Achin Bhattacharyya, CEO and Founder, Notebook, shares insights on the trends in digital learning and the future of edtech platforms.
The COVID-19 crisis has been a major catalyst in enhancing the learning process not just for students and educators, but also for investors and edtech startups. Even in the pre-pandemic era, digital learning was undergoing major developments, but in 2020, it became inevitable as educational establishments around the world were forced to adopt digital learning and quickly came to rely on edtech platforms almost overnight.
This erratic shift to virtual learning came to be a blessing for edtech firms like Notebook that functions as an after-school digital learning platform that combines video and text content in English and regional languages to deliver course materials and support as per various board curricula.
Achin Bhattacharyya, CEO and Founder, Notebook, a Chartered Account who has worked at directorial positions at Deloitte, KPMG and PwC, believes that digital learning is the inevitable future – and the growth will extend beyond pandemic and may change the education landscape forever. With decades of experience in the education sector, Bhattacharyya shares insights on the trends in digital learning, edtech opportunities and challenges and how edtech platforms can ensure inclusive educational growth and access in India.
CXOToday: What are the key trends that are altering the education sector in the last few months?
Achin Bhattacharyya: The year 2020, of course, was the adoption of digital transformation due to COVID, and the national education policy (NEP 2020). And the fact that despite pandemic, India still pushed ahead with NEP 2020. This sends a strong message to all stakeholders that the policy has been taken very seriously at the highest levels. It also definitely shows our resolve and commitment to the new educational approach.
As for trends in the last few months, we saw a digital divide, which was worrisome. Although it was always there, it became very apparent in the previous few months. Even though the content is available on all platforms; there were many challenges at the ground level like device availability, bandwidth speeds and many others. However, gradually, these challenges were solved. Thanks to telecom services in the last two years, which have been improved significantly.
Another trend is that the Edtech platform is coming strongly as a teaching aid to become faster and become more engaging for students.
NEP 2020 has interesting observation and honestly acknowledges the challenges in all aspects of GDP, development in research and development in higher Education, and other special needs.
CXOToday: Which technological innovations do you expect in the Edtech industry in the next 12 months or so?
Achin Bhattacharyya: Indeed artificial intelligence is going to come in a more significant way. Edtech platforms need to solve a problem through AI is to customize the entire learning experience. We can overcome this by allowing students to take self-assessment to not compete with someone but with you, thereby not putting a lot of pressure on the child. Based on the score, the system can chalk out a learning path for the child. So I believe AI will be a significant game-changer in the days to come.
CXOToday: As CEO, what were the biggest lessons you’ve learnt during the pandemic?
Achin Bhattacharyya: During the pandemic, the parents started to take a lot of interest in their child’s Education. The number of phone calls and emails we received was unprecedented. When the pandemic hit, a lot of new students will come in. We also began to ramp-up our technological platform to handle more users. 70 lakh more users have come in, and today we have more than 21 lakh users.
While there was an upward surge in new users, more parents and students were started to reach out us. We also understood that offering support is vital than just providing the content. As part of support, we started conducting two webinars every week.
All the webinars are attended by teachers, students, principals from all over India and abroad. We observed a vibrant community now. These webinars were conducted to discuss software issues. After resolving software issues, we saw an increase in engagement with our relevant audience. Handling software issues had helped us.
CXOToday: Did the Covid-19 pandemic force Notebook to review its business model?
Achin Bhattacharyya: We didn’t change our business model, but we changed our approach of reaching out to teachers and students and their schools. One of the critical challenges that many of them were facing was technological adoption. We began with teachers training and resolved their various concerns such as digital security and many more to fix this.
CXOToday: What are the challenges Edtech startups are facing at the moment?
Achin Bhattacharyya: Edtech startups have always faced building the believability factor among students and parents. We met the challenge to convince them how Edtech can also be a reliable way for their children’s Education. And the pandemic has solved the problem.
CXOToday: Do you think Edtech will essentially replace traditional learning?
Achin Bhattacharyya: Edtech won’t replace the educational system’s conventional mode and caters to all the pyramid layers, either socio-economic or student perspective. All students are not equally engaged in studies. Merit is evenly distributed, but the challenge students face a lack of sufficient interest or engagement in the lessons. Edtech bridges the gap. We ensure to productively engage every child to create a better tomorrow for them. Edtech is the only practical and viable option to provide children from every corner of the country and get access to quality education. Edtech supports teachers to conduct classes in a far more engaging way.