The number of people between the ages of 18 and 24 receiving higher education in Latin America is only 43% and only half of them graduate. According to young software engineer Freddy Vega, these figures are a problem because "access to university is key to accessing the middle class" in the region.
To put an end to this problem, Vega launched the Platzi online technology education platform. It is the largest virtual technology education platform in Spanish and teaches marketing, programming, design, data science and other disciplines from scratch, Vega explains. For this breakthrough in effective online education, Vega has been selected as one of the winners of MIT Technology Review in Spanish's Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2020.
With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, online education has been normalized. But "Platzi classes are not Zoom video calls. They are asynchronous classes that are self-paced to give everyone opportunities in the field of technology. Instead of bringing in solutions from traditional academia, we make the teachers micro-celebrities in their niche," says Vega.
Thanks to this change in approach, while only 5-10% of students finish their courses on other virtual education platforms such as Coursera, 70% finish what they start on Platzi, says its creator. "40% of Platzi's students arrive earning minimum wage or less, and months later they increase their lifetime income by two to ten times," he adds.
Platzi is the innovator's way of improving access to and quality of education. In addition to training programs, the platform also offers scholarships, so that people with greater difficulties, such as mothers who are heads of households and Venezuelans, can take its courses and improve their lives. "All the technology start-ups in the region have Platzi students in their workforce. We have seen gigantic companies come from nothing thanks to Platzi," says the young man.
The platform currently has more than one million students and offices in three countries in the Americas. After starting with technological studies, Platzi also offers soft skills and English courses to improve users' employability. Vega also points out that they work with some of the largest banks in Latin America to train their staff.
Now the innovator wants to launch Platzi in Portuguese to reach the Brazilian market and continue transforming the Latin American economy: "If you work with a computer, we can teach it to you."
The executive director of Parallel18 (United States) and member of the Innovators under 35 Latin America 2020 jury, Sebastián Vidal, considers Vega to be "one of the pioneers in online technical education focused on a community that needed additional tools for its development." The expert highlights that Platzi "is democratizing opportunities to increase the income of its users."