Wednesday 24 October 2012

Lessons in selflessness - students share exam notes

NotesAcademy portal set up by RI student proves a hit; even draws overseas traffic
By Eisen Teo, The Straits Times, 23 Oct 2012

AN ONLINE sharing site crashed temporarily earlier this month when up to 4,000 people accessed it.

But the website was not trading movies or songs.

Called NotesAcademy, it was set up by 16-year-old Raffles Institution student Goh Zuo Min to share free exam notes. And as the O levels loomed, students were scrambling to download the notes from the site.

The Year 4 Integrated Programme student launched the website at in May 2010, to counter a "selfish, overcompetitive" school environment.

"Students usually keep their notes to themselves, and even tell schoolmates the wrong things to study," he said. "They feel that if they help another person, they are losing out."

Not Zuo Min.

He had no qualms sharing his notes with classmates as "my grades weren't better than theirs", he said. They traded notes via e-mail messages or Facebook. He then decided to set up a portal to make sharing easier.

"If you share, everyone becomes smarter," he said. "If you study by yourself, you may not cover everything on the syllabus."

The site has gained traction.

As word spread, students from other classes and from other schools such as Hwa Chong Institution and Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) began to send him their notes via e-mail.

Zuo Min gets three or four contributions a week, and they are formatted, edited and checked for accuracy by 10 schoolmates.

Today, NotesAcademy has exam notes for 142 topics in eight O-level subjects such as English, chemistry and social studies. The notes serve Express stream students of all secondary levels.

From 100 views a day at the start of the year, the site now gets an average of 1,000 to 2,000 views a day. About 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the traffic is from outside Singapore - Zuo Min once received an e-mail from a Pakistani student, thanking him for easing her studying process.

He is aware of the money that selling exam notes could bring in, but said: "It should not be the way. It should just be students helping other students."

To pay for the website address and server space, his team raised $1,000 from members of the public and school alumni.

Mr Khairul Rusydi, co-founder of entrepreneurship academy REActor Singapore, has advised Zuo Min to look for long-term company sponsorship.

To do so, Zuo Min aims to get 4,000 hits a day for NotesAcademy. His eventual target is 10,000 hits a day.

He hopes all schools will use the site, and also wants volunteers to build a separate repository of notes for Normal stream and junior college students.

For now, NotesAcademy has been a life-saver for those who study at the last minute.

"Many friends have approached me after exams to thank me," he said. "They struggled to create their own notes the night before the exams and gave up."

His own grades have improved; he now scores mostly As.

Year 4 Integrated Programme student Jaime Han, 15, from Dunman High, found the site through friends and Facebook. She said: "It's beneficial to those who do not have tuition."

Jaime added that "the website is making a reputation for itself".

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