Interview

Technology Enabled Education System Enhances Inclusivity and Tackle Issues Faced By a Large Portion Of Prospective Learners

Zishaan

A brainchild of IIT alumni Zishaan Hayath and Hemanth Goteti, Toppr was founded in 2013. Based out of Mumbai, Toppr currently caters to over 2 million registered students in classes 5-12, who are taking advantage of its deep-structured content and powerful adaptive algorithms. Toppr is also the Winner of the Best Educational Website Award at the Indian Digital Awards 2017 presented by IAMAI and Best Educational Website (Emerging) Award at the AWS Mobility Awards 2017

Zishaan Hayath, in an interaction with Ekta Srivastava, Education Technology

Data Security is as crucial as National Security. What will Toppr.com do to protect it?
We have a tight security system in place that we will keep running. Our data scientists constantly evaluate threats- at early stages – to avoid any major concerns. We will continue to do the same.

How do you think specialized certifications will add value for a high-skilled workforce?
Any education system that doesn’t enable skill development based on aptitude can leave a young workforce with a generalist mindset. They might find themselves caught in a fairly directionless pursuit, without really adding value to their work, or their lives at large.

Specialised certifications can equip individuals to build on their interests within broader areas of study. For instance, if you had a certification in Equities Trading and Investment – after an MBA – it could help you extend your services to freelance projects. Eventually, it might steer you towards career prospects you never considered before. It is for the same reason that good organisations encourage their employees to venture into more niche areas outside of their expertise. This is what, ultimately, leads to value addition.

Once an employee finishes a minimum term (1-2  years) at an institution, he or she should ideally consider multiple opportunities based on a thorough and timely assessment of inclinations and strengths. It emerges as a necessary step towards moving from a generalist to a more value-driven mode of work.

How is Toppr.com planning to add value in terms of IT to the Indian education system?

EdTech firms are providing digital learning platforms via apps, mobile, tablets, etc., to cater to a range of diverse learners. What keeps it in demand is the flexibility that it offers. With India’s increasing student population, a technology enabled education system enhances inclusivity and tackle issues faced by a large portion of prospective learners. These would mainly include – the lack of access to education due to various factors such as remote location, inadequate infrastructure, shortage of teachers, societal obligations, personal commitments etc.

The transformation from classroom learning and tuition to non-traditional online learning aids is not easy. What challenges did you face?

For me, the initial challenge with Toppr was making it accessible to every student who is preparing for engineering or medical entrance exams, which was then followed by the dilemma of finding the right tech hires.

Although education across the country is evolving, there has been a lot of resistance to change. With traditional models in place, there’s been sufficient resistance towards adapting to an online learning approach. But through evolving technology and innovation, there has also been enough reason and motivation to finally shift focus to digital learning; to simply make use of better opportunities for academic progress.

The EdTech industry has exploded over the last few years. Hundreds of entrepreneurs have entered this field and the competition has become tough, making it difficult for startups to coexist. With increasing internet connectivity and smartphone penetration across the country, another challenge that we face is persuading students to make the right use of the access that they are getting.  With a lot of distraction on the internet and their mobile phones, the real challenge is to push students to make better choices with online learning, particularly for a diversified skill development.

What technology initiatives do you see gaining maximum ground for K-12 schools?

Mobile learning has been the strongest disruptor in the field of technology. With increased internet connectivity across India, mobile learning is already the next big trend in education. It is empowering students to embrace technology despite their geographical and socio-economic boundaries. By providing high quality learning materials, it is also eliminating disparities in the quality of students’ education. It is generating large amounts of data, which educators can analyse before generating the content they offer students. Big data helps to deeply analyse the usage and performance of students. By using machine learning and artificial intelligence together with it, educators can create an adaptive platform that, ultimately, personalizes learning for students.

By studying data sets, algorithms create behaviour models. Based on these behaviour models, they understand students’ strengths and weaknesses and predict their unique learning curve. They can then create a personalized training path that meets the precise needs of each student. This lets them learn at a pace conducive to their own growth, and keeps them motivated.

Do you think e-learning can help in educational progress in a vast country like India?

The education technology space in India represents a massive opportunity. As per a report by Google & KPMG, the EdTech industry in India is expected to grow by $2bn by 2020. When we look at the stats, India has over 250 million students in schools, and over 27 million students in higher education. Learning is getting disrupted in a huge way by technology startups. Content is being provided on a multimedia basis; tablets with preloaded content are being sold; quizzes, tests, online tutoring, personalized tutoring, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), certification courses, and all such things are being tried and tested constantly.

The digitally enabled education startups have created an independent avenue that runs corresponding to a student’s learning in school or college classrooms and coaching classes. Although we are still not at par with the developed nations, the habits are changing among all stakeholders: parents, teachers and the students. With EdTech on its way to becoming a mandatory way of learning, it is still not likely to replace traditional learning. But it will add further value to the learning habits of its consumers; marking a gradual, progressive and seamless shift in the Indian education system.

By leveraging technology, platforms are allowing students to grasp academic concepts better. The use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in their platforms allows them to analyse unique learning patterns of students and personalize their learning approach accordingly.  The advent of technology and its impact on education can be highlighted by how well it has supplemented student learning in the traditional offline setting. Students not only have access to quality education but are able to overcome other obstacles in their learning journey.

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