EdTechReview, in association with AWS EdStart, hosted a webinar on the theme ‘Creating Pedagogically Strong and Learning Outcome Focused EdTech Products’.
Renowned EdTech experts shared their views, success stories, experiences, approaches, strategies, tips, and details on the topic. The session was moderated by Mr. Utkarsh Lokesh (CEO and Editor, EdTechReview).
The speaker panel had the following dignitaries:
Co-Founder & CEO, Edukemy
Director—India Programs, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation India
Senior VP—Product Management, Educational Initiatives
Mr. Utkarsh, Moderator (CEO & Editor, EdTechReview) (connect on LinkedIn), began the webinar by asking the panelists: What’s your view of the current Indian education technology landscape?
Ms. Prachi, Director – India Programs, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation India, responded, “Indian EdTech landscape is the biggest enabler for ensuring that all children get a high-quality education and not just those with the means to access high-quality schools.” She added that education is ‘probably the biggest untapped use case for technology’ yet. She finds it exhilarating to witness the ecosystem continuously evolving as EdTech solutions become available to all age groups.
With the COVID break, entire families—not just children—shifted to digital learning. This move enhanced digital devices and internet access, making it easier to reach underprivileged social groups, especially low-income families. “Moreover,” Ms. Prachi added, “we can see a digital divide. The number of digital devices with internet exclusively for the child is very low, but the gap should reduce with cheaper internet and devices.” Prachi also said that although cheaper internet and devices are becoming available, it’s essential to consider the cost of these tech solutions and if they are leading to desired learning outcomes or not.
“Fortunately,” Prachi added, “entrepreneurs tend to, and actually do, cover the digital gap.” Unfortunately, though, she points that research does not show any significant impact that EdTech prodcts have had on learning outcomes globally. Regardless, the data on learning outcomes is still very thin. At the Dell Foundation, Prachi’s team tries to measure impact in different ways. One of their findings is that there are too many smartboard-esque solutions. “Our portfolio has several studies claiming that smartboards have… no impact on learning outcomes,” she said.
Ms. Prachi also talked about another Dell Foundation study comparing synchronous solutions with WhatsApp-based solutions and personalized self-driven learning solutions to the set the pace for future discussions.
Mr. Utkarsh asked Ms. Aarthi to dive deep into some of the interesting findings and stats about learners and learning products and explain how students think and learn differently.
Agreeing with Ms. Prachi, Ms. Aarthi said, “EdTech product makers need to focus more on learning outcomes of their products than on the products themselves.” She said that one needs to ask high-quality questions to students. “Effective questions,” according to Ms. Arti, “are those that effectively generate insights about what a student understands and what learning gaps or misconceptions a student has.”
She also talked about reciprocal thinking and fraction learning in mathematics to exemplify her points about asking effective questions that give insights into student understanding “These interesting insights are across topics and subjects. We (just) need to expose the child to questions in unfamiliar ways to help them better understand concepts.”
Answering how she came up with the idea of Kutuki, and what pivotal moments were instrumental in its evolution, Ms. Sneha Sundaram said, “I belong to the early learning segment, which is the most underserved, especially in India. However, there are multiple reasons we chose to start up in this space.”
India being home to most number of pre-schoolers globally (150 million under the age of seven) was her foremost reason. Secondly, she was fascinated and motivated by research pointing to how much of one’s sense of self, cognitive development, the “spark”, and the immersion into the rhythm of languages is established at that age. “However,” she added, “we (in India) are still far behind in infrastructure, pedagogy, and access to good quality preschools. These realities we see in tier-one cities. So you can imagine how much worse Tier 2, Tier 3 cities might be.”
Ms. Sneha’s journey started with a nuanced understanding. She and her co-founder spent a whole year researching, spending time in preschools, learning different teaching-learning philosophies, and experiencing learning as kids would. “It was astonishing for us to see that there is no innovation when it comes to preschool educational content,” she concluded. Not having contextualized content and having fragmented and unstructured early learning is a major problem. She pointed to the variety of existing preschools to illustrate her point of fragmented early learning. “There are daycare centres where children come and have unstructured learning, watch youtube videos together, and go home. And then there are high-quality preschools where you need to sell your kidney to get your kids enrolled,” said Ms. Sneha.
Her journey to set up Kutuki also taught her that ‘you cannot get a kid to learn with instruction’. In her words, “If you ask a child what 2 + 2 is, they will just run away. This age group of kids does not have a filter”. To rectify that, Kutuki decided to create a song and story-based curriculum to get children creatively engaged. They created pedagogically strong content from the ground up. Each piece of their content is based on crucial early learning milestones. To help make learning interesting to the frantic young minds, they make their content incredibly interesting and immersive with songs, stories, DIY, and other interactive activities.
Ms. Sneha also says that the current adults have a very flawed mindset when it comes to early education. “We think,” she said, “that we do not need to delve into this segment, that research is unnecessary, and you can just give the children some toys to keep them engaged. It’s not that simple. It is a lot deeper than that, which is why I thought I should spend a little more time (on research to set up Kutuki).”
Coming to the test prep sector, Mr.Utkrash asked Mr. Chandrahas Panigrahi about Edukemy’s evolution and journey so far, to which he answered, “We already had the test prep segment. But before we began, we did a bit of research on what works and what doesn’t. In the K12+ segment, for instance, what leads to very effective pedagogy?”
“Test prep—or out of school learning as it is often called—,” he said, “is all about practical learning because we only teach theory in schools, while exams are on the practice of that theory”. Edukemy’s research clarified that there is nothing like a one size fits all; it is ‘one size fits one’. “Each student has their own pace and type of learning. Some are structured learners, some work well in groups, while some work alone, and others are hackers who quickly figure out ways to get higher marks.” These are the reasons why Edukemy developed, and is developing solutions catering to each learner.
Mr. Chandrahas also discussed the importance of evaluation methodology and personalized learning pedagogy, shedding light on the 360-degree learning approach and the two teacher methodologies.
The speakers also answered the following questions:
- Are pedagogy and learning outcome focus key criteria for evaluating companies for investment? What are some of the other factors you look for in an EdTech start-up?
- Have you seen a shift in how today’s EdTech entrepreneurs approach the solution to problems with a better focus on pedagogy and learning outcomes? What new opportunities and gaps do you find interesting for the Indian EdTech ecosystem to solve?
- Which are some of the interesting EdTech start-ups and business models you have come across in India in the last 6-12 months that we all can learn from?
- What is core to Kutuki’s content engine? How does Kutuki bring the learning outcome focus with a young learner base?
- Adopting the right pedagogy is the biggest challenge for educators and education products. Can you share some of the curriculum design and pedagogical strategies you have incorporated that worked with early learners and some that didn’t?
- What does it take to make online learning products productive and effective for students? How does EI define a strong pedagogical foundation and sharp focus on learning outcomes?
- What are the key challenges facing an EdTech company irrespective of its size today?
- What is unique about Edukemy’s offering and pedagogy compared to others targeting a similar segment? What are the associated challenges in achieving a student-centered approach?
- What are the EdTech trends you see across pre-k to grey in India?
The webinar also had a Q&A session where the speakers responded to the following audience questions:
- In physical classrooms, learning outcomes happen due to peer-to-peer learning. In formal surroundings like classrooms & school, the physical presence of an instructor and a discipline schedule facilitate learning outcomes. So how is Ed Tech going to improve upon these areas?
- From a monetization standpoint, what sort of price points is LTVRUR and other investors looking at concerning B2B B2C change charging models considering the high tax?
- How do you bridge the gap between high and average IQ students?
- As you mentioned about songs to song and story approach in this session, what strategies you probably feel would work but did not work?
The session concluded with Ms. Prachi and Ms. Sneha’s closing remarks, followed by a brief introduction of AWS EdStart—an AWS educational technology (EdTech) start-up accelerator, designed to help entrepreneurs build the next generation of online learning, analytics, and campus management solutions in the AWS Cloud.
Learn more about the program.
Watch the webinar recording and access the Q&A session and polls to learn more about the EdTech ecosystem and its approach to creating pedagogically strong, learning outcome-focused EdTech products.
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