Kyle Dodds is a structural engineer with a strong entrepreneurial background in the education space. He founded Cognition.Online, a mobile app that connects parents and their children to tutors in South Africa. Cognition.Online won Samsung’s international startup competition and has been recognized by Disrupt Africa as one of the continent's up-and-coming startups. Dodds also consults on entrepreneurial development in schools and presents regularly to schools to inspire young entrepreneurs.
How did your education and professional experience shape your work now at Cognition.Online?
My degree in civil engineering, further specialized as a structural engineer, may seem very distant from my background in education and running a traditional tutoring company before founding Cognition.Online; however, the problem-solving ability that you develop with an engineering degree has been invaluable. Working in a professional environment as a structural engineer and taking on the engineering responsibility of a $30 million hotel certainly increased my capacity to work under pressure, to meet tight deadlines, and maintain a high level of professionalism often surrounded by other professionals 20 years or more my senior.
How do you hope your work at Cognition.Online will change the learning landscape?
Our goal is primarily to make the private education environment more fluid and in doing so increase the market size by making it easily accessible to more people. This will in turn create more job opportunities for educators as well as enable people with unique skill sets to become educators that previously would not have had the marketplace to sell their skill set in.
What broad trends do you think will have the most impact on learning in the years ahead?
The realization that all kids should not be assessed in the same way and that one curriculum does not fit all will eventually filter into mainstream schooling will have big learning impacts in the future. However, this will only be possible when a larger amount of tertiary education institutes are prepared to accept alternative academic results. Entrepreneurship and the soft skills associated with it will have to be promoted and taught seriously at schools to enable students to survive in the declining job market.
Apart from your role at Cognition.Online, what are you currently working on & what is your next big project?
I am still a practicing structural engineer. I recently started engaging with the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation which puts hundreds of underprivileged kids through school each year. It also goes so much further than that by also assisting them with the various skill sets they will need to be successful one day. I am also looking forward to potentially assisting Phumlani Nkontwana from the University of Stelenbosch in his goal to create the first course by any university in our country of South Africa that will offer an alternative way of learning. We also want to have a complete relook at how admission requirements are structured. We recently presented alongside each other at the Circle of Excellence conference hosted by the Allan Gray Orbs Foundation, which invites representatives from South Africa’s top 100 schools to attend and discuss the future of education in our country.
Image: Courtesy Kyle Dodds