I started my degree after a dog-eat-dog year at the University of Bradford, fighting to get my spot at Leeds Medical School from the pre-medical foundation course.
Surrounded by ambitious individuals, it was difficult to find my true calling: something that set me apart, not just for future employment possibilities, but also for my own identity.
Whilst revising for our exams, my (at the time) flatmate James and I began creating quizzes for each other using our lecture notes. It was a fun and competitive way to revise. I actually looked forward to sifting through my heaps of illegible notes and lecture PDFs to find material for questions that would test the two of us. But we were no longer competing against each other like our pre-medical days. And so, I shared all our tests with the 250+ library-bound colleagues, hoping that our efforts may be of some use for others.
Lo and behold, almost a unanimous cry for more content! It seemed that we had stumbled upon the holy grail of ‘open learning’. There were many reasons why our cohort found these tests useful, reasons that would take me beyond the scope of this post.
The buzz from the responses, the sheer excitement of seeing questions in the exam alarmingly similar to that of our own and the need for a quicker, easier and more intuitive way to create these multiple-choice questions (MCQs) led us in the hunt for an online solution.
June 2012, iTunes App Store had 650,000 apps. Not a single one that allowed tests to be created and shared. Mind you, there were hundreds of flashcard makers, but we’re not fans of that method: it’s too easy to cheat with them.
At first, this was a huge disappointment. After an eye-opening cup of coffee, we saw a gap in the market. However, hiring a developer to create such an app would cost upwards of £20,000. Having analysed our collective bank accounts, we were roughly £18,000 in debt to the student finance folks. Shoot.
James had ‘dabbled’ around with programming languages like C and C++ in his teens, as you do, and I was just about fluent with English. So obviously, he took the lead in creating our brainchild, MyCQs (pun intended, and now trademarked), whilst I tried to find my feet with web development, as a total beginner.
Skip ahead two years. MyCQs has 10,000 users, 5,000 tests and 250,000 questions. Not too shabby. Our users are students, teachers and professionals from all over the world.
Whilst all this unfolded, I took on the role of Lead Developer for the United Kingdom Medical Students’ Association (http://ukmsa.org), eventually turning down the position for vice-president; became a technical advisor for InnovateHealth UK (http://innovatehealth.co.uk); travelled around Europe with The Think Train (http://thethinktrain.org); created a gender oriented drug side-effect reporting tool for Stockholm based Karolisnka Institutet (http://genderedreactions.com); and bizarrely became a choreographer for Leeds’ official Bollywood dance society, Vibes (http://facebook.com/bombay.vibes.leeds). And yet, there are plenty of people who do a lot more and remain far better organised.
The purpose of this post was not to show how much I have done, but to inspire what you can do, no matter how much you have going on. And if you ever feel that a task is too difficult, just remember, plenty of others will have been through it before.
If you’re interested in the revision platform, visit http://mycqs.com or if you want a chat, drop me a tweet, @OmairVaiyani.