Pradeep Singh, Founder and CEO, Vidyanext shares with us on digital learning in Indian education and much more.
Please brief us about the various technologies/products you offer.
The Vidyanext Learning System is an innovative learning solution, built to scale according to the different needs of diverse students. The System comprises a combination of superior tutors and our learning technology available with the added benefit of a teacher with walking distance of every home.
This convenient service is known as the Viydanext Tutor Network.
Students learn in person with a tutor near their home. They also use a tablet device with course content mapped to their school curriculum and apps that help them understand, practice and memorise.
Tutors use reporting and collaboration tools that enable them to provide personalised attention to each student. Parents use a smartphone app that helps them track student progress and share in the learning process. The learning process itself is anchored around a chat metaphor that will engage students, tutors and parents with VidyaBot as the catalyst.
What prompted you to start this venture? What role does technology play in your business?
The founders started with a simple idea: “That technology can help students learn better”
If you think about it, technology has changed the way we do everything, even compared to how we did the same things just 20 years back. How we communicate – now faster, and cheaper with whatsapp and other tech. How we stay in touch with friends and family- on facebook and social media. How we take transport – a click of a button for a cab, and at half the price of an auto. How we consume entertainment – on our smartphones more than on TV.
Technology has changed all aspects of our lives. Except education, where the classrooms and teaching methods have remained the same as 40 years back. The time was right to put technology to create a similar disruption in education.
Research has shown for long how technology can indeed improve learning – in helping students understand better, practice better, remember better, and be more engaged, disciplined, and motivated. We could put pedagogical research into practice.
And with technology becoming more accessible across the country (good tablet devices now cheaper than an entry-level smartphone) this can impact the entire nation, not just the elite.
How do you think digital learning has transformed the way education services are carried now?
Students have many more options now. Along with options, they also have many more demands.
In this glocal world, job definitions have changed significantly. Students are expected to have a wide set of skills along with the ability to access and use information from a variety of sources.
In schools, while the classroom setup hasn’t undergone much change, there has been an effort to change the way classroom transactions take place. More and more, we are seeing that teachers are being trained to facilitate discussions in the classroom. The teaching and learning setup is transforming from being instructor-led, lecture driven, to an open exchange of ideas and self-driven learning.
Do you think that the government of India gives adequate importance to ICTs in Education?
Successive governments have been giving importance to education.
But we believe the government needs to focus more on quality and not just quantity. The latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2014) shows that while school enrolment is high (96.7%), learning outcomes are alarmingly low. One out of two students in grade 5 cannot read text of grade 2 level. 55.9% of class 8 students cannot do simple division.
While governments have announced welcome initiatives to increase educational reach across the spectrum, what is missing is an action plan to simultaneously improve learning outcomes. One solution is to help school teachers become more effective by giving them easy-to-use technology tools that help students learn better. This will serve the twin goals of improving learning outcomes while simultaneously ensuring digital literacy for the new generation.
How do you view the education start up ecosystem in India?
As of now, there are two kinds of players in the market.
A. Those using traditional tutors to teach
three variations here:
(a) those running regular tuition classroom chains. Eg. Giraffe
(b) those sending tutors to your home. Eg. Flipclass.
(c) those connecting you with a remote tutor. Eg. Vedantu
B) Those using technology to replace tutors (Byju’s, Learnnext, Meritnation)
Vidyanext occupies a third space with combines the best of both to offer a real learning solution that works for the Indian student. This approach combines technology and tutors-symbiotic partners that complement each other’s strength, offering a water-tight solution for better student results.
How do you see online tutoring evolving in India with respect to the global scenario? How can our children cater to the global requirements in the light of shortage of skilled workforce? How can industry support us?
The tuition or extra classes segment has tremendous potential to grow, and support the change in attitude to education. With a lower number number of stakeholders as compared to schools, decision-making and change is faster. With the right technology partner and the right sort of visionary support, tuition classes can begin to fill the gap that schools may leave due to huge numbers, higher student to teacher ratios and slow turnaround in education styles.
What is your prediction for online tutoring market in India in the next 5 years?
Ed-tech remains an incredibly challenging space. Tech has changed almost everything else in our lives but education remains relatively untouched. The modern classroom hasn’t changed in any significant way since it was first invented 400 years ago. We’ve picked a space – after school tuitions – where our combination of tools, process, data and content can potentially disrupt the massive after school tuition market at a similar if not larger scale than Uber’s disruption of the taxi market. That momentum may allow us to bring those innovations into the classroom once there is broad adoption.
What are the growth contributors in the Industry?
The biggest contributor to growth is the consumer. Technology will always adapt in order to satisfy consumer demand. The other big shift has been in the way parents find the right tutor for their child. Vidyanext, for example, helps parents find a tutor within walking distance of their home, taking away the transportation woes, especially for working parents.
In the next 10 years, we are hoping to see a completely different scenario. With education systems also working to revamp their policies and curricula, Edtech will play a significant role in controlling the learning experience. It will go beyond connecting stakeholders to actually helping students learn better. With advancement in artificial intelligence techniques, technology will become more adaptive and sensitive to student’s learning needs.
What are the challenges and opportunities in the field of online tutoring?
The key challenges are
a. Product: Creating a learning system that improves student outcomes
b. Economics: Doing it in a way it is affordable for the students yet sustainable as a business
c. Scalability: Where the model can be scaled across every geography in the country and across socio-economic segments.
What are your future plans?
Our current focus is K4 to K12, and in this segment we estimate a nationwide market size of 70 million students who will be taking tuitions and avail our services. In terms of value, it translates to about Rupees 21000 Crore market opportunity.
Our goal is to have a Vidyanext tutor within walking distance of every child in India, in every town. We saturate Bangalore this year, and expand to other metros and tier-2 cities in the next 3 years and then to other towns.
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