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Homework diary 2.0 – Dresden start-up is revolutionising school life

It’s not always easy keeping track of everything that goes on at school. The founders of a Dresden-based start-up – Danny Roller, Martin Hey, Bastian Buder and Alexander Witkowski – have created an app for school pupils that helps them organise their time better and stay on top of their studies. Class timetables, homework and marks can all be saved directly on a smartphone in just a few simple steps. The app also features a chat function for easier communication with classmates. But the young entrepreneurs are taking things one step further. They are linking up with companies who want to use the scoolio app to recruit new employees. We visited the scoolio team and took a closer look at their digital homework diary.

The scoolio app for school pupils aims to replace the traditional homework diary in the future. How exactly will it do that?

Danny Roller: The app has two parts to it. Firstly, it is designed to be as useful as possible for young people. They can easily save their lesson timetables and marks in the app. It also has the option of setting push notifications for reminders about upcoming homework assignments and exams. Secondly, there is a social networking function which enables pupils to interact with each other based on their location. By combining these two features, we believe our app offers significant added value.

How did you come up with the idea for this app?

We had the idea at the end of 2015. At that point, we had already created the printed version of the FuturePlan school diary, a free school planner which also contains information for school pupils on degree courses and career prospects with various companies. scoolio is the digital version of the FuturePlan school diary. Young people spend a lot of time on their smartphones nowadays. With our app, we aim to reach out to them in their own environment.

Many parents and teachers still feel slightly uneasy about the use of new media and social networking.

Yes, they do. One of our biggest challenges is to help parents and teachers understand such technologies and explain what they need to know. Anyone who is not comfortable with new media is likely to find themselves at a disadvantage in the workplace nowadays. Therefore, the crucial factor is how we incorporate them intelligently in everyday school life. For example, seeing a carbon compound just as a formula is different from digitally recreating it as a 3D model.

What makes scoolio different from the big social networks that students also use?

First of all, we are a German company based in Saxony. Anyone can contact us at any time by phone or email. In other words, you can speak to us personally. Secondly, we are prepared to adapt our product to the needs of our target audiences. If teachers notice any aspects that could be improved, they can contact us directly. It’s virtually impossible to do that with companies like WhatsApp and Instagram.

How do you protect your young users against bullying and harmful content?

Safety and the protection of young people are very important to us. scoolio allows users to report other users or block them from the chat. We also have an automatic image recognition system that helps us remove content which may be harmful to young people. We have not had any problems with bullying so far. Users have to enter details of their school and class, which means everyone can take part in the class chat – not just the “cool” kids.

You deliberately chose to involve pupils in the development of your app. To what extent did that influence scoolio’s design?

A good example of this is our task list. For me, a to-do list is always set out in a way that allows me to write down the tasks I need to do and then cross them off when I’ve done them. We invited 15 pupils to the scoolio office and showed them this system – with surprising results! They thought our way of doing things was stupid. They said “What use is it if I haven’t done Friday’s homework but it still appears on the to-do list on the following Monday?” So we created an intelligent to-do list which makes the uncompleted tasks disappear after 24 hours.

We see our main role as serving users, so the pupils let us know their requirements and we implement them. This means scoolio is essentially an app designed by pupils for pupils. The app has been downloaded 180,000 times so far and has over 40,000 active users a month.

What companies and organisations are you cooperating with?

We currently have campaigns running with the REWE Group, logistics service provider Hermes, Deutsche Bundesbank, the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs and many others. scoolio focuses on advertising that relates to careers and studying. This raises awareness among pupils at an early stage and specifically draws their attention to the training opportunities offered by companies in their region.

You founded your company in Dresden and plan to stay here. In your view, what advantages does Saxony offer?

We are proud to be a start-up from the heart of Saxony and we’re grateful for the opportunities that are available to us here in Dresden. We have managed to secure a range of investors from Saxony for our app, including technology investment firm Technologiegründerfonds Sachsen, SIB Innovations- und Beteiligungsgesellschaft mbH at Ostsächsische Sparkasse, RBB Management AG at Sparkasse Oberlausitz-Niederschlesien and its foundation, and Kreissparkasse Bautzen. We also want to demonstrate that you don’t have to go to Hamburg, Berlin or Munich to set up a company. Successful start-ups can also be established right here in Saxony.

Photos © Anne Schwerin