Itworx Education glocalizes e-learning in EMEA and beyond

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In 2003 Itworx Education was officially established as a division of its much older parent company, Cairo-based IT service firm Itworx. At the crux of its strategy was a focus on on-boarding governments and private sector conglomerates in EMEA’s education tech space.

The company owes a great deal of its growth to a robust and global strategic partnership with Microsoft – which includes Itworx’s distribution, customization and rollout of the tech giant’s roster of educational software solutions – and investments by equally international corporates. In 2008, the company sold 79 percent of its shares to an investment consortium formed by Euromena FundVenture Capital Bank and Proparco.

A recent Itworx Education management meet up. (Images via Itworx Education)

In 2010 they tripled their 2008 revenues, and in 2013 they grew the 2010 revenue by 30 percent. Starting with services and not proprietary products they were dependent on Microsoft and small-to-mid sized partners, said Ahmed Saeed, Itworx Education's director of business development. Partnering with Microsoft allowed them to quickly expand their footprint globally, and to gain experience in customizing mass-scale products and develop their own in 2009.

Since then, the company has gone after big tickets with regional governments for bespoke, project-based solutions, including Qatar and Egypt's ministry of education. They also struck an agreement with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Smart Learning Program (MBRSLP) in 2012, a major component of which was the deployment of Smart Author, which equips teachers with digital tools to develop interactive lessons.

To tackle the region’s latent approach to educational technology, both on curricular and infrastructural fronts, the unavailability and costly acquisition of digital content, the company’s partnership with the MBRSLP centered on teacher professional development.

Sizing up

Currently covering 210 public schools in Dubai and the northern emirates, as well as private schools in Abu Dhabi, Itworx Education is slated to extend to all primary and preparatory secondary schools in Dubai in the next academic year.

As a tech provider, Itworx’s scalability and cost-cutting strategy has been to consolidate its swath of products and services with those of others. Winjigo is an example of this.

Winjigo applies gamified learning features and Facebook wall collaboration for teachers and students, and integrates into other ecosystem solutions used by academic institutions – Microsoft Office 365, Outlook, and Onedrive. It’s even experimenting with newer tech, allowing students to 3D-print badges they collect throughout their social learning experience.

The bigger picture

Serious competition for Itworx Education are Desire2learnBlackboard, and Schoology. But according to Saeed their edge is making themselves a one-stop-shop education solutions provider, committed to the MENA region. So, turning the competition on its head, they’re now focusing on a strategic advisory and consultancy role for the rollout of e-learning products and services; even those of its competitors.

Going forward, the company is converging both its global network and expertise in a troubled region to enter unchartered territories. “We are starting with markets that are very close to us in North and central Africa, such as Tunisia and Morocco, but also eyeing further ones such as Kenya and Ghana. Latin America – namely Mexico and Chile – holds great prospects for us. We are seeing potential for governmental and other organizations’ investments in pushing forward the education sector across these markets,” said Saeed.

Syrian refugee children at the Itworx Education pilot project on virtual learning.

The differing educational requirements between markets is precisely why Itworx Education also shifted its focus on B2C and non-traditional products. In 2015, the company piloted a virtual learning experience for Syrian refugees in North Lebanon.

Apart from the obvious limited capacity and funding for schools, the pilot project tackled multi-faceted challenges for refugees’ education, such as children’s transport difficulties, curriculum and language differences, and lack in official papers and documentation. Now, they aim to create on-site virtual schools with offline access to learning centers and digital content libraries across refugee camps, drawing on the expertise of qualified volunteers around the world. And it hopes to replicate the model across the globe, from Afghanistan to Somalia, Sudan and DRC, Congo.

While Saeed remained coy on the company’s future fundraising plans for these ambitious undertakings, he affirmed that “our board and management are pursuing new rounds of fundraising for our expansion.”

Feature image via Itworx Education.

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