ZNotes: A powerful learning platform


Saudi Gazette report

DURING his International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), Zubair Junjunia started uploading his own notes for the subjects he had studied. He named his endeavor ZNotes and as he went into A-Levels, the project continued to grow as the creation of notes became a group effort, receiving phenomenal organic growth as people began to use the notes from all over the world. Along with users came contributors, students who had stumbled across the website and wanted to help it grow by offering more subjects.

Junjunia, the founder of ZNotes, is studying Mathematics at University College London. He is a long distance runner, figure and inline skater, avid reader, amateur graphics designer and an enthusiastic cook.

From its humble origins supporting a handful of subjects, ZNotes has extended its selection of IGCSE and A-Level subjects, especially targeting those who have hardly any kind of support on the Internet or in textbooks. All notes are provided free of charge so that students without access to textbooks or study guides can still enjoy high quality revision material and achieve the examination grades they deserve. Furthermore, the website serves as a collective function enabling discourse between students of same subjects, allowing them to share and learn from one another. In this way ZNotes has morphed from a simple resource website to a powerful learning platform.

Now serving thousands of unique daily users, the website recently passed a milestone of 9 million total hits. Clearly the project can no longer be managed alone and so, a team of teenagers came together to manage all aspects of this social enterprise. This includes responding to students’ comments and emails, improving the website for better ease of access, working with new contributors to further expand the database of subjects and orchestrating the social media footprint of the project. A team spanning countries from the UK to India are proving that location remoteness, differing time-zones and age are no significant barrier when it comes to the impact that one can have on the world.

Over the summer of 2017, ZNotes began collaboration with a 6th-form college in Cambridge, the Cambridge Leadership College. Establishing a partnership with a physical academic institution means that ZNotes is now able to provide free masterclasses to students studying for A-Levels in many subjects. A new community was also started, leveraging the technology of the world’s fastest growing business app for team communication, Slack. This free community has over 1,000 students who have been helping each other in their respective subjects, gaining tremendous value from both giving and receiving help.

This experiment crystallized an idea for the ZNotes team; to harness the community spirit of peer to peer learning but also provide access to subject experts through an academic faculty in Cambridge. This combination was designed for A-Levels to solve problems often suffered by the traditional tuition methodology which enabled students to pass exams without the ability to grasp topics and consequently not doing well in their further studies at the university level.

ZCoach is a way for CIE A-Level students from all over the world to gain affordable access to the best brains in the UK: graduates, phD students and undergraduates from Cambridge University. It exists at the interface between technology and academic tradition and allows anyone with an Internet connection and a device to learn how to think like people who have gained entry to Cambridge University. Subject experts broadcast concise summary explanations of each A Level syllabus topic, live from Cambridge for an intensive one month period. In these live, interactive sessions, ZCoach faculty members give insights into the concepts covered and suggest tips, tricks and lines of attack when answering exam questions. ZCoach also includes a device-based version of the Cambridge University ‘supervision’ system, which is Cambridge’s famous academic method for developing deep subject expertise. Students can post topic questions straight from their phones and engage in debate with each other under the guided supervision of ZCoach subject experts, who help students to achieve a solid understanding of the concepts covered through skillful education methods.