Conversations: Dr Michael Kasumovic, arludo

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As a university lecturer and researcher for over 10 years, Dr Michael Kasumovic observed the growing disconnect among his students in the classroom. The culprit: mobile phones. The solution: mobile phones! Through arludo, Michael aims to bridge this disconnect and help educators and learners perform better in the classroom.

Tell us about arludo and the audience to which you are catering.
My goal with arludo is to make it easy for teachers to become experts in a topic and to excite their students about what they are teaching. I see all the new products coming out every day and all the hope that teachers and institutions put in digital tools, but the bottom line is that all these new digital tools are time-consuming or difficult to learn. Our goal was to make it as easy as possible because as a teacher, I know how difficult it is to find time to plan a lesson and change what you’re already doing. That’s why everything we create is ready for use right off the shelf. We’re catering to all the teachers that want to be digital and don’t know where to start or don’t have the time to invest in something new.

What were you doing when the idea about arludo came to you?
I’ve been a university researcher and lecturer for 10 years now and I’ve been watching my students and colleagues struggle in class. Students are struggling because their whole lives revolve around mobile phones, yet when they come to class, the mobile is put away. Teachers struggle because they want to engage their students, but they often don’t know where to start because they see the world differently than their students do. Then I realised that there is a way to solve the problem that both individuals are having – by bringing mobiles into the classroom! This would help students feel more engaged, and if the apps were developed for teachers, they wouldn’t have to struggle to try and build something they don’t understand! After some trial and error, arludo was born.

What is the story behind the name ‘arludo’?
arludo comes from the “AR” – augmented reality, and “Ludo” – Latin word for play. To our team, arludo is really blending the real world with the digital world using social interactions to make the learning experience more enjoyable.

In your view, how can augmented reality (AR) influence the academic delivery and student engagement in the coming years?
When most people think of augmented reality, they think of overlaying images on the real world or manipulating what you see or hear depending on where you are – but we see AR as something broader: using technology to immerse individuals in a social environment where they feel comfortable to learn and experience new ideas. In this sense, we use anything that we can to help students lower their guard and feel comfortable to make mistakes while learning.

What prompted your career move from a university lecturer to a startup founder?
I haven’t moved – I’m still a university lecturer! I can’t see myself stopping from being a university lecturer because as soon as I did, I feel I wouldn’t know or understand what it is that teachers and students struggle with every day. That said, keeping two full-time jobs has become exhausting!

Everyone faces difficulties during the start-up phase. What keeps you motivated in the face of challenges?
The students. Seeing their faces light up and having conversations with them after they used our products makes me realise that we are making a difference. We’ve gotten some incredible feedback from students and teachers and it’s the feedback that keeps us going. As soon as I feel that we aren’t helping teachers and students, then I need to re-examine what we’re doing.

What does success mean to you?
Making a difference in the field that I’m in. That’s why I feel that arludo is already a success. We may not be making millions of dollars, but we are helping people teach and learn. I think I’ll consider arludo a huge success when we’re able to reduce the education gap and ensure that every child gets a high-quality education. We are really far from that, but I feel that we are travelling the right road to get there.

What do you do to wind down?
Right now, there is very little time for myself, which is good and bad. It’s good because it means that things are going well! It is bad because it’s difficult to wind down when you know how much you have to do. My family helps me keep things in perspective, however, so I am very lucky to have them. If it wasn’t for them, I think I’d sit in front of a screen all day!


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