Sun | Jan 24, 2021

Jamaican innovator elbows room from Zoom - SmartTerm takes flight in local schools

Published:Wednesday | September 16, 2020 | 12:15 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
CEO of SmartTerm, Shamir Saddler.

Come October 5, distance learning will become the reality for tens of thousands of students, and Jamaican Shamir Saddler is hoping to help schools improve their educational and administrative processes.

Saddler is the CEO of SmartTerm, a United States-based start-up company launching an affordable videoconferencing solution for schools as an alternative to Zoom and other meeting platforms.

In an effort to make education innovative and administrative processes efficient, the company was formed in 2014 and piloting began two years later with St Richard’s Primary, Wolmer’s Preparatory, and Papine High.

“We wanted to ensure that the platform that they were going to use was actually built by them, for them, so they could have a means of seamlessly transitioning from a physical space to an online space,” he recalled.

Through the portal, Saddler said that teachers could share assignments, upload syllabi, and create discussion boards.

Students, he added, will be able to retrieve information, receive updates, and complete assignments online.

“With our platform, we hope to simplify many of the day-to-day tasks administrators and teachers must handle, while also improving communication between home and school.

“Our solutions help create an environment that helps students thrive,” he said.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, pilots have been offered to schools to help them transition online.

“Each classroom is outfitted with a discussion board, notebook, and whiteboard, so it’s the complete physical space now online,” he said, adding that customisation also allows for school culture to be felt virtually.

While greater focus is being placed on fulfilling the curriculum, Saddler shared that the relationships students have with their classmates are important, especially because they have not been able to meet face to face.

SmartTerm provides an avenue for them to communicate via chat and video with fellow classmates, teachers, and coaches.

Saddler is working with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to have segments of the product mirror the ministry’s outline.

So far, more than 75 Jamaican schools have subscribed. SmartTerm also has clients based in the Caribbean, Latin America, the United States, and Zambia.

Under the education ministry’s agreement with telecoms providers, the platform is zero rated, meaning that access is provided without incurring financial cost to users.

However, he said based on the established data limit, the new videoconferencing option may not fall in the category.