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There will be a hybrid mode of education even when the schools open in future: Vinay Sharma, S Chand and Co.

In an exclusive interaction with Express Computer, Vinay Sharma, Head of Digital & Services, S Chand and Company says that 2020 was a golden year for the edtech sector and it proved to be a catalyst in its growth. He talks about the company’s two offerings, Learnflix and Mylestoone; the first one being an app which offers easy access (one subscription and access to everything) and unlimited practice tests. Whereas, Mylestone is a smart curriculum which offers complete academic solution to schools which has brought the entire curriculum on a digital platform. Excerpts:

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Since the global pandemic has already affected the education domain massively, what is your opinion on the future of the education sector in 2021 and beyond?

With Covid continuing to wreak havoc, the schooling system is one of the most affected sectors with schools now closed for almost a year. Given the intensity of the current wave, it appears the situation will not change much for at least a quarter. In the current scenario, most of the schools, teachers, parents, and students have turned to technology to ensure teaching and learning continues in this environment. Learning apps have seen huge traction during this period with multiple apps helping in different ways. 

Year 2020 was a golden year for the edtech sector, it proved to be a catalyst in its growth. This is evident in Indian edtech startups seeing massive investments – a total investment of US$ 2.22 billion in 2020 as compared to US$ 553 million in 2019, according to Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (IVCA) and PGA Labs data. The edtech market is estimated to grow 3.7 times in the next five years, from US$ 2.8 billion (2020) to US$ 10.4 billion (2025), at 14 per cent CAGR over.

As we move towards normalcy, education will become hybrid with students and teachers using multiple modes, which will be a combination of offline and online. This will also ensure that education reaches more people and can be delivered with quality at a scale. NEP implementation will further accelerate this with new avenues and models. This presents a huge opportunity for innovation and growth.

How do you see online education shaping up in India with the launching of various online education startups amidst the pandemic? What scope do you see in the online education vertical?

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an inevitable surge in the use of digital technologies due to school/college closures and nationwide lockdowns. People and organisations all over the world have had to adjust to new ways of work and life – education being no exception. The trend of online education was also present before the pandemic, but the schools and the education system have been slow and reluctant on many counts, preferring traditional methods of teaching- learning. Almost as if an impetus to change was missing. Covid-19 changed that overnight and became a catalyst for a shift to online education.  

Moving forward, we would see a hybrid mode of education even when the schools open after the pandemic finishes. What is important is to create a robust model of education delivery and learning which can work despite the disruptions. This can be achieved by an optimum combination of offline and online modes. Edtech platforms like Learnflix and Mylestone gained immense popularity among students and parents in pandemic times. Over the past few months, millions of students and teachers moved to online education and schools are now looking to add it to their existing learning models – as part of a long-term framework.

Kindly share your thoughts on readiness and preparation of edtech platforms like Learnflix & Myslestone for the new academic sessions.

S Chand group has always partnered with schools, teachers, and students to facilitate quality teaching and learning. In this difficult situation where the schooling is disrupted in the physical space, we have added the required features needed in the applications for the new academic session.

Learnflix- A user- friendly app, some of its unique features include easy access (one subscription and access to everything) and unlimited practice tests with varied difficulty levels which is the most affordable app in the market priced at INR 2000/- per class per annum. Based on the feedback received from schools pan India, Learnflix has introduced for the new academic session, a Student-Teacher Connect Feature which now makes it an even more economical and value for money solution for schools. Learnflix is empowering teachers through this new feature and is making virtual teaching easy, effective and implementable. Teachers can now use this functionality to take live classes, explain concepts, conduct online assessments, provide assignments and homework and communicate with parents, anytime by just clicking a tab in the application.

On the other hand, addressing this changed scenario, Mylestone –a smart curriculum which offers complete academic solutions to schools, has brought the entire curriculum on a digital platform so that schools can continue teaching and learning despite lockdown. Teachers and students can access the classes, books, assessments and digital content through an interactive mobile application aligned to Mylestone curriculum. The new version is helping to enhance student’s performance and support teachers in day-to-day teaching. It has everything that is needed for all stakeholders in a child’s education in the current digital era on a need basis.

The newer version includes features like live teaching and learning integrated with all online platforms, designing assigning, and conducting online homework and assessment with analytics, doubt resolution support during students self-learning process and exhaustive syllabus completion, content consumption and student performance reports. Mylestone app is an integral part of Mylestone curriculum, which is an affordable solution for schools. The app comes free with Mylestone – a major advantage for users, since a similar app with any other provider in the market costs INR 2,000-4,000 per year for the student.

According to you, what are the major challenges in making online education a reality even in the remotest part of the country? What needs to be done to provide affordable online classes to those students who cannot buy expensive digital devices?

Digital infrastructure, availability of smart devices and internet connectivity play a very major role in this era of digital education and if we talk about Tier three and Tier 4 towns, they are the ones which are the most affected by this factor. There is a need to augment this infrastructure to prevent the ‘digital divide’. As per ASER 2020 report, 74 per cent private school, and 56 per cent govt school students have access to devices. Also, internet connectivity becomes a challenge in remote areas.

Another challenge is the affordability. Here, Learnflix aims to deepen reach among students in these towns where it is difficult for parents and students to afford digital education due to high costs of apps. 

Another challenge in making online education a reality persists in training the teachers as the pandemic has also impacted the teachers as they face significant challenges in adapting to online teaching and student engagement and communication. At Mylestone we work very closely with teachers to ensure they are trained and facilitated to deliver the desired teaching and learning. Teacher training is a continuous process and can be easily carried out through physical as well as web-based training.

Affordable learning should be considered as the most important step in providing online education to poor students. These learning platforms should make their content easily accessible through phones and not just with desktop or laptop as every student cannot afford a desktop but nowadays a basic smartphone can be easily bought at just INR 3,000. 

Please brief us about the success and challenges of platforms like Learnflix & Myslestone during Covid-19 phase.

Amid Covid19 phase, Learnflix has seen a robust growth in subscriptions during the lockdown and has crossed two lakh downloads. Learnflix being a self-learning app was adopted by majority of students from Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities owing to its comprehensive content coverage and affordable pricing.

Challenges were encountered more on the B2B Learnflix business as schools were closed and cash flows of the schools were impacted.

On the other side Mylestone gained popularity among teachers and students in pandemic times as it offers web and app-based support which can operate both in digital as well as hybrid mode ensuring school runs smoothly irrespective of any disruptions.

Due to lockdown when the books did not reach school on time Mylestone web and app played a vital role in providing continued teaching and learning experience in online classes. The after-school learning with the help of self-learning videos, practice questions, and other learning tools for students in the Mylestone app not only helped students but parents in the overall learning process. In the coming months, Mylestone aims to deepen its reach among schools in towns where it is difficult for parents and students to afford digital education due to technical glitches and the high costs of apps.

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