Jamaica’s Shamir Saddler, the CEO of the United States-based start-up SmartTerm, is introducing a new distance learning solutions to help schools make improvements to their education and administrative processes. His company is launching a video conferencing platform designed to be an affordable alternative to Zoom and other conferencing products. SmartTerm, which began operations in 2014, began a pilot program in 2016 with St. Richard’s Primary, Wolmer’s Preparatory, and Papine High schools. A general launch of the platform is scheduled for October 5, 2020, and Saddler hopes that it will make distance learning a reality for many thousands of students. He said his platform is meant to simplify many of the daily tasks school administrators and teachers must handle, and improve communications between students’ home and their schools. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in over 200 schools in the Caribbean reaching out to the firm, while its clients expanded to over 13 countries and 30,000 users.
With the SmartTerm portal, educators obtain the capability of creating a learning environment online that is like that of a physical classroom for early childhood, primary, secondary, and tertiary level schools. They can use e-testing, e-books, online videos, and make use of an application store that houses quick links to multiple content providers. Theon O’Connor, communications director for SmartTerm, educators can use the platform to manage their students and assignments, take attendance, share content, and communicate through video web sessions while meeting the requirements of the curriculum established by the Ministry of Education in their respective countries.
Every classroom is provided with a discussion board, notebook, and whiteboard, which creates a complete physical space that is now online. Schools can customize the operations to fit their specific culture. As relationships between classmates are important in the new virtual environment, SmartTerm gives students a way to communicate through chat and video. The communications tools can also be used to contact teachers and coaches. The main focus of SmartTerm is fulfilling the curriculum, however. Saddler has made an agreement with Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, Youth, and Information to provide access without imposing financial costs on users. He is also working with users to make portions of his product reflect the outline provided by the Ministry.
SmartTerm has spent considerable time training and supporting educators in the use of the platform, and in addition to working closely with teachers, the firm also works with the Joint Board of Teacher Education in Jamaica to create a way to digitize how teachers themselves are educated.