Networking platform for students wins top prize in sustainability challenge for learning experiences

(From left) Ms Ng Yan Qing, Ms Jennifer Poernomo, and Ms Michelle Leong, introducing their peer-learning platform Edugether to President Halimah Yacob, on Jan 12, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - A group of university students is developing a learning platform to connect students virtually.

The second-year undergraduates had found it difficult to make friends in online classes after they kicked off their first semester in university amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The platform - the brainwave of Singapore Management University (SMU) computer science students Jennifer Poernomo, 19 and Michelle Leong, 21, Nanyang Technological University information engineering media student Ng Yan Qing, 20, and SMU economics student Jeannette Lee, 20 - connects students to study groups and matches tutors to students. It also has a question-and-answer forum and provides study materials.

Their proposal won them the grand prize at the second annual Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Sustainathon Singapore on Wednesday (Jan 12).

The competition seeks to inspire young innovators to solve sustainability challenges through technology.

The Sustainathon competition, which took in submissions from October to November last year, saw 67 participants put together 26 proposals for the challenge's partners - SG Enable, NTUC LearningHub and the National Institute of Education (NIE).

The 2021 challenge was to develop technology-based solutions to reimagine learning experiences, in line with Singapore's focus on building diversity in schools and lifelong learning with digitalisation as a main tool.

"It was very hard for us to make friends in school with online classes, where all we know of our classmates are their names on a screen... We hope that our platform can start a culture of peer-to-peer learning during the (Covid-19) pandemic," said Ms Leong, who added that the launch of their online platform is still in the works.

Following the launch of the first Sustainathon in 2020, TCS expanded the competition with local editions in the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore.

An Asean edition will be held in the first quarter of this year, where the top two teams or individuals from each country will compete on a regional level for the grand prize, which is a cash reward of up to US$10,000 (S$13,500).

Speaking at the prize-giving ceremony on Wednesday at The Signature at Changi Business Park, President Halimah Yacob noted that more than 152 million children and youth worldwide have been affected by school closures due to the pandemic, with 27 per cent of these children not able to fully participate in online learning.

President Halimah Yacob speaking during the Sustainathon Singapore finals on Jan 12, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The top three winning teams or individuals in the Singapore edition of Sustainathon received $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 respectively, and a chance to execute their winning ideas if they are viable.

The top two winners will also get to represent Singapore in TCS Sustainathon Asean.

The runner-up team consisted of National University of Singapore business analytics second-year students Joel Toh and Lee Zheng Hong, second-year business administration student Shawnn Tan and second-year information systems student Poh Mao Xin, all 23 years old.

They developed a video conferencing and learning management system equipped with interactive tools such as gamification, dual-screen video conferencing and post-lesson analytics to mitigate hybrid learning challenges.

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