From Madrasa to English medium, Gurukul Online Learning Network reaching 23 lakh students
Sufi Faruq Ibne Abubakar, former IT head of a multinational company, started Gurukul Online Learning Network with a dream to minimize the quality gap between education available to city and rural students.
"I wanted to take education of high standards to people's doorsteps in small towns and rural areas, and the internet seemed like the best medium to do so," said the entrepreneur who has been involved in the training and teaching scenario of the country since 2008.
Gurukul Online Learning Network started in 2019 with a small number of content on limited topics. At present, it has around 50 specialized YouTube channels and Facebook pages.
"Gurukul" is a Sanskrit word which roughly means school. It is included in the names of the channels and pages under the network, such as "Bangla Gurukul", "English Gurukul", "Math Gurukul".
The number of videos or digital classes currently available on these channels and pages are over 6,000 and can be accessed for free. The network's total subscribers are over 23 lakh at present and the content have an average of two crore views per month.
Gurukul Online Learning Network (GOLN) stands out among digital educational platforms mainly because of its magnitude and specialty on a wide range of subjects.
It initiated technical education classes on subjects like civil, electrical, computer, textile, garments and automobile of polytechnic, vocational and short-courses prepared by Bangladesh Technical Education Board.
It also published short courses on beautification, tailoring and exercises including yoga.
At present, in addition to technical education, the network continues to work on subjects under all conventional education systems in Bangladesh.
They have separate channels and pages dedicated to Bangla, English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Business Education, Accounting and other subjects.
In addition, they are working on subjects under the Bangladesh Madrasah Education Board.
One of the students who regularly takes digital classes of "Islamia Gurukul", the network's channel on madrasa education, is Nayem Ahsan.
"I have personally been benefited by Islamia Gurukul's classes and follow them regularly," Nayem said.
"There has not been such professional initiative for students of madrasa curriculum in Bangladesh," he added.
GOLN also has platforms for job and competitive exam preparations.
The "Music Gurukul" outlet of the network has already become quite popular.
They have an "International Language Hub" offering lessons on languages of several countries.
They also started publishing classes in English since the beginning of the pandemic.
"In addition to hard skills, our classes help students develop soft skills. We try to aid students with easily adapting to urban workplaces as well as society," Sufi Faruq said.
Around 300 government and private teachers have worked behind the Gurukul digital classes.
"We don't only train students, we also train teachers," the founder of GOLN said.
The organization trained experienced teachers who were unfamiliar with digital platforms. It also trained aspirant educators on pedagogy. Many of those who were trained in teaching at GOLN are now doing very well in the profession, Sufi Faruq added.
The network is currently running in free mode. However, it will operate in a freemium model in future, he said.
This means all general courses will be available for free, but learners will have to pay to avail the value-added services or premium courses.
"Due to the pandemic, the number of users and usage rate have exceeded our target," said Sufi Faruq.
"We have not yet decided on GOLN's revenue model. Whatever we are getting from Facebook and YouTube ads are our current income. We are also investing ourselves," said the entrepreneur.
"We already got a few investment offers but we want to take some time to assess what shape the network is taking," he added.
The main channel and page name of this network is "Gurukul Online Learning Network, GOLN" which they refer to as "Index Page" or "Index Channel".
Users can only subscribe to the specific channels with their content of interest and not be bothered by unnecessary notifications.
GOLN also occasionally takes live or interactive classes based on students' demands.