Koa Academy & The Business Of An Online School

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South African EdTech start-up, Koa Academy has won the 2023 MEST Africa Challenge which was held in Accra, Ghana last week. The latest MEST Africa Challenge was a collaboration with ABSA Bank that aims to empower the next generation of African tech innovators. 

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As technology disrupts and transforms education across the world, the emergence of new and different models of online schooling is gathering pace. In South Africa, high-engagement Koa Academy is currently standing out both for its business and academic models.

Touted as a pioneer of the future of online education, Koa Academy has won the 2023 MEST Africa Challenge held in Accra, Ghana in March 2024.

Taking the continent-wide title, Koa started out as one of 5 Regional Winners, and was one of two EdTech start-ups in the finalist stage. MEST Africa nurtures aspiring and early-stage tech startups across Africa through training programs, seed funding and access to a network of hubs in the continent’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

The latest MEST Africa Challenge was a collaboration with ABSA Bank that aims to empower the next generation of African tech innovators. 

Co-founder and CEO of Koa Academy, Lauren Anderson says, “This has been an extraordinary honour, and it is very exciting that MEST Africa and its partners have recognised Koa as the winner amongst a range of incredible startup ventures that are all aimed at improving the quality of life on the continent. 

Participating in the challenge has been a wonderful learning experience as a start-up that is always looking towards sustainable growth and making a difference to the lives of Africa’s young people.

I think Koa has stood out in the competition because our approach to education is unique; personalised and flexible yet academically robust. Our impact, growth and momentum are all evident.”

Started in 2021, Koa Academy has succeeded in achieving continuous, steady growth at a scale that has helped them to implement high standards of digital learning and meet their requirement for online learning that is personalised and highly engaging. 

Major milestones have included securing accreditation by the IEB (Independent Education Board) and in 2023, nurturing its first cohort of Matric students which achieved a 100% pass rate.

Lauren says, “On the business side, Koa attracted crucial investment from Enygma Ventures early on. Our school has enjoyed great growth from the get-go with an average of an 18% increase month on month. We have experienced consistent, sustainable growth which has been vital and currently have 500 pupils enrolled at the school. 

With the learner at the centre of all that we do, we have to make sure that how we grow and expand always sets our learners up for success. Because online learning is such a new, flexible space, we have been able to pivot and introduce new things with fantastic agility. 

Our staff and our students have grown in tandem supported by adaptable systems designed to make room for growth in a sustainable way.”

Koa has pioneered the concept of 8-person Pods where learners engage regularly with dedicated Pod teachers who guide their learning experiences and foster socio-emotional learning. Dynamic dashboards enable teachers, students and parents to gauge a learner’s progress on a daily basis. 

The online space provides a myriad of opportunities for personalised learning pathways so that students take ownership of their own learning and engage with a variety of world-class learning materials that suit their learning styles. Koa’s subject specialist teachers conduct workshops, master classes and if needed one-on-one sessions so that every learner is supported in mastering the curriculum to the best of their abilities. 

Koa’s Head of Academics, Jason Hutchinson says. “Online learning offers superior learning pathways that are out of bounds in the normal classroom setting.

At Koa, we’re able to offer the best practice that is a ‘flipped classroom’ where the learners engage with content at their own pace and in their own space, and then they come together with the teacher whose role it is to help learners refine, shape and deepen that learning. 

This means that we are equipping learners for what university looks like as well as setting them up as lifelong learners, which they need to succeed in the modern world of work. Learning should not be about a teacher.

Learning is about the person doing the learning, with the teacher there to facilitate, guide, curate and optimise their learning. One-on-one, personal engagement like this is easy in the online space, but a lot harder for the teacher standing up in front of a class of 25 or 35 or more.

As far the business direction goes, Koa is looking towards expanding its horizons. Lauren concludes, “We’re starting now to look at expanding in terms of other curricula and other languages, and to extend Koa’s reach beyond South Africa. 

The online space is ideal for this. We already have our South African school learners engaging daily with teachers who are based outside of SA, and some of our learners are also living abroad. We’re really excited about where education is going and for the growing worldwide movement into online spaces. 

It’s fantastic that we can reach anybody, anywhere with quality education, and to teach children in new, tech-supported ways that are relevant and engaging."

Discover Koa Academy, visit www.koacademy.com

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