1. Edtech as a whole is more than just learning applications. Can you please expand on what edtech encompasses from an infrastructure perspective?
EdTech is much more than just learning applications. Schoolnet pioneered the use of technology in education since its inception in 1997 when we innovated to solve the problem of the digital divide and poor engagement in schools. EdTech encompasses both hardware and software, in terms of infrastructure, and also includes teacher training, upskilling, digital literacy and other softer elements. Digital classrooms that comprise projectors, computers, video-conferencing, audio systems, multimedia & multisensory content, and analytics to track learner progress are also part of the sphere of EdTech. Our patented device, K-Yan*, is a 6-in-1 portable teaching device that brings together all these aspects into one box. Further, EdTech also includes personalised learning solutions, software to enable text-to-speech and vice-versa, live teaching, remote learning, MOOCs, and much more.
*KYAN: KYAN is the world’s first 6-in-one interactive, affordable, easy-to-use, teaching-learning device. It is jointly designed, developed, and patented by Schoolnet India Limited and IIT Bombay. It was commercialized in 2007 by Schoolnet and has now become mainstream, achieving significant scale, scope, and impact in education and training.
2. In a phygital learning environment, how are AI-powered products changing the face of classrooms in India?
AI/ML-powered products can lend personalisation to teaching and learning. Through a hybrid learning model, teachers can use technology to improve their efficiency inside the classroom and students can get access to high-quality digital learning material and assessments after school. Known as the ‘flipped classroom’ method, students can do their learning at home and focus on conceptual clarification and developing higher-order skills in class. This not only provides a continuum for learning for students but through tools like intelligent teaching insights that lead to adaptive sectioning, assessments and homework personalisation, it will provide real-time and detailed inputs to teachers about each student and her areas of need. This will save a teacher’s time, enable a more personalised teaching method, and result in augmenting learning outcomes. This is a unique ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) approach combining the benefits of traditional learning with online learning to create a blended ecosystem, which can bring in technology-enabled adoption and personalisation of education at scale.
Based on the Constructivist and Blended approach (a combination of the principles espoused by Piaget & Vygotsky), Schoolnet developed a personalised learning app, Geneo. Geneo provides multi-modal learning options to a child. It combines self-learning with AI-assisted learning along with the support of a virtual mentor and live tutoring. Its differentiated learning strategy allows each student to learn on their unique guided learning path combining four key elements – learning, application of concepts, revision, and assessments. A unique consumer-centric AI-enabled personalised learning platform, Geneo is available both in-school for the teacher and after-school for students. Since launch, we have onboarded more than 0.8 million users on Geneo.
3. How has the digital learning landscape in India changed over the last two years?
The last two years were acutely difficult for schools, teachers, parents, and students. Most of the 250 mllion+ students in India were not exposed to remote learning through technology. While 30% of them may have been exposed to digital infrastructure inside the class, with massive regional and socio-economic variation, this had seldom been extended to learning at home. It was a massive learning curve when teachers had to upskill themselves in digital pedagogy, parents shelled out money for smartphones to prevent disruptions in students’ learning, and students had to get used to learning through a screen in isolation. The opportunity that came along with it, however, propelled us as a country into becoming a tech-savvy population. Further, the EdTech market saw a huge boom with over USD 5 billion being invested. In 2022, as schools began opening again, the sector witnessed some market corrections. Schoolnet has always believed in the power of technology to democratise education, but we retain that the teacher and school are at the centre of the educative process. We believe in working with the schools rather than despite them. The last two years have strengthened our resolve to create holistic digital classrooms across government schools and affordable private schools, which also includes a teacher training programme. Additionally, we have witnessed a huge demand to synchronise in-school and after-school learning to prevent disruptions. In 2018, we developed a personalised learning solution for students, Geneo, for them to maintain learning continuity after school. During the pandemic, we launched Live Classes on the app to ensure students could receive any extra help required, as well as developed videoconferencing on KYAN for teachers to conduct remote and blended learning.
Geneo, a flexible and affordable online learning platform, is available both in-school and after-school. Geneo uses the digitised version of the school’s textbook, mapped to which is a plethora of multi-sensory learning content to promote high engagement and application. It is supported by continuous assessments to help identify a child’s current learning state and provides a unique learning path (curated by an artificial intelligence algorithm) to achieve the desired state. It also comes along with the support teachers/mentors, available through live classes and chat. It is currently available for Classes VI-X in English and Hindi for CBSE, and in Bengali for West Bengal Board students.
4. What are some ways in which the digital divide that exists in rural India be bridged?
Adoption of appropriate education technology can break the barriers to learning and create an impact at scale, particularly for those in the middle and bottom of the economic pyramid. However, several challenges hinder the widespread adoption of EdTech:
- Digital divide with 70% of schools lacking digital infrastructure including limited availability of multi-sensory, localised curriculum-aligned content.
- Lack of personal devices: More than 40% of school children lack smartphone access
- Inadequate capacity of the teachers in the adoption of digital pedagogy
- Absence of affordable Personalised and Adaptive Learning Solutions (PAL): Most of the supplementary EdTech solution providers serve the top of the pyramid
The NEP 2020 and the PM SHRI scheme point to a striking opportunity to equip schools with modern digital technologies to make them and their students future-ready while bridging the widening digital divide. Our solution comprises our patented multi-purpose, intelligent teaching device ‘K-Yan’ along with Google’s Chromebooks as students’ shareable learning devices, bundled with grade-specific multisensory, curriculum-aligned content. It also comes with a Teaching and Learning Management System with analytics teacher training & related change management support services to bring in the adoption of ed-tech in Public and Affordable Private Schools (APS). We have already established our presence in more than 100,000 schools in India through such solutions.
Furthermore, families have further increased their expenditure on supplementary education to as high as 41% of their total education expenditure. With over 65% of families having a smartphone, the problem of access is on its way to being solved. But the problem of quality and substandard learning outcomes remain. To improve the learning outcomes of a child, it is important to assess the current state of every learner, identify the learning gaps, and provide a unique path for the achievement of the desired state. Geneo addresses this concern through AI/ML and then creates a unique learning path for each student. Further, the content is mapped to the NCERT textbooks chapter-wise and page-wise, allowing the student to remain connected to what she studied in class.
5. How do you see technology evolving in the education space in the next few years?
Technology has an undisputable role to play in education now. We see it becoming more relevant and more democratised if integrated into the school ecosystem. Beyond everything we mentioned above – digital classrooms, multimedia and multi-sensory content, analytics, teacher training, access to devices, personalised and adaptive learning, and remote learning, there are newer technologies like AR/VR gaining popularity, the Delhi government has launched the first-ever virtual school, and hybrid learning is becoming the new normal. We are also working to spread the reach of EdTech by developing multimedia content and apps in vernaculars aligned to state boards, making it affordable, and integrating elements of gamification as well as new skills like coding. NEP 2020 has given impetus to integrate technology in education and various governments are keen to take this ahead. Portals like DIKSHA, e-Pathshala, G-Shala, etc are being built and now PM SHRI schools have also been announced. We envision that technology is used judiciously to democratise quality education at scale, resulting in the achievement of grade-specific learning outcomes and optimisation of teaching efficiency and efficacy.