Study app business brisk, prepping youths from all walks for college

by Satoshi Toi

Kyodo

The smartphone application business targeting students preparing for college entrance exams is buoyant amid a steady increase in smartphone users among high school students.

Naoki Miyauchi, an 18-year-old high school senior in Okayama, attends one of Japan’s major preparatory schools and is studying for more than five hours a day so he can pass the competitive exam for the University of Tokyo.

He has been relying on a free smartphone application called Studyplus that allows him to connect with other users through social networking.

“I have my smartphone with me all the time to find out how many hours I spend on which subject and check how my friends are doing,” Miyauchi said.

On Studyplus, members register the textbooks they are using and keep track of how long and what they studied. The data are automatically displayed in a graph, allowing users to see how many hours they study each day, week and month.

Members can also set goals and confirm what they have achieved at a certain point.

As there are different “communities” depending on the university users wish to enter or the subject they are interested in, members can search for “friends” who have the same goals or interests.

Once they become “friends,” users can view each other’s data, share information and encourage each other.

Takashi Hirose, president of Studyplus Inc., said, “Studying for exams often makes students feel lonely, but this application helps them make friends and keep up their motivation for continuing to study.”

Studyplus has attracted more than 200,000 users since its launch in March 2012. Of the members, about 70 percent are students preparing for university entrance exams.

The Tokyo-based company currently relies on advertising revenue but will consider charging members fees in the future.

The study application business is expected to grow as an increasing number of high school students own smartphones.

In a survey released in September by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, over 80 percent of high school freshmen responded that they had their own smartphones.

Juken Sapuri, another application for smartphones and personal computers, serves as an online preparatory school, providing video lectures by top-rated teachers.

The online school, which costs members ¥980 a month, distributes videos of lectures for high school students at every level as well as for preliminary examinations for universities. The videos can be viewed on demand any number of times.

Users who do not register for the online school can still download for free questions from past entrance exams for the country’s 100 major universities.

The number of Juken Sapuri members preparing for examinations topped 200,000 in fiscal 2012 through March, according to Recruit Marketing Partners Co. The total number of members stood at 450,000 during the last fiscal year and almost 900,000 as of Oct. 20, its website shows.

Shinji Matsuo, supervisor of the application, said, “The application can be an effective tool in supporting those who are unable to go to preparatory schools because their financial situation does not allow them to do so or they live in areas without such schools.”

“We are hoping to narrow the gaps in education for university entrance exams,” he said.