ASTANA – Online education is a new field for Kazakhstan required for expanding educational and knowledge-sharing opportunities, said Edgravity online course company founder Aigerim Khafizova in an interview with The Astana Times.
Khafizova, who has extensive work experience in online education, was involved in internships with two large companies in the field during her studies abroad.
“In 2013-2015, I went to the United States on the Fulbright programme. I studied higher education and policy studies. During that time, I also did internships at two big companies in the Silicon Valley, such as Pathbrite and Udemy,” she said.
The Silicon Valley atmosphere and start-ups’ working principles enticed and inspired her.
“I was always attracted by start-ups and to the idea that you create a prototype and test it on a market… They try something new every time,” she noted.
During her internship at Udemy, an online learning and teaching marketplace, Khafizova realised her interest in online education because of the opportunities it provides to people around the world.
“When I was on internship at Udemy… I was impressed by how everyone in the world can learn everything they want from Arts History to data analytics with just a simple mouse click.” she said.
Upon returning to Kazakhstan, she was keen on the idea of creating a similar project in the country. An opportunity in Pakistan provided her with more experience.
“I had no business experience. I was just thinking about it. Then, I went to Pakistan to work at Stanford University’s Amal Academy project. I was invited as an expert in online education,” she noted.
She learned how to adapt the course for local citizens and the country’s conditions.
“In Pakistan, online (learning) education was used to reduce expenses for education and to make knowledge available to more people,” she said. “We had loose internet connection and had to find how to solve this problem, so that our students could access the courses. One of the seemingly simple, yet effective steps was that we went to a university and kept track of our students learning experience. Based on our observations, we advised them specific hours and locations for the best internet connection.”
Khafizova subsequently founded Edgravity and LinchPin Effect. The latter is a one-month programme to apply the design thinking method in participants’ lives.
For Edgravity, Khafizova and her team created online courses on different topics in cooperation with the leading experts.
“Edgravity is Kazakhstan’s brand. The main task of the company is to make courses with top experts in various spheres accessible to the general public in different languages. The other task is to empower the experts that have knowledge, expertise and skills to scale their business,” she said.
Accessibility implies several types of user-friendliness, she noted.
“Online courses are beyond geography. It is also accessibility for people who cannot leave their houses; for instance, mothers with newborn babies. Then, it is financially accessible. We have free and fee-based courses with accessible prices,” she added.
Edgravity was launched November 2017 when Khafizova started working on producing her first course in beauty and wellness industry. Later, content designer Raushan Abylkassymova joined the team. In August, Khafizova found a partner for her project, chief financial and marketing officer Ulpan Kabisheva.
“As a business project, we started to actively work in August, when our team has grown,” she said.
To date, 13 online courses have been completed in English, French, Kazakh and Russian. Themes are specific and mostly skills-based.
“Currently, in partnership with Academia.kz we made a massive open online course (MOOC) in Kazakh language with renowned professor and New York Times best-selling author Barbara Oakley. Her course, ‘Learning How to Learn,’ is one of the most popular courses in the world on Coursera. It will be available for kids, teenagers and young adults for free. We are very excited about this,” she noted.
The workshop has requirements for those wishing to take its online courses – at least five years of experience in the specific field, an interested audience and preferably an existing educational programme offline (a training programme). Experts can be from any field, not just academia. More information is available at edgravity.com.
“Recently, together with Sergey Monko, we made an online course with Dinara Satzhan, a well-known entrepreneur, fashion producer and TV presenter…,” said Khafizova.
The courses are not limited to video content, but rather focus on creating a community and atmosphere for effective learning.
Online learning is a new field for the country and its population.
“Introduction of any technologies to society passes through several stages. We are now in the stage when it’s new and we need to teach people how to study online implementing e-learning culture,” she added. “I envision learning in a way as Barbara Oakley describes it “a meld of academia, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood”, when people learn in-demand skills and enjoy learning.”