The Covid-19 epidemic triggered a surge of digitalization in our life. Everything went digital, from workplaces to schools, and with this quick yet large-scale transition, there was a substantial increase in the adoption of advanced solutions leveraging automation, machine learning (ML), and AR/VR to achieve a seamless remote working/learning/commerce environment. ML has been at the forefront of leading some of the innovation / disruption in the evolution of EdTech platforms that not only provided students with a realistic educational environment but made the learning journey more personalised. Everything from teaching to administration, from course creation to assessments can be readily managed using these platforms, paving the path to as smooth a transition as possible to the new normal for both students and teachers. To learn more on this, Financial Express Online spoke to Sunder Malyandi, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer at Sahaj Software. Excerpts:
How is Sahaj Software building innovation & technology to transform the EdTech sector in India? What are the trends you foresee in this sector?
The EdTech sector in India is expected to reach 30$ billion in the next 10 years, as per a report by RBSA Advisors. This indicates that there is a lot of scope for growth and transformation in this sector. Among the various technologies, Data & AI (Artificial Intelligence) will play a critical role in improving the facilities of learning analytics, automating the administrative and learning processes, and enhancing the scope of teaching. There are four broad ways in which AI software solutions can transform the education sector – personalised or adaptive learning, teacher assist solutions, collaborative learning, and expanded content & experiences through AR/VR solutions.
At Sahaj, we focus on designing and developing solutions by embracing both established and emerging technologies, including but not limited to distributed computing, cryptography, data engineering, and artificial intelligence. We believe in understanding the problem context and desired outcomes holistically and then delivering a simple but elegant and extensible solution. Our core competency lies in solving complex challenges and building purpose-built solutions that enable clients to create or amplify business differentiation. Moreover, our solutions have a positive bias towards leveraging open-source frameworks as well as contributing to open source.
How do you believe AI and machine learning will impact the education industry in the coming years?
According to the 2018 Horizon report on higher Education, experts suggest that the application of Artificial Intelligence will grow by 43% in the year 2018-2022. However, the year 2020-2021 witnessed a significant change in education due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, online classroom environments have become the new normal. Multiple solutions have already been introduced where AI/ML and VR are used for learning and are enabling better learning outcomes across the Sector. Going ahead, we expect more platforms and solutions that offer rich and personalised learning experiences using AI and VR to be developed and adopted by the Education sector.
The transformation from teaching-led learning to guided learning has already started and we see an accelerated path to maturity in the next few years. Solutions that enable digital distribution of content, inference-based guided learning plans, automated assessments, extended content (or simulated content) that deliver improved learning outcomes by appealing more to the visual faculties in learners, are likely trends that EdTech products will embrace and evolve.
Tell us about your work in the EdTech sector?
It has been an exciting journey in partnering with some of the innovators & disrupters in the EdTech Sector.
We became the technology partners with Ekstep foundation during their early days. The Ekstep foundation wanted to transform the education delivery system from Kindergarten to 5 years. The goal was to build a system that can deliver basic literacy and cognitive skills to nearly 200 million children. It involved collecting data from the user, delivering content to the target audience with a key consideration that the learners will not be online or connected always. Moreover, as we played a significant role in the Dev-ops and engineering practices, we could automate the process for fixes and updates, reducing the time to go live by 10 minutes or less. Sahaj was instrumental in building the data pipeline that assimilates the information from the devices and makes the right data available in the correct form and depth to the various parts of the platform. The data that is collected from the interaction by the child is made available as an output to partners and the larger community. In order to enable a seamless experience on the device, the UI sits independently of the service component behind it, which acts as a server on its own. This approach allowed the publishing of an SDK to enable the larger community to build apps and content within the ecosystem. Sahaj’s expertise was also brought into enabling agility to the application.
An AI-powered EdTech company, where we partnered to help with scaling the assessment solutions by rearchitecting two of their core systems based on a microservices architecture, integrating with their AI algorithms, that provides for a personalised learning plan and delivers targeted supplemental content for each student. We continue to work with this company on its strategic product roadmap.
A not-for-profit organisation working on the mission to make books available to every child to improve literacy and introduce the joy of reading. A team from Sahaj developed a digital platform where a) users can collaborate to create, annotate and translate stories b) readers can access and read stories that are of interest and explore further.
Do you believe that AR, VR, and AI technologies in the education industry will provide investors with novel opportunities?
AR/VR, and AI have been topics of interest across the industry for some time now, starting from process automation to autonomous transportation. Adoption of these technologies across different industries has been steadily increasing, with increasing investment activities. For example, Google acquired European AI company DeepMind for $400 million, Apple acquired Xnor.ai, Cisco acquired ThousandEyes, etc. – the list is growing.
Specifically, in the EdTech sector, some of the tech giants like Google, Microsoft also reacted fast in deploying solutions that enabled learning through Digital channels during the pandemic. In the coming years, we are sure to see more innovation and hence increased investment activity in this sector.
What is the influence of data evolution on the EdTech Industry?
With more educators and learners adopting digital solutions, a lot more data and context around learning is being generated & captured. There is an opportunity to derive valuable inferences from such data towards a) improving experience for learner/teacher b) adaptive or personalised learning plans and path c) evolve / update learning content etc d) overcome possible biases in content & assessments, to name a few. Across the EdTech industry starting with Institutions and educators to financial institutions are working on solutions to create value for their businesses by improving the reach to learners and enabling better learning outcomes. AI seems to have a multitude of applications in education. The innovation benefits both educators and learners. AI will assist the education business in a variety of ways.
How is gamification inciting millennials’ interest in coding?
Gamification teaches students how to deal with complicated and complex circumstances in a straightforward manner, as well as making the learning process more interesting and competitive in certain aspects. It improves their problem-solving abilities and enhances clarity in their cognitive process. This is why, even when related to academics, game-based apps are popular with individuals of all ages and interests. Platforms such as Scratch and Mblock assist young learners in understanding essential coding concepts such as events, actions, and loops. Builds the foundation for youngsters to begin and comprehend programming and robotics. Such platforms foster curious minds and provide them with a platform to engage with their audience. The distinct influence of games on the brains of millennials is the primary driver of growing interest in the subject of coding.