Beyond classroom learning
New social enterprise provides IT help after classes and workshops to give seniors more confidence in their learning journey.
BY: Eleanor Yap
Learning about IT can be daunting for some seniors. Too much information in a classroom setting and sometimes more questions tend to arise after the class ends, when sadly no one is around to help. New social enterprise Xiohoo (which comes from a phonetical word ‘相助’ in Teochew dialect meaning ‘to help’) and one of five finalists in LeapForGood by the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE), is hoping to address this.
The three helming the company, Adrian Teo, Allan Tay and Jean Tan, found that after six years of being IT trainers themselves conducting classes at community centres (CCs), residents’ committees (RCs) and senior wellness centres, they noticed a gap to plug. “We found that learning in a classroom has limitations of time and content. Seniors either have a lot to learn at once or have to grapple with unexpected situations after the class. The confidence they gain through the classes quickly converts to fear when they become unsure of what they are doing after classes,” said Allan.
He added: “As trainers, we were constantly faced with many questions that students have about their different smartphones. In fact, some seniors attended classes just to get the opportunity to meet an expert who could solve their long-standing problems with their smartphones. While we were eager to help, there were only that many of us who could support.”
Their company, Xiohoo, not only offers classes and hands-on workshops like many organisations that already do so, but also a question-and-answer service for seniors to troubleshoot and query anytime, anywhere. For the latter, seniors can use the peer-to-peer app to ask IT experts for help, or use features like “Screen Calling” to obtain face-to-face support.
“This helps to maintain learning after classes without the fear of no immediate support,” said Allan. “A platform like Xiohoo can leverage on a greater pool of expert resources to provide the peer-to-peer service in a more personal and bespoke way. Seniors need more than just the usual classrooms to truly learn about technology. It is by daily practice and usage that they can get better. Hence, we are there to help ensure that there is a IT expert available to guide them through their learning journey.”
Learning technology, in particular smartphones, can benefit seniors. They can stay connected with their family and friends, not only through social media but also through apps like WhatsApp that allow them to share and communicate easily anytime, anywhere. Said Allan: “This helps reduce social isolation as it makes it easy for one to interact with another.”
He added other benefits. “In terms of employment, seniors can better search for jobs especially where it involves using their smartphones to complete certain tasks. For example, supermarket promoters, a popular flexible job that seniors engage in, sometimes are required to take photos and send via WhatsApp to their managers to report on display arrangements and stock placements. Knowing your smartphone functions becomes paramount in getting the job done.”
Also, understanding topics like cashless payment allow seniors to use their smartphones as wallets to make payment, thereby reducing the hassle of carrying cash to a food court or to even count the correct change that is given. “Lastly, safety is something important with better smartphone literacy. In particular, finding your way when you are lost through the use of map apps, to know if a news is fake, or if a message or a phone call is a scam are important knowledge that can save a senior from certain cyber threats or danger,” shared Allan, who with Adrian will be teaching the classes and workshops.
Currently, Xiohoo is offering five classes each week focusing on smartphones and will expand to daily classes by first quarter of next year islandwide. The topics on smartphones include “Basic Internet Usage” and “Mobile Photo/Video-taking” to advanced topics like “Cashless Payment” and “Buying and Selling Online”. Each class or workshop is two hours long and will be held at selected RCs or CCs.
Seniors will need to pay between S$30 to S$50 for the continuous learning programme which includes a class and a workshop, as well as a question-and-answer service. In the future, Xiohoo will be adding other topics such as design and coding.
So far, the company has trained 100 seniors in its pilot through two classes and two workshops. It is also looking at partnering with companies to help to train seniors in the use of apps and services, and at a later stage, it hopes to hire seniors who graduated from their classes as trainers and experts to man the question-and-answer service.