually known to say, for instance, we have some businesses where their entire team resort to our portal for training their staffs, except for courses we do not have, we have fairly encouraging number individuals taking our courses too, including our free courses. In 2015, Ventures Africa listed DoviLearn.com among 5 Most Innovative Start-ups in Nigeria for the year, I think you should be aware of this, and other notable media Vendors too.

We could just fairly say in between 1 – 10, and are in the middle, which is 5.

What has so far been the biggest impediment towards achieving this mission?

These are some of the impediments. 1, majorly is to have so many right courses on the portal. We need to have enough courses like you can find on Coursera and Alison, but most these courses should be made by local trainers. We have invested personal funds in making/securing courses, but that definitely can’t be the business model we will operate with, because it could be capital intensive. For us to make our own courses, a single course could cost up to 1m NGN (2000 USD); because we will need to pay the instructor and have intellectual right for the course, we will need to pay for the production (whether in SCORM technology format, or plan MP4). Also, we need Certification courses, for that, we are speaking with local professional bodies, for instance, we are in serious communication with CIPM, Chattered Institute of Personnel Management, and they are expressing strong interest, we hope to have more professional bodies going online through DoviLearn.com as we are the Leaders in ELearning in Nigeria.

Another impediment is broadband data. In most cases, candidates who wants to enroll for our online courses may raise fears for their data consumption, but our believe is that if same candidate could travel far, face the traffics and transportation cost too to attend a training in a location, same candidate could afford to have data to complete same course online, because it is far more cheaper.

eLearning

No just that, despite the fact that the platform was built with technologies which can enhance seamlessly low data consumption, we are also in talk with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) like MTN, Etisalat, and Airtel on how DoviLearn.com can be data whitelisted, through a sponsored data system, where users or candidates accessing the platform will not need to have broadband data on their lines/devices to do so, and even if they have, it will not be tempered with.Also for this, we are speaking with Facebook to see if we can be enrolled for their Free Basics services, through their Internet.org initiative for database free services.

Thirdly, and also the last is awareness. Creating sufficient awareness requires sufficient marketing budget. We are currently under the FbStart.com project, where we received 40k USD worth in services and tools from Facebook, this has helped us go to an extent, we look forward to having investors on-ground at this point to create sufficient awareness as supposed, and clear other impediments. Thank you.

Internet proliferation in Nigeria is rapidly gaining ground, with connectivity hitting rural communities in recent times. How much of this would further fuel an expansion plan for Dovi Learn, in terms of customer growth and wider service offerings?

Yes, this will surely fuel the growth for DoviLearn.com. In fact, it was part of the idea while we felt ELearning in Nigeria was longed overdue, and went ahead on the project. With the expansion of broadband connectivity, more people in rural areas are able to gain access to quality training as people in developed cities, or even the Western world. Government at Federal, State and local government levels need to begin to look towards this direct.

Does the current connectivity gap and the dwindling, but relatively evident lack of distrust for internet driven transactions still play a hindering role in business growth prospect?

Well, yes, to an extent. eLearning is relatively new in Nigeria, even in Africa, although countries like South Africa and a few has been on it for a while now. When prospects visits our portal, some of them tend not to understand totally how the system works, whether to pay or not, etc. We were able to manage this by providing free courses on the platform, where you can take free courses and understand how DoviLearn.com works. With that, we were able to manage the situation to a reasonable extent.

How do you hope to compete effectively against household names like Udemy, Coursera while keeping an eye on local players like Tutor.ng?

Thank you for this question. First of all, Tutor.ng is basically an online platform which connects trainers with learners. Learners in most cases still have to go to location to take their training, as courses displayed on their website also indicates location for the training. They are really doing great, and we have to keep an Eye on them like you rightly said, however, DoviLearn.com is a fully integrated ELearning portal, somewhat different from Tutor.ng, and when I say fully Integrated E-learning, there are many things that comes with it. From the whole process when a user comes to sign up, to online to enroll for a course, instantly enroll after paying, take their training in sequential order, complete the training, download their hand books,engage in the course forum, or public forum, generate their Certificate of Training completion, and download the Certificate of Training Completion, the whole process is completely automated, we don’t have to do any single thing, or press a single button. It is not just an online videostreaming site, it is a complete Learning Management System (LMS) which supports all major kinds of eLearning contents like SCORM 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, SCORM 2004 1st Edition – 4th Edition, MP4, etc.

For other players like Coursera, Udemy, including Alison and Lynda.com, no doubt, they are global leaders in eLearning business, and have built a very large digital training power hub. We are emulating their steps and improving upon them. For our market, we have an edge with local contents (Locally made courses by Nigerian instructors), mixed with foreign made courses, this is obviously giving us an edge for our local market, because the courses are made based on local contexts.

The e-learning sector is gradually gaining some traction and attention. But what do you think must be done to gain full-fledge acceptance?

A reasonable level of commitment and acceptance needs to be done from both private and public sectors. For Public sectors, public services need to begin to patronize ELearning as their preferred mode of training public servants, this will not only bring down their cost of training, but also give more public servants access to more training contents. Same with private sectors. From information we gathered, some banks have their own custom ELearning portal where they train some of their staffs, organizations like Huawei have their own Institution –Huawei University, and an ELearning portal being used to train their staffs.

Once this is done at the corporate level, which is the B2B level for our business approach, no doubt, penetrating the Business-2-Consumer (B2C) market for individuals will be easier.

Quickfire Questions

Favourite business brand? (Facebook)

Favourite business leader? (Mark Zuckerberg)

Most Inspiring Quote? (“Our dreams are too small, we should make them bigger.” Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, and VP, UAE)

Most admired Nigerian Entrepreneur? (Michael Collins Ajereh, AKA Don Jazzy)

Top Travel Destination? (Dubai, UAE)