The Covid-19 pandemic has brought in a whirlwind of changes in the way we look at education and turned the fortunes for India’s edtech startups. But while consumer adoption may have reached unprecedented scales, the rise of edtech-focused SaaS is actually a bigger indicator of the tide turning against physical or classroom education. While no one is ready to write off conventional learning, the fact is that when schools, colleges, and educational institutions start paying for technology, it may very well be a long-term investment for many.
Software tools like automated exam assessments, real-time tracking of student’s performance, assignment and class schedule management, etc — all such solutions have entered the mainstream post the pandemic. As online became the only way to communicate with students, educational institutions have had to go beyond their characteristic conventional mindset.
One major trend among edtech SaaS tools has been the shift of demand for ERP (enterprise resource planning) type softwares to content focused softwares. Proctored examination tools have been the other most popular software tool.
“We received 70% more enquiries compared to pre-covid. The demand changed from coaching classes management software to live class teaching software,” said Jayesh Gopalan, CEO Classpro.
The startup enables coaching classes to launch their online academies and includes solutions like live classes, online fees collection, assignment sharing, conduct mock tests on coaching classes’ own branded web and mobile app. Out of which, the ability to set up live classes with coaching classes’ branded app is highly in demand on Classpro.
Classpro claims to be working with over 1000 coaching classes across 37 cities in India. Some notable clients include IIT Point, ICAD and Lotus Academy of Beauty. Almost 70% of Classpro clients are based out of metro cities.
“Institutions are very forthcoming in terms of at least having a conversation. Because before Covid, it was very difficult to get the school talking, unless they were schools/colleges with high tuition fees. But now we are seeing even colleges or schools who charge barely, let’s say INR 10K to INR 15K, in terms of annual tuition fees. Even such institutions are forthcoming towards technology. So I think definitely technology is here to stay,” Gopalan added.
In addition to online classroom environments, another popular category of tools among schools and colleges is remote proctoring solutions and automated assessments. Elearning startup, mPowerO noted that there has been an increasing demand for its remote proctoring solution mPowerO Assess.
While educational institutions might not continue with proctored examinations once the physical examinations are feasible. BML Munjal University, which is using the Mettl Mercer platform for conducting the examinations along with a set of engagement and assessment tools like Jamboard, Coggle, SurveyMonkey, Mentimeter, Padlet, noted that the university intends to continue uses engagement tools even after the pandemic as it helps them to foster better class engagement and discussions.
From ERP To Content SaaS
“Earlier, SaaS tools used by educational institutes were majorly focused on processes like attendance, fees collection and transport etc — very ERP driven softwares. but now, the institutions are starting to look at SaaS from a content and teaching standpoint,” said Navakoti Ram, chairman and managing director of Upswing Learning.
Similarly, Bengaluru-based Kneura told us that its most used feature in recent times has been the automatic lesson creation tool, wherein teachers can create lessons using different forms of content including images, videos, and texts provided by the AI content generator based on the topic and class.
“Teachers love when they can share this lesson on a click of a button before the actual class schedule and students can already go through it and come prepared for the class, thus achieving a ‘Flipped Classroom’ pedagogical model. So far more than 10 K lesson plans have been created on the Kneura platform in a matter of a few months,” said Sindhya Ravikumar, Product Marketing Head, Kneura Learning.
In addition to content creation, Kneura has witnessed schools and colleges growing interest in formative assessment feature wherein the AI-question generator automatically creates the questions and grades the sheets instantly, as it saves them a lot of time and effort. So far, more than 4K assessments have been conducted on Kneura by the educators.
Tackling The Digital Divide
While Covid forced schools and colleges to take up online learning tools, companies do have to set up in-house specific teams to support the schools onboarding process. But that’s just the tip of the challenges faced by edtech platforms.
Upswing Learning’s Ram added, “We’re seeing a lot of new solutions and a lot of new startups coming about as well. So typically, schools and colleges are in a very good position, but now it has become a buyers market, you have so many solutions available to you. They are pretty much spoilt for choice, eventually I think it’s again going to be very value-driven. With regards to what exact value startups are delivering.”
Digital divide and access to infrastructure has been the biggest limiting factor for the large scale adoption of such tools. Though India has taken steps for strengthening the digital infrastructure, there are still locations in India where technical infrastructure is still in a nascent phase.
Edtech platforms have also tried to adapt their tools in a way that a minimal bandwidth is required for students to attend online classes. For instance, Kneura is said to have built a collaborative teaching whiteboard, which can be accessed directly via the web by the teachers and students and requires minimal bandwidth. Similarly, Upswing Learning online classrooms only require teachers to have a good internet bandwidth while students can join at a minimum bandwidth requirement.
“Basic infrastructure facilities like electricity, internet connectivity, commute, connect etc are not in great shape which makes it difficult to implement technology in their pedagogical methods. This is one of the major reasons for the digital inequality existing in rural and urban education scenarios,” said Kiran Dham, CEO of Globus Infocom.