New-age teaching is here: This Bengaluru startup live streams classes using the Cloud

These classes are interactive where professors can see and hear students across classes in the studio and the students can hear and see the professors.
New-age teaching is here: This Bengaluru startup live streams classes using the Cloud
New-age teaching is here: This Bengaluru startup live streams classes using the Cloud

The learning gap in the rote-chalk-and-talk method in schools has led to a huge growth in the EduTech sector in India, where many are attempting to use technology to bridge the gap. While there are many online learning platforms such as Byju’s, a few startups are going directly into the classrooms of students to expand the scope of teaching and improve the quality of education.

One such entrepreneur is Rajesh Rao who always wondered why a concept such as electricity and magnetism which had such a big impact on our everyday lives was taught – in class 9 -- in such a boring manner.

He decided to do something that works on changing how Science and Mathematics is taught in schools by developing a refined methodology and founded Connecting the Dots (CTD) in 2013.

“CTD was born out of a deep faith that subjects like Science and Mathematics should be made more practical, hands-on and fun. I believe that children and teachers should be made more aware and appreciative of ‘Science all around us’. The CTD approach is to connect a core concept to everyday experiences as well as functioning of the world around us. When children connect these dots in their minds, there is a lasting impression on them,” Rajesh says.

It works with the existing syllabus of the school. The idea is to teach children with much visualisation, giving students a holistic understanding of the concept. This includes showcasing and teaching students, the practical applications and recent developments relating to that concept.

CTD works with students and teachers of classes 5-12 in Languages, Science, Math, Commercial Mathematics, Statistics and Programming.

How it works

CTD has a central studio where it runs classes through live streaming from its ‘delivery studio’. It works like a television studio where the schools log into the appropriate program or channel. These classes are interactive where CTD professors can see and hear students across classes in the studio and the students can hear and see the professors.

“The advantage here is that if anyone from any school has a question, it is heard by all students and everyone benefits from the question and answer,” Rajesh says. Live classes are recorded and stored on the cloud for viewing again at any time by the school.

Apart from this, students have access to experts to whom questions can be sent. It creates online communities of other schools to exchange ideas and notes, provides them with model papers for tests and examinations and links to other free resources available for teaching.

Experiments are also done to apply concepts, which are live streamed and students in the school can also perform them under the supervision of the teachers. “Materials shipped to schools become part of the school lab. All experiments are designed with simple materials,” Rajesh adds.

The infrastructure that the school requires to facilitate CTD’s learning methods is a standard internet connection of about 2 Mbps. The classroom infrastructure required is the same as a typical smart class with a computer, overhead projector and screen. No other software or equipment is necessary. For the school, this is a one-time investment of roughly Rs 70,000, which can be used for other purposes as well.

Not just the students, CTD is also aiming to help improve teachers and their teaching methods. The classes are taken in the presence of the subject teachers. CTD also conducts teacher training programs.

It currently works with 30 schools and trains around 1,200 teachers per year all over Karnataka.

Apart from private schools, CTD also works with government institutions, where all its services for government schools and colleges are supported by CSR funds.

“We have worked with well-known names such as Infosys Science Foundation, Manipal Foundation, Bosch India Foundation, Robert Bosch Engineering India and Capgemini to deliver services to teachers and students,” Rajesh says.

For private institutions, CTD charges a fee.

A major challenge for CTD is to try and stand out amidst competition, given that there are a number of startups attempting to do similar things.

Rajesh says CTD is mainly focused on exam-oriented content to achieve higher grades. The fact that it conforms to conventional syllabus and measurement criteria makes the programs acceptable to schools. “Over and above this, innovation in pedagogy - the methodology adopted makes learning of concepts more effective,” he adds.

CTD is aimed at affluent, urban and English speaking children.

Apart from competition, Rajesh says that the biggest challenge in the business is the state of education in the country. “Resistance to change is very high in education. Everyone agrees that change is needed, but do not want to initiate it. And for someone running a private company in this space, it is hard to produce customer satisfaction in a matter of days or weeks as learning outcomes manifest over a longer period of time. Private institutions too, seldom acknowledge the need for change as long as they have enough students joining and paying fees,” he adds.  

This isn’t stopping CTD. The startup aims to increase its student base to 25,000 and teachers to 3,000 trainees by end of 2018. By 2020, its goal is to impact twenty lakh students, provide services pan-India and to other developing countries in English and at least five regional languages. It aims to work with central government institutions like NCERT, ICSE, CBSE and Regional Institute of Education (RIEs).

It will eventually launch teacher training programs for the educated but unemployed youth in rural parts of the country and teacher reference resources like detailed lesson plans to standardise subject pedagogy. All this while, it will remain a social enterprise where 80% of its operations will be aimed at serving government schools through low-cost services funded by CSR initiatives.

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