Opportunity in the Midst of Covid-19

How an interactive whiteboard app is rethinking online education

Toffy Char

By Toffy Char

It is no understatement to say that the pandemic has drastically shifted our lives and asked us to pivot in ways we never thought we’d have to. One of those ways is rethinking education. With many schools and universities closed with no clear open date, Covid-19 threatens to upend the fabric of traditional education systems. What does learning look like when schools are physically closed and students can no longer convene in person?

I am in awe of people coming together to support each other through these trying times. For education specifically, I’ve seen a mammoth effort to keep students learning.

There has been a massive amount of resources collated to help parents who are now finding themselves playing the role of teachers, and teachers who are struggling to rethink the remainder of the semester (and potentially even Fall semester). Various services such as Audible, Coursera, and Scribd are also making content accessible to students, creating online classrooms. In this vast and hopeful sea of new tools and resources, I learned about one, HeyHi, that caught my attention and has taken sail in these uncertain waters.

HeyHi* is an interactive whiteboard app that creates an online classroom experience. During my chat with Yueh Mei Liu, founder and CEO of iMath Solutions, the Singaporean-based company who created HeyHi, I learned that HeyHi first started as a platform for math tutors to engage with students online and explain concepts. If any of you are familiar with Asian culture, you know that the market is saturated with private tutoring, and HeyHi was part of an app that enabled on-demand tutoring for students. However, the platform quickly grew beyond the realm of math, as the creators realized it had more potential and could be used with virtually any subject and area.

The platform started out for math tutors, but has now expanded to encapsulate all other subjects (photo courtesy of Yueh Mei)

Upon being presented with the platform, I couldn’t help but wonder how this is different from other platforms out there, such as Zoom. I’ve used Zoom for meetings, and have enjoyed features such as the whiteboard. However, after getting a live demo of the platform to learn about HeyHi’s features and use cases, I see the massive potential it can play in today’s landscape that is ripe for effective online education.

Setting up a meeting: the HeyHi platform is easy and intuitive to use

HeyHi was created specifically with educators and teachers in mind as the users. What makes HeyHi cool and interesting to me lies in the following:

  1. Space: The platform devotes the majority of its real estate to paper space. The paper is infinitely expandable so it functions like a notebook you can keep adding paper to. This is especially helpful when brainstorming, creating mind maps, or if you need more space to re-do those challenging math equations.
  2. Concurrent and simultaneous use with other devices: Like me, you might have fiddled with lots of online pictionary games on your laptop while social distancing, and you’ve realized that drawing on your laptop’s trackpad is not ideal. HeyHi addresses this by allowing you to connect your iPad or tablet to the session, and you can draw from that device. Think of it as having your very own writing pad or notebook, in addition to your laptop screen which acts as the equivalent of a whiteboard in a classroom.

As expected, you will always see the same screen as others on the call. Whenever someone makes a change to the whiteboard space, you’ll see that change reflected. You’re also able to screenshot to save your work and preload material such as worksheets into the platform prior to a call.

Multi-devices usage: A lesson accessed through laptop and tablet simultaneously (photo courtesy of Yueh Mei)

With their multiple modes, such as classroom, lecture, or livestream mode, I envision multiple uses for the platform. From private tutors offering one-on-one instruction to professionals hosting webinars, I trust all educators can find a mode that works well for their needs.

This non-subject specific, open, and collaborative platform started out with 78 users in February 2020, and has now grown exponentially and has over 100,000 users in May. The creators are committed to doing their part to support engaged learning during the pandemic, and are offering HeyHi for free until the end of June 2020. Covid-19 demands that we stay nimble, adaptable, and creative, and HeyHi invites us to take a step in this direction. With new tools such as this, I hope we are able to evolve and grow, meanwhile minimizing the impact that Covid-19 has on our lives. Together, we can build a ship to not only stay afloat, but to venture into new waters successfully.

Toffy Char is an international development professional and educator passionate about social change, and the intersection of education, technology, and storytelling. In her free time, you can find her cooking without recipes, watching foreign language shows on Netflix, and doing yoga.

Originally posted from medium: https://medium.com/moving-the-needles/opportunity-in-the-midst-of-covid-19-63fd3ee4d19b

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