By Elizabeth Leong (18S06G)
With Promos or A’s right around the corner, many of us have been scrambling to find precious study resources – from the depths of our dusty files, from the generosity of our classmates and friends, or from the ever-trusty Internet. During this arduous process, some of us may have stumbled upon Tick, an online resource-sharing platform where all contributions are from fellow students.
Since its launch this July, the site’s collaborative model of learning has proven to be a success. Tick currently has over 900 ‘A’ Levels, IB, ‘O’ Levels and IP resources, ranging from model essays to summary sheets and content notes. The platform not only has many local users, but also many more across the globe.
But how did this project come about? Press speaks to some of the founding members, alumni of RI’s Class of 2016, to find out.
What inspired you to start Tick?
Sai: In a country with a billion-dollar tuition industry, it might be fair to say learning has become overly competitive and commercialised. I’ve always wanted to spark a change – to help make learning a collaborative, cumulative process. And more importantly, to help level the playing field so anyone can find resources and the means to learn regardless of financial background.
As graduating students, we wanted to leave something tangible behind for the student community – a community we’ve grown up in, and learnt a lot from. We identified a gap, and found a way to better the lives of students around the world.
So, we got to work.
How does Tick work?
Sai: Before Tick, students typically started their academic journeys from scratch and consolidated concepts, case studies, analyses and the like along the way – only to leave their work untouched after graduating. We felt there was tremendous potential to do good here. The Tick platform closes the loop so students don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time: peers and graduated seniors contribute their resources to benefit current students, who can in turn pay it forward by contributing theirs when they graduate.
This makes learning a collaborative experience in which students learn from each other, and a cumulative one that raises the standards of academic rigour over time.
What makes Tick different from other learning platforms (such as KhanAcademy)?
Sai: One way to look at existing alternatives is to classify them into two broad groups.
The behemoths in this field like KhanAcademy offer some brilliant lessons and practices across a host of subjects. That said, even for a topic that’s taught everywhere in the world like algebra in Math, each course – A levels, O levels, IB, and so on – varies in exactly what it teaches and tests. Each course has unique question and answer styles, subject and topic breakdowns, and so on, so these mainstream courses might not be tailored to the precise demands of the course. However, the resources on Tick are made by students who study exactly what you do, which means the content is perfectly in line with what you need.
Another type of learning platform that’s available include local “notes sites” that have come up in previous years. While these may be effective in addressing the needs of students, they might not have the technology to sustain scale. This is because these sites primarily serve as compilations – think sites that could’ve been a public Google Drive instead – having more notes might crowd these platforms and make it difficult to find what you need. Because of the way resources are archived and indexed on Tick and its search system, you can find exactly what you’re looking for. So instead of a system that drowns and dilutes the content you’re looking for as more resources go up, we focused on designing one that helps you as more resources go up on it and gives you exactly what you’re looking for.
How do you feel about Tick?
Sai: Watching Tick transform from a vision and a desire into a tangible product that’s making a difference to so many people has been heartwarming. I’m glad I’ve been able to put together a team so capable and dedicated to make all this possible.
What is so special about Tick as a platform?
Jiahai: Right from the outset we designed Tick to be student-centric. We drew from our own studying experiences, as freshly graduated ‘A’ Level students, and thought about what features we would have loved to have, such as optimisation for all devices and personalised bookmarking and annotation. Such features greatly enhance the efficiency of studying, and despite some technical challenges along the way, were worth implementing. After all, they’re what makes the Tick platform a learning aid as much as it is a library.
Another aim we had was to build a community, which we feel is critical in ensuring sustainability. We approached this by adding elements of interaction between contributors and users, such as through enabling users to rate and comment on resources. Going forward, it’ll be a continuous cycle of upgrading, testing, collecting feedback, and upgrading once more, as we strive to better our platform.
What were some of the challenges faced while designing Tick?
Jiahai: We actually had a hard timeline to meet – exam seasons don’t wait. Between National Service, work and university commitments on top of Tick, late nights were common, but it’s all worked out reasonably well so far, and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved in just a short two months.
On the technical end of the project, the main challenge I faced was familiarising myself with technologies I didn’t have experience with, but wanted to incorporate in order to improve the platform. Additionally, because we wanted to scale to a large audience while maintaining low costs, I made choices early on in the project to select the ‘stack’ of technology behind the server as one which would satisfy our operational needs at a low server load.
How did Tick amass such an extensive collection?
Heather: It is important to us that our platform be represented island-wide, and so I reached out to all my friends, shared our vision, and invited them to be a part of it. It was heartening to see so many respond to the call with generosity and support for our cause, and it wasn’t long before the resources started pouring in.
How are the resources managed?
Heather: We value quality as much as quantity, and from the very beginning each resource was carefully and personally vetted. We had a few core priorities in mind: performing quality checks, respecting intellectual property rights, and making our library navigable. I worked closely with Jiahai and Sai to ensure that this translated effectively onto the platform, and the end results speak for themselves.
How successful is the platform so far?
Keane: We garnered over a thousand users within a week from across Singapore, and to our delight (and surprise), from over twenty other countries too. It was my first experience working on a project at this scale, so it was a truly encouraging and heartwarming beginning for us.
Currently, we have over 90 000 views, 7000 unique users and an average of about 500 active daily users, from over 90 different countries. According to many who have personally written to us, they are highly appreciative of our project and felt that it has helped them better prepare for the upcoming examinations. It’s too soon to really quantify our effectiveness in aiding our users since learning is a long-term, ongoing process, but we hope that users will embrace our values and continue fostering this peer-to-peer learning community.
What’s your favourite part of the experience so far?
Chun Man: Taking charge of publicity has given me the opportunity to reconnect with many batchmates and reach out to peers all around. While visiting school for an event, I even heard some of my juniors saying “tick ninja!” and giving me a thumbs up. That gesture really made my day! Personally, I do hope that more students will be able to benefit from our platform since this would have been akin to a god-sent tool for me back in junior college. We also hope our project inspires others to support their peers, as we believe that learning should not take place alone.
The Tick platform is still in its beta stages, but it has given us much to look forward to. It hosts a wide collection of resources on a clean and intuitive platform. While it may be some time before we see any major improvements as the team manages their university and National Service commitments, this addition to our educational arsenal is indeed something to celebrate.