Last week, learning service Byju's announced the launch of a new app for parents to better follow their children's progress, and to enable them to provide better support. Gadgets 360 caught up with Byju's Chief Product Officer Ranjit Radhakrishnan to talk a little more about the Byju's app, and also the new parents' app.
It's a crowded field, with competitors such as Meritnation, Testbook, and Gradestack, to name a few. Byju's, named after its founder Byju Raveendran, stood out because instead of relying on the Internet, the company sold physical SD cards with study material loaded, so it wasn't reliant on Internet connections that can often be poor. In a post-Jio world, will this actually become a liability for the company as data becomes more widely available at cheaper rates?
Radhakrishnan doesn't think so. "From a technology perspective we are ahead of the curve," he says. "Our paid subscribers have streaming as well, and we support that model understanding that the ecosystem is changing. [But] it becomes easier to ensure a good user experience through the SD card."
Byju's sees a lot of its customers coming from smaller towns and cities, where education is given greater importance by parents who feel their children need an extra edge, says Radhakrishnan. And in these places, he adds, networks still don't deliver a good enough experience.
"There was a belief, when we started, that this [Byju's] would be a metro phenomenon to begin with, but it has certainly been [proven] wrong as T2 and T3 have been an enthusiastic growth segment," he explains.
The newly launched parents' app meanwhile is a way to give the parents more of a role in their child's education. "Parents get very little information about how their child is progressing," says Radhakrishnan. "They get test reports, exam reports, but that is all a parent really gets out of it. There's no deep understanding."
"We don't need parents to be monitoring in a negative fashion - but to understand where the child is putting in the effort, to observe where the gaps are, and to provide pointers on specific areas where they can encourage their child's learning journey as a participative stakeholder," he adds.
That's the gap that the new parents' app fills, he tells us. To use the app, you have to enter a student code from the main application (on the child's device) and it will then sync the data up to the parent’s device. You don't see a module by module breakdown - rather, Radhakrishnan says, you get a summary view, which sums up your child's performance in a conversational manner.
"The idea behind this is to provide the parent with tools to converse with the child in a more productive fashion," says Radhakrishnan. "So you can see what areas and subjects your child is doing well in, where they need to put in more effort, and what support you can give. The idea is not to make you say 'your grades are low', but to give you information so that you can have a conversation with the child."
This is done by looking at many more aspects of the child's progress in the main app. As Radhakrishnan points out, while the end result of the app has to be to help students perform better in exams, the goal is to reach this by breaking down the syllabus into smaller units, and building up a detailed understanding of the subject. This allows the app to carry out analytics, and offer up learning at a pace and structure lessons customised for each student.
"We have a guided path, through multiple concepts across multiple chapters, and in this stage we don't judge the students on their performance, but rather use this to personalise their journey," explains Radhakrishnan. "The second stage is the practice stage, where we know what concepts the student knows, and now we build their confidence. Our algorithm then provides questions based on the students gaps. And we use this data to provide actionable feedback to address weaknesses."
The company does this via a video-game like approach, where students get levels to progress through and challenges to beat. There is a lot of gamification to keep students engaged, says Radhakrishnan, and he emphasises that it's done in a manner that's conversational.
"We have a large academia team that created what we call a knowledge tree that deals with all the different concepts you need to learn, along with how they are interlinked," he explains. "If you understand this concept, there is a high probability that you will also understand this concept."
"There are 50,000+ concepts that fall within this knowledge tree, and every aspect of content is mapped to this knowledge graph to help plan a map of content," he continues. "Initially, we don't know the child - but once the child starts interacting, taking a few tests, learning a few concepts, and we're building a learning profile based on the tree. This is a living learning profile that gets built up year by year. Say when he was learning momentum, has some issues with that, so when he goes to Newton's second law, you might struggle, so we need to handhold you more."
This same information is also used to populate the data in the parents' app - parents can learn where their children are weak, see what foundational problems are there, and provide support to help the children get better in those areas, says Radhakrishnan.