What is the top priority while making decisions to improve technological infrastructure at Educational Initiatives (EI)?

The education landscape in India and globally is undergoing a major transformation. The pandemic has provided an opportunity for edtech players to rethink their products and strategy. At Educational Initiatives (EI), we are constantly focused on how to use technology to make education accessible and affordable for students and increase learning outcomes through our pedagogy and research-based approach to learning.

Today, innovative techniques combine classroom teaching elements with digital learning tools, which help increase the student’s engagement through a personalised learning approach. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are quickly gaining importance and becoming an integral part of the teaching process, which is enabling students to learn with an understanding.

Schools are undergoing a major transformation to ensure continuous learning. We work closely with schools to help them with learning and assessment, using cutting-edge technology. Educators are increasingly leaning towards AI, ML, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and gamification to capture the student’s interest levels and ensure that maximum information is retained by the students.

What are some of the challenges you face in driving product transformation?

The key component that has pivoted the success of edtech is the use of technology to drive innovation in learning through personalized and adaptive learning systems for students and create an impact, wherein the content is aligned to their curriculum and presented in the student’s preferred language. However, the use of technology in managing assessments and in analysing learning outcomes is yet to be explored at a large scale, which are the two major challenges that edtech companies must overcome.

The learning focus needs to shift from accessibility and needs to be more outcome-driven. The next challenge is to accurately predict the trend in the education market and use technology to build learning products, which are fun and engaging and also help get the desired learning outcomes.

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of edtech products in Tier-2 and below cities. One more challenge for edtech companies will be to build low-cost mobile app-based learning products for the vernacular market.

You started in 2001, but has the pandemic made you more prominent or is it the same as ever?

These unprecedented times with the onset of the pandemic has accelerated the course of digital transformation in the education sector. It has allowed educators to rethink the approach to learning. Technology continues to play a key role in education. With teachers and students increasingly getting accustomed to the approach of remote learning or remote teaching techniques, there has been increased adoption of blended learning.

However, nobody can be fully prepared for any future hindrances which can disrupt the teaching-learning process. At Educational Initiatives, we are agile to adapt and quick to respond to ensure continuity in learning. We have demonstrated that in the past year and are well prepared for the future.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in the collapse of many businesses. On the other hand, those businesses that have survived are forced to rethink their future strategy. The pandemic has been a good opportunity for us to revisit our future strategy. We have seen an increased demand from parents to consider and purchase educational products to fill the learning gaps because schools continue to remain closed even now and are operating online.

Judging by the age range, EI has to put a lot of thought into its products. How do you make these products so that they cater to the different needs of children?

At EI, we adopt a student-centred design methodology to gain a deeper understanding of our students’ learning patterns. We design our products in such a way that they help students achieve conceptual clarity, develop procedural fluency, and get extensive practice at their learning pace.

Specifically, we follow the approach used to identify the personas. It is a data-driven approach that can be applied to design learning experiences. One of the benefits of using this technique is to make implicit knowledge about students more explicit and thus enabling more informed interventions. We have been constantly improving our products. Mindspark, our flagship learning product, uses a multi-pronged approach to cater to the different needs of children:

Diagnosis: Our learning products and assessment questions are scientifically designed to determine the overall level at which the student stands.

Checking for conceptual learning: Questions are specially designed to test understanding and to help students clear their misconceptions. – Pinpointing weak areas – Remediating learning gaps

Our latest version of learning product Mindspark has introduced various features to drive up user engagement. Mindspark would soon be accessible through a mobile app. We are constantly taking feedback from our existing users to refine the product. Children need a combination of assisted learning (classroom-style learning) and self-paced learning. Nowadays, children are more comfortable with mobile interfaces and interactive content.

What is pre-product planning in the company? How do you handle consumer feedback?

We have a strong academic consultation team that works directly with teachers and students to acquire consumer feedback and insights. The ongoing consumer feedback is analyzed to constantly improve the product. We roll out our major as well as minor product updates every fortnight, by incorporating the ongoing consumer feedback, which is an important part of the product update process.

A lot of companies are struggling because their products fail to go digital. How should they re-engineer themselves?

Technology has to be at the centre of the edtech revolution. Edtech companies have to use technology not just to digitise the learning experience for students but also to solve bigger problems faced by India such as digital adoption, low internet penetration, rapid adoption of edtech from the mobile-first segment and making online learning affordable.

Digital sales channels need to be effectively used to keep sales costs low and increase adoption. The growth in the K-12 learning space will be fuelled by the vernacular market which will be a mobile-first user segment. Edtech companies must take a mobile-first approach while building learning products.

What will be the future of learning in the next couple of years?

With the assessment and Board Exam reforms envisaged in the NEP, and India’s participation in PISA in 2022, we expect a clear shift from rote learning to genuine understanding. We expect that edtech products, which are personalised and adaptive and focus on diagnosing and resolving student gaps, will become more prominent and widely-used.

Technology plays a pivotal role in education and helps in achieving significant improvements in both the teaching and learning process. Some many innovative tools and techniques combine classrooms with digital learning tools and help in increasing the student’s engagement by offering a personalised learning approach.

Engaging students with gamification: Gamification in learning ensures building interest during the learning process and engages by capturing their attention through game-like simulations and learning platforms.

Data-driven technologies: Content and data analytics is another aspect of data-driven technology that is used in learning and can be used extensively to gauge student’s learning outcomes as well and learning gaps.

Go beyond imagination with AR and VR: These technologies help students through an interactive learning approach that includes life-like simulations, animations, images, videos and other interactive content.