Education & Learning through Mobile
The following session at the Royal Ballroom was based on a topic that has been instrumental in the growth of developing countries- Education.
In the recent past, lot of innovation ranging from virtual classroom to interactive learning has been introduced in the sector but still it remains inaccessible to a majority of population. Mobile solutions with their higher penetration in all walks of life could give a possible solution to this issue.
The session was chaired by Mr. Alok Mittal, MD, Canaan India and was co-chaired by Mr. Milind Pathak, VP , SAARC Market Unit & Mobile Content Solutions – Comviva. The session had the special presence of Mr. Beerud Seth, Founder of Gupshup.com.
The first speaker at the dice was Mr. Himanshu Gupta, WordsVidya from Mobividya.com. Mr. Gupta was here to present a very unique product called Wordsvidya. It is a mobile app that has four distinguished features: wordbook, search, fun games and bookmarking. Initially developed by keeping a normal Gujarati student in mind, the wordbook featurehas 55 data sets that contain almost all words that one needs to learn at a basic level. The app also provides Gujarati meaning of each word to enhance the learning process. The fun games provide an interesting tool to test your knowledge while search lets you use both English to Gujarati and Gujarati to English dictionary.
Wordsvidya is also very unique with its revenue model. Unlike other apps that you can buy only online, Wordsvidya is selling itself offline. The app gets activated by a registration code that you need to buy. This code can be brought from bookstores; retailers etc. just like you purchase a mobile recharge coupon. You can then scratch the card and SMS it to the number to get your app activated. This app is becoming very popular in the market and has got huge potential. With its Hindi and Marathi version in the store, Wordsvidya is all set to become a revolutionary app.
Next speaker on the dice was Mr. Matt Wennersten, 10 Language SMS Directory, EZ Vidya Pvt. Ltd. speaking on the behalf of Nokia and Pearson Foundation. He was there to introduce and present the project BridgeIT India. Starting in year 2005 in Philippines, the project came to India in the year 2011. He shared that the aim of project is to bring interactive learning to schools in the rural and semi urban setup in a very sustainable manner. For this mobile was selected as the most appropriate instrument. He added that the teachers across schools were given Nokia handsets with preloaded software of NED (Nokia Education Delivery). With the help of the software and 3G/2G networks, teachers could download videos related to Science and English and show them to students via connecting cables.
The content was focused on 5th& 6th grade students only. It was being created by Pearson India, based on CBSE and State Board patterns. He added that the numbers for the first year are very encouraging for the projects. Within 1 year 72 GB of data has already been downloaded including about 8000+ videos. As many as 2500+ assessments were taken by students and teachers have regularly reached the HelpCentre for assistance/help. The project would be running as pilot for the first year, scale up in second year and is targeted to reach sustainable level by the end of third year. The project would soon receive funding from the government and the size of the project would be tripled. With an easy to use platform and its access to all, it is on its way to become a ticket for rural students to reach the top.
Third speaker on the dice was from Dr. G. V Ramaraju, Balshiksha,Media Lab Asia. Starting with a brief introduction on the company, the presenter then introduced the project Balshiksha.
Balshiksha is an online portal and can be called as multimedia resource kit for pre-primary teachers;the platform can also be used by parents to teach their children. He added that it comes in four levels, namely: play group, pre-nursery, lower K.G. and upper K.G. The kit has almost basic modules which one can teach a pre- nursery child, ranging from alphabets and number to nursery rhymes and general knowledge. A teacher or parent can also add content to the modules by using an admin login.
In between the session, the co-chair asked our juror expert to express his views on the fact more and more companies were entering the education sector as a part of their CSR initiative but later moved onto a sustainable model. To this Mr. Seth said that the marriage of mobile and education was just perfect and it was encouraging to see how people were able to leverage the use of mobile to spread education. He also mentioned that this could be an important step in promoting the education for all motives of India. In fact this was a more important solution than opening more schools, which served as only point solutions according to him.
The discussion further intensified with views coming from panelists and other speakers and the question was raised on sustainability and scale of such ideas.Our very own Mr. Tomi A Honen exclaimed that the opportunity for mobile is being horribly wasted here in India mainly because teachers are afraid that cell phones will affect the decorum of class. He holds a view that mobiles can be rather used to bring in the attention of students to the classroom. For example taking their essay writing exam through cell phone or any other revolutionary idea can be of great use.
The concluding remarks by Prof. Peter Bruck on this discussion were worth a mention here. He said that as each individual present in the conference was different, so diverse was learning and solutions that could be thought of. The main problem is that people think that there can exist a single solution for all types of learning needs, be it kindergarten or high school or university. And this fact is simply not true. He urged people to go back to the drawing board and analyze various learning occurs and then devise solutions accordingly. Any policy with unclear motives, unclear matrices and unclear evaluation techniques should be discarded immediately.
The penultimate speaker on the dice was Mr. Amit Singh, Tutor On Mobile, TATA Teleservices. They have joined their hands with Voicetap Technologies for a project known as Tutor on Mobile. TOM, as they call it, is a knowledge marketplace where you can come to learn things or you can share knowledge while earning some real cash. While designing the product, these people had the challenge in mind that in India, you can acquire knowledge by either having the right technology or the right connections. And they had to develop a product for those who had none of them. After a lot of brainstorming and asking questions, they came to the solution known as TOM. TOM has two parts: learn and earn. While learn is for those looking to acquire knowledge, earn, as mentioned earlier is for those who want to earn something while sharing knowledge.
TOM operates with a view of bridging gap between knowledge seekers and givers. It is a technology agnostic product that can be used on a variety of handsets ranging from feature phone to smart phones using various features like SMS, IVR and WAP etc. It has user-generated content in terms of tips, tricks, question and answers. It also advanced features like one on one conference and interactions. It has additional features like databases of colleges, admission alerts important dates etc. With its earning opportunities this certainly can be a product of future.
The final panelist for the session was Ms. Sapna Moudgil, NIIT Foundation, New Delhi. NIIT Foundation has been opening up vocational training centers in and around urban slums of Delhi NCR, where they teach under privileged youth English speaking, hardware and other soft skills. But for quite some time they have been receiving a feedback that these students practice English as long as they are in centers. As and when they leave the centers they find it difficult to use their English speaking skills since neither their parents nor their peers understand English. Thus, to combat this problem, mobile integration solution hadbeen thought of; the presenter showcased a video instead of a presentation.
Under this initiative, they have incorporated mobile services in their courseware. The mobile phones are preloaded with English to Hindi as well as Hindi to English dictionary, pronunciation videos etc. Students can even record their practice on the phones and compare it with the correct versions. When subject to such comparisons, students have shown dramatic improvement. Even the attendance is being taken through this application. Usually organizations in the training space are faced with two types of problems: first is to inculcate a habit of learning in students and second to reduce the time span for improvement. NIIT Foundation, by using mobile integration in their courseware have addressed both these problems. Students are now not only more focused but also are learning very fast.