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[Interview] Scholacloud Makes Education More Streamlined and Social

Internet and mobile devices are beginning to change the way that people interact with each other in very fundamental ways. In a similar vein, educational institutions are beginning to adopt new systems of learning in order to make classes more effective and interactive for students.

So how can these two waves be combined? Last week I sat down with David Ruiz, creator of Scholacloud, to get a better understanding of how his work is changing the way schools are organized.

As an entrepreneur hailing from Paris and living in Beijing, David Ruiz brings a fresh perspective to the developer scene in China. Believing that China’s market for innovation will be “central” to the industry in the years to come, David enjoys being part of the tech and educational revolution of China and thrives on creating links between institutions and teaching systems in different countries.

Beginning with his university years at France’s Epitech—an elite IT university in Paris on par with MIT—David learned an incredible breadth of knowledge about what he describes as “geek” subjects. We spent some time talking about the entrance examinations, which included questions such as, “What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?”

After facing several years of intensive and demanding programming work, he spent a year of study abroad in Dalian, China. It was an eye-opener that left an impression of China that would bring him back just a few years later.

So what led to Scholacloud?

How everything started.

The idea for Scholacloud originated as a project aiming to solve several problems in management that David noticed while working at Alliance Française—for those unfamiliar with it, Alliance Française is a global institution that teaches and promotes the use of the French language worldwide.

David saw a gap in the organizational structure of the classes that could be filled by interactive software. He noticed issues in the schools’ management systems for students, including issues related to registering students, keeping track of students’ and teachers’ skills, and collecting the statistics of the classes.

There was a lot of space for improvement, and he knew that it could be aided by the “revolution going on in mobile and Internet,” according to his words. Given that there are more than 2,000 Alliance Française centers in the world, Scholacloud began as a way to introduce structure to the system. It has since expanded to include many other institutions worldwide.

The structure of Scholacloud.

Scholacloud is compatible with computers and iOS devices. There are 3 components to Scholacloud.

One is the management system, which involves school management, schedule management–“which teachers go where and when, to teach what, for what kind of students”–and the statistics of each class. Teachers keep track of the progress of students using different metrics, and students can instantly view grades and other information. That is one pillar, according to David.

The second pillar is documentation. A school can essentially build its own virtual library for students to draw from. This means that teachers can distribute documents to students on a cloud platform for students to access from their computers or from their mobile devices. As a student, this provides a one-stop platform that can be used to transfer documents and seamlessly assign tasks to classmates and team members.

The third pillar is the social aspect. “Imagine a Facebook wall just for one class,” explains David. Every student can log in on the website and check schedules and grades and contribute to the life of the class. Students and teachers can interact by reflecting on different aspects of class life, assignments and subjects. Teachers can even put exams and homework assignments online for students to complete in any rich format they so choose to display.

Scholacloud brings all of these aspects into one system, combining efficiency, productivity and interactivity aspects together for each class and project. It is much more convenient, for instance, to have a student enroll at a school, and after the administrators register their information on a protected system, the teacher and students already have access to the software as soon as the class begins. From there teachers can “embed YouTube videos in the lesson plans or add HTML content and Flash applications,” he explains, creating easily accessible and content-rich presentations or materials for homework.

On the international version of Scholacloud, they have even integrated social media compatibility. For instance, students using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can log on to Scholacloud with their existing accounts.

So what is the biggest difference with other social media outlets?

“Privacy,” says David. When it comes to education, it’s important that privacy is protected. All of Scholacloud’s information is completely confidential, and the company applies to the relevant education bureau of every new country it enters.

“Privacy is a very large question. You have to apply to governments to get permission to use student information. We always apply to the government every time we get a new customer in a new country. Every version of Scholacloud adapts to the customer, government, or environment of the school,” says David.

Who is Scholacloud’s biggest target or audience?

David targets mostly international schools, which generally have better network infrastructure for the software to work its magic. He has already enrolled a variety of schools worldwide, including schools in China, Europe, the US, and South America.

How does Scholacloud adapt to different environments?

Every day there are 10 deployments of different versions, says David. Additionally, the software includes modules that you can be used to adapt to different situations. “The source code is changed every day,” explains David. “Having a kid myself, I can see that there are differences in the systems depending on the country.” In other words, Scholacloud strives to adapt to every new system in a manner appropriate to the culture of the country.

A Chinese version of Scholacloud is available in both Mandarin and Cantonese. Additionally, Scholacloud has customers in South America, so a Spanish version is also available.

What is their greatest accomplishment so far?

“We have 40,000 students already signed up for Scholacloud,” says David. This includes training centers, international schools, IT centers and others. They are adding new schools and students constantly.

Do you have any role models?

“I have several role models,” says David. “The obvious is Google & Apple, for their clear visions of the future, but there are also smaller ones. I really enjoy the way 37Signal (a Chicago-based company) works and explains its products.”

What has been the greatest challenge so far?

David concludes that “the greatest challenge is to understand how different education systems work in every country, and to adapt Scholacloud in a way that remains simple and straightforward for every user. Simple and flexible are two words really difficult to put together in the software world. This is by far our greatest challenge, but also our greatest accomplishment, since all our customers love the product.”

You can check out Scholacloud at www.scholacloud.com. It is free for the first 100 students!

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