Yovel Badash thinks it’s not enough to just ‘do no evil’ — “You’ve got to actually do some good in this world,” he says. “You’ve got to contribute to making it a better place, and you have to answer up to yourself and others when it comes to the question, ‘How did you help to do so?’” His own answer as to how to do that good is NaMaYa, an online education platform for schools and school districts that offers nearly everything they might need to create a blended learning environment. It’s also a place where content providers and even benefactors (those who’d like to donate to schools) can go to make their impact felt. Yovel, a successful consultant and entrepreneur, has had plenty of success in the business and technology world. Now, through NaMaYa, he’s applying this to education. Here he shares why—as well as his thoughts on the current revolution and what it’s doing for the future of schools.
Yovel: I have been active in the technology innovation space for almost 15 years. During my career I came to realize how powerful technology solutions are when sound architecture is coupled with new business models/ideas, and how this can solve real business problems and impact our lives.
At some point I felt that increasing a company’s productivity or providing it a more secure infrastructure is of real value but there might be better use of my time.
Since that decision I have been involved in a few ventures where the idea was to use technology to solve a real life issue. With NaMaYa we are addressing one the most important parts of our life – education. It did not require a lot of research to realize how much need exists in this space.
Once that was clear, it was only a matter of time until we defined the right vision and crafted a technology mission around it.
Our vision is fairly simple and is designed to address the following challenge – how do we make the best education content available over the internet and how can we facilitate the needs of every entity that is involved in the education process while relying on three main pillars – content, community and technology.
Yovel: Originally the name did not mean anything. We just thought it is an amazing memorable name that I personally really loved. After a few years one of my best friends pointed to me that the name is a combination of three Hebrew words and in essence represents what the company is all about:
Na – means “Please” – representing the “right” way or the respectful way.
Ma – means “What” – this is the ultimate question word that represents curiosity or the learning process.
And Ya – means “God” – representing spirituality, destiny or faith.
Victor: What is it? Who created it?
Yovel: NaMaYa is an online technology PaaS (Platform As A Service) that was specifically designed to support the needs around online education and provide innovative technology around this space.
Our architecture is based on cloud computing meaning it is all running on our servers so there is no hardware or software to purchase.
Our team created a cutting edge Paas after extensive research and planning into the needs of 21st century online education. NaMaYa is designed to allow any entity that wants to be active around online education to do it easily and with little to no cost.
Teachers: Teachers are at the heart of NaMaYa. Whether you work in a public, private or virtual school or even if you are just a private tutor – NaMaYa can be your online education starting point. NaMaYa offers a wide variety of powerful features not available anywhere else online – for free!
Schools: NaMaYa offers schools a complete online education set of products that support everything a 21st century school needs. Schools can join NaMaYa today and be up and running in a matter of hours. NaMaYa is a visionary provider of educational software based on cloud computing, so our schools have nothing to worry about – we handle everything!
Parents: Children are the most important part of our life, and their education is our top priority. NaMaYa helps parents improve their child’s education in a simple and cost-effective way.
Student. NaMaYa is opening a new world of opportunity for our students. We strive to deliver the best quality online content for the best possible price!
Content Providers: Companies that have existing high-quality content and want to offer it in the global market can use NaMaYa’s education content market place and increase their global presence and overall sales.
Benefactors: Anyone that is passionate about education can easily use their available resources to impact the life of an individual, whole schools or even districts.
Our team is responsible for the technology roadmap and overall strategy. We have a very clear idea of where we want to be in a few years and how to get there.
Yovel: NaMaYa is the starting point for online education. We combine the three main pillars – technology, content and the community into one integrated PaaS that can be used at anytime for free or very low cost.
By offering a unified integrated system we are disrupting the market and opening the door for many interesting things to happen, many that we can’t even predict yet.
As an example – an individual school can benefit from NaMaYa in the following ways:
- A complete, hosted, powerful website
- Full featured Learning Management System
- Social network communication functionality for school, teachers, students and parents
- Best quality integrated content (free/paid)
- eCommerce engine
- Safe education search – easily find what is available out there
- Fundraising/benefactor program for each school/teacher
- And much more…
Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?
Yovel: There are many providers with point solutions. Some offer website creation for schools, some offer LMS, others offer a grade-book or rewards program as an example. An average school would need access to all of these functionalities and solutions but it would be impossible for them to deal with so many individual vendors. And we haven’t even touched on the content aspect.
The issue is that as far as we can see, no one if offering a complete worries free solution for schools. Educators don’t want to worry about hosting, technical requirements or software features. They want to educate and teach. They want to impact the results of their students and have better education.
Moreover, there is such a diverse content marketplace that I can’t imagine how an individual school can find/access everything that is out there.
If we take the LMS market as an example – we can see that on the high-end we see Blackboard as an industry leader on the lower level we see Moodle as an open source alternative.
Our goal in NaMaYa is to provide the best of these two options as an example. Full features and support you would expect from a large company with an open source, low cost pricing model you would get from an open solution.
Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?
Yovel: NaMaYa was incorporated in 2007 as a result of long process of design and research. Our development process was very slow in the first couple of years due to resource constraints – but I think that really helped us in the long run. We manage to architect a unique state of the art PaaS that has taken into consideration years of research/market needs. Some of the technology under the hood has been around for many years and is serving a variety of sites in almost any vertical market.
Our platform is proven and stable while offering an eco-system of add-on education applications that provide really limitless possibilities.
Victor: Where did it originate? Where can you get it now?
Yovel: You can simply sign up online at www.namaya.com. We are hosting it on the Cloud so teachers or schools can start immediately without any complex processes.
We also launched our PD site where we offer a variety of high quality professional development courses for teachers. Teachers can earn recertification credits, graduate credits and soon we will be offering an online master’s degree program. This can be found at www.namayapd.com
Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?
Yovel: For most users and usage scenarios – NaMaYa is free. Only schools that want a branded environment they can control need to pay a flat and low monthly usage fee.
We are talking about a few dollars per year, per student for a full-scale solution.
Some premium content also costs money but these prices are controlled 100% by the content owner and are not influenced by NaMaYa.
Our professional development courses (including graduate courses) are competitively priced.
Victor: What are some examples of it in action?
We also started uploading Open Course Ware materials and courses so users will have the access to the best quality free content.
A good example of the whole platform in action is our PD site – www.namayapd.com.
We also have several schools and universities that are using it but most of their information is available beyond the login page. A good example could be found at http://school.namaya.com/nrps.
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it NOT for?
Yovel: Initially we have designed NaMaYa to service Content Providers and Schools/Teachers. We would like the leaders in every school to have access to the best available solution to support their educational goals.
Individual teachers can create complete courses, create learning communities and really do whatever they can think of to enhance the educational process.
Schools can create their online education site or even their main website on our platform.
It is all easy “wizard” based with no need for any technical support.
Content providers can upload their content to our content marketplace or create their own branded virtual schools and expand nationally or globally.
Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days?
Yovel: For me education is a passion or really a mission. As the primary key to personal growth and really as a fundamental component for better life – I think Education is probably one of the most important underserved areas in our Western world. We see so much innovation around so many areas in life, from gadgets to software that helps us spend more money, work less (or more) and be more productive etc. but very few innovations or businesses exist to support the greater good.
Our generation is so fortunate to live in the information/device revolution and my goal is to help people harness this for online education. Smart phones, tablets, content creation tools, social media are just some of the major changes that are impacting our life on multiple levels.
Social media is enabling peaceful revolutions to happen where dictators ruled for decades. Smart devices bring the world to the palm of our hands. We already communicate/shop/work/read/etc differently than before – there is no doubt in my mind that we will learn differently too.
In the book – “The World is Flat”— Friedman outlines how technology erased borders and brings everyone into the same level playing field. Now it is our job to use technology and information and help anyone anywhere in the world to learn anything they want.
The real impact of our vision is still evolving but I am hopeful NaMaYa will improve the way we learn all around the world.
Victor: What sort of formative experiences in your own education helped to inform your approach to creating NaMaYa?
Yovel: I guess the most influential aspect was my university degree. I got my B.Sc. from the Open University in Tel Aviv. The way it works is simple – there are no acceptance criteria – anyone can learn anything they want. When you register to a course the university sends you a large box of course materials every semester. You have a meeting with a guide once every few weeks and you literally learn alone at home. It is a very different way of learning and seeing how most of my friends learned in “traditional” universities, I couldn’t help but think – why isn’t there more of this?
I completed my degree while holding down a full time job in sales and marketing that was very demanding. My degree in Computer Science and Management is a great example of how you can literally learn anything if you have great materials, some good guidance and a lot of will-power.
I guess that’s when I started thinking about the option of NaMaYa – I did not call it by that name, and I had no idea how it would look – but I thought it would be a good idea to have everything online.
Victor: How does NaMaYa address some of your concerns about education?
Yovel: I think this is fairly simple. Our goal with NaMaYa is to offer the best possible technology at the lowest possible cost to anyone that is involved in education.
Teachers can create great content and really impact their student’s life. Parents can be involved; schools can create their own environments…all in an integrated and elegant way.
Our goal is to facilitate the marketplace of online education and enable continuous innovation to happen on all three main pillars I mentioned before.
Victor: What is your outlook on the future of education?
Yovel: Education is going to continue to change even more rapidly as technology evolves and as human behavior changes.
First, I think the role of a teacher will be completely different. When I was in school – the teacher was the primary source of information. In today’s world, the teacher is more of a guide and coach helping the student how to “learn to learn”.
Schools are also going to change. With access to technology, students won’t have to be in school all day learning in a classroom with one/two teachers. Schools will evolve to support different ways of learning for different students. Students will have the ability to advance in the material based on their skills and investment.
I also think that the curriculum concept will change to allow parents and teachers to be more in control around what the student is learning.
Technology will enable us to create a specific learning path for each student and to tailor this process to the individual’s learning style or intelligence type. In some ways, we will have less room for excuses for poor performance of a student, teacher or school.
It is hard to predict how things will change – but I am sure we are in front of a major revolution.
My hope is to position NaMaYa in the forefront of this process and make sure we leverage these changes in the right way.
Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of NaMaYa?
Yovel: I invite anyone to get started and see how they can impact their students’ lives. Not every change is positive in life but in most cases, and in this case for sure – change is inevitable. Educators and schools must embrace these new trends and make the best of them. There is no other way.
Victor: What makes you say that?
We are in the middle of a revolution and I think the results of this process are in the hands of educators. If they take this challenge and control it – we will have unbelievable education progress worldwide.
It is much easier than it seems and NaMaYa is one provider that is committed to this revolution – we hope to get more educators on board and help us lead this process.
Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of EdTech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: victor@VictorRivero.com