Published: 28th May 2019
This online live learning platform started by IIM Calcutta researchers is providing quality education to kids in rural West Bengal
NexConnect Ventures Private Limited, established on February 17, 2017, seeks to be a social business working at the bottom of the pyramid with rural underserved people
Indian e-learning market size was worth $247 million, had 1.6 million users in 2016. In fact, India’s e-learning market is the second largest after the US which is projected to grow at a rate of 15.64 per cent and exceed $48 billion by 2020. What is even more surprising is 7.1 Crore or 26 per cent of students in India take private tuitions, of which a large section hails from rural areas, and about 10 per cent of youth opt for vocational education. Using these numbers to their advantage and with an aim to provide quality education in rural India with the help of technology, this start-up from Kolkata has come up with an online live learning platform. NexConnect Ventures aims to use technology effectively to solve educational problems in rural societies. We spoke to one of the Founder Directors, Priyadarshini Dey for better insight into the work that they are doing.
Here's what transpired:
What is the online learning platform all about? And how does it work?
It is an interactive two-way learning platform. We cater to children in Class I to the age of 25 years. Our live learning sessions are exactly like tuition classes. There are centres in rural areas where the owners log on to the platform, it has a live video conferencing system, the screen is broken up into two- one side the teacher speaks and another side the content is displayed. For the centres in rural areas of Bengal, it is only the West Bengal State board curriculum. We always strictly maintain a one is to 25-30 ratio, in order to cater individually to the students. English, Maths and Science are the subjects we teach. We also have vocational training sessions such as classes for Spoken English, computer, basic design, basic NSDC courses like entrepreneurship, which cater to the rural youth and women mainly.
Learn Easy: NexConnect Ventures' online live learning platform is an interactive two-way learning platform
How difficult was the journey to set up such an organisation?
Our journey began in the year 2014 not as entrepreneurs, but as social science and computer science researchers. We were enquiring into the quality of education and finding the possibility of using ICTs in assuring quality learning for all. We initially studied various rural schools both private and government spread across West Bengal. These schools shared common problems of teacher absenteeism, poor quality of teachers, teaching-learning materials and overall learning environments. We studied that the quality of education can be uniform throughout the country only by using the potentials of digital technology. In this light, we conducted some social experiments by connecting students with quality teachers using social technologies (i.e., technologies used by people to interact socially and to create, enhance, and exchange content). We involved a large group of educated senior citizens (dormant knowledge capital) from the cities who taught rural students’ academic and non-academic subjects online. These teachers were mostly retired school teachers having more than twenty years of teaching experience.
Smart Class: Their live learning sessions are exactly like tuition classes. There are centres in rural areas where the owners log on to the platform and it has a live video conferencing system
Do you think online learning is the future of education? How is your platform helping?
We developed our own teaching-learning platform in 2017. This online learning platform acts as a bridge between teachers and students. Development and quick acceptance of this platform among students and parents from all socio-economic backgrounds led us to believe that to use and expand this mode of learning to millions of underserved students in West Bengal, we need to sustain and scale up our model. This gave way to a cross-subsidised model where teachers sustain themselves by earning from the student in urban areas and providing almost free quality education to students in remote rural areas. NexConnect seeks to be a social business working at the bottom of the pyramid with rural underserved people. We cater to the capacity building of young children, older children through academic assistance through our live learning platform at affordable rates.
How is NexConnect solving the problem of access to an equal education? What is the impact till now?
Currently, NexConnect Ventures and their platform have impacted over 800 students, 300 beneficiaries, and have conducted around 3500 hours of online live classes. Our reach is in seven districts in West Bengal and one district in Jharkhand. We have plans to expand in 20 districts in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam and Madhya Pradesh soon. The problem of poor quality of teachers in rural areas is addressed by making quality and experienced teachers available online. NexConnect aspires to bridge the rural and urban information and knowledge divide by providing regular academic and non-academic assistance to students and adult learners in rural areas. Apart from academics, we also focus on providing vocational training.