Shamir Saddler | CEO | SmartTerm Limited

SmartTerm: Enhancing the Future of Education with Digitalization

During the COVID-19 pandemic, education system went through a complete transformation. The physical classrooms were replaced by screens – compelling the entire world to adapt to digitalization.

Many EdTech companies have worked hard to convert this challenge into opportunity and spread awareness among the students and teachers about how they can easily learn and teach. SmartTerm is one such EdTech company, which has helped the schools to digitalize. The company’s platform works towards improving the education sector across the world.

In the following interview, Shamir Sadder, the CEO of the company shares his take on the evolution of the EdTech space and how SmartTerm is on the path to becoming a leading player in this space.

Following are the highlights of interview:

Please brief our audience about SmartTerm, its values, and its journey so far as a leading provider of EdTech solutions.

SmartTerm is an education management platform that is digitizing schools. The platform is providing a stress-free environment for teachers and students, where schools are managed efficiently online.

List the range of your offerings through which you have ascertained your stronghold within EdTech space.

SmartTerm improves education systems and drives student’s achievement by delivering a suite of innovative education technology products to maximise the potential of key education stakeholders. Founded in 2016, SmartTerm is set out to become the premier EdTech company in the Caribbean before expanding to other markets.

Our flagship product is our unified education management solution, which includes an integrated Student Information System (SIS), Learning Management System (LMS), and Education Management Information System (EMIS).

As schools transitioned from a physical classroom to virtual classroom, we worked closely with all stakeholders involved. One of the challenges that consistently surfaced, specifically among teachers and students, was the fact that subject-related content geared towards a Caribbean audience was non-existent.

The content that is currently on YouTube and other sites was developed for other audiences, for example, India or the US. It was unstructured, lacked access and relatability, and was unappealing at times. With this in mind, the Tambrin Learning platform was created.

Tambrin is an expansion of our core SmartTerm product offering, the school and learning management portal. With Tambrin we aim to provide structured content that is fun and engaging with regular assessments.

Students can watch videos, earn mastery points and skills, and even request a tutor. With Tambrin, users will be able to browse or search for content packages according to the subject, syllabus, module/unit, and specific objectives. This platform will empower teachers, parents, and students with powerful content and an active learning community.

Now is the time to undo the damage done by Covid -19. The pandemic has wiped out 20 years of education gains. An additional 101 million or 9% of children in grades 1 through 8 fell below minimum reading proficiency levels in 2020. (Source: https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal4)

Being an experienced leader, share with us your opinion on why the adoption of modern technologies such as AI and Big Data is necessary in the EdTech industry and how have you leveraged these technologies to deliver comprehensive solutions?

Big data and artificial intelligence are cutting edge technologies, which have impacted every industry from finance to medicine. Yet the education industry has been lagging and is yet to truly see the benefits in an impactful way. By bringing these technologies to schools through the use of our EdTech platform, we will be able to unlock operational efficiencies for governments, school boards, and individual administrators while placing key focus on the improvement of teaching and learning outcomes on both a general industry and individualized level.

In the 21st century, education consists of more than an academic profile for students. Currently, most institutions do not even have the correct system in place to create a data-driven academic profile for students. SmartTerm goes beyond this by tying together multiple aspects of the all the students in a single unified ecosystem.

Our modular yet integrated approach allows for a complete profile to be created for each student. Academic performance, secondary assessments, mental health, extra-curricular activities, soft skills, and additional data will drive descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analytics. The schools and key stakeholders need to become data literate and we makes this easy and accessible through secure and self-serve analytics.

Taking into consideration, the current pandemic, how are you driving your company to sustain operations and ensuring safety of your employees at the same time?

We are encouraged to further develop sustainable development goals 4 and 9 in this part of the world because we need better technology infrastructure in our schools, which will harness quality education for all.

When you look at the world today, one of the main causes of violence and crime are limitations in our education system that seem to have failed a few. If we want to eradicate violence, crime, and poverty, we have to develop solutions that influence the root causes. Providing each child with a quality education and digging deeper into insights of education data has the ability to mitigate these challenges in the future.

We will look at education holistically and engage all stakeholders (government, schools, teachers, parents, and students) to generate collaborative solutions for improving innovation and technology in education.

One of the main visions of SmartTerm is to reinvent the way we educate. We are starting in developing countries and then moving to every continent, where we know our services will aid a better future of education. Combining technology with education is not a new procedure but with our solution, we provide a unique ‘one-stop-shop’ experience for all of our schools.

Through research and constantly listening to our users, we have combined various modules into one unified platform for school and learning management. In some cases, where schools are utilizing 8-14 systems, this can be replaced with SmartTerm, just one platform.

The beauty of working in technology is that the interruptions other companies experienced were not as severe for our company. We had to close our office in Jamaica, which meant workers had to work from home and this in itself gave a level of comfort, responsibility, and safety to our employees. However, before the pandemic we had already adopted a remote working style of operation that worked best for the dynamics of our organization.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the EdTech space?

It is very easy to get caught up in following buzzwords and pushing technological boundaries for the sake of it. However, most institutions, particularly in the developing world often have theoretically simpler issues. Focus on the issues, which stakeholders actually have, instead of the hype. These issues may seem simple but require a massive change in mindset from several key stakeholders and this has been holding back the education industry for decades. Help change the status quo, then the door to truly innovative and cutting-edge solutions will fly open.

How do you envision scaling SmartTerm’s operations and offerings in 2021?

Through constantly and consistently pushing the bar for improvements in our education technology products and services. A big part of this is listening to the needs of our users and readjusting to satisfy those needs. During the pandemic we were able to develop a new feature called ‘The Tambrin Learning Platform’. The platform allows teachers and students to interact, share learning content, and have virtual classes for a more engaging learning experience at no cost.

This came at a time, when other EdTech companies were increasing the cost of their offerings and teachers needed an alternative solution to meet the demands of virtual learning. Adoption is steadily growing, and our hope is to see it reach full potential throughout 2021 and beyond.

We have also expanded operations in Canada with the help of The DMZ at Ryerson University. Till date our operations have scaled to over 13 countries and 1,25,000 users. We aim to maximize this through data analysis to provide valuable insights from classes and students to teachers for personalized learning and development.

Governments can also become more efficient in their policy making on education if they have more data at the disposal for informed decision making. We will continue to build and foster relationships with government and other stakeholders as the rest of 2021 progresses in order to provide the most advanced technology for education and to maintain leadership in the industry.

About the Leader

Shamir Saddler is the Chief Education Officer (CEO) and Co-founder of SmartTerm Limited. He studied Computer Engineering at Howard University and worked at Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, JIBE, and iCIMS. Shamir was responsible for managing software solutions for Fortune 500 companies such as Pepsi, American Express, Walmart, and Johnson & Johnson to name a few.

His passion and drive are to see the Caribbean develop technologically, increasing our efficiency, and improving the quality of our lives. Shamir now leads an innovative Education Technology company, focused on transforming the education infrastructure in the Caribbean and other parts of the world.

Shamir is a true visionary. The idea of SmartTerm came about by a group of friends including Shamir, who travelled to the US for their further education. They saw how technology was being used within the classroom. They thought that it can be extremely beneficial to the Caribbean. SmartTerm was launched in 2016, led by Shamir growing and developing the company to 1,25,000 users till date.

Coming from Jamaica, an island in the Caribbean that is considered a developing country, Shamir went through the school system not aware of the impact advanced technology can have on learning. Like most Caribbean islands, Jamaica’s resources are limited and innovation in technology is a few years behind those of developed countries. This has fuelled Shamir’s passion for education technology as he sees it of paramount importance to advance student’s outcomes, develop his country and the Caribbean region.

Delivering Quality

SmartTerm is awesome! As our school grows to embrace full digitization, SmartTerm has been integral in getting us there.- Andre Dyer (Principal)

Centralised online platforms such as SmartTerm makes online teaching and learning more manageable and accountable to our stakeholders. Over 1479 students and 71 teachers are using the platform effectively. – Raymon Treasure (Principal)

SmartTerm helped our students connect and stay engaged with an ease of access requiring one simple login. virtual classrooms, clubs, and assignments are easily accessible to them. Our security, safety and technical support were of high priority for our school and SmartTerm ticked all those boxes expertly. – Tisha-Marie Dayal (Senior Teacher)