The coronavirus outbreak may have spelt doom and gloom for the economy and the startup ecosystem in the country, but not quite if you are a tech startup in the education sector. With academics and classes taking refuge in the digital world, most business-to-consumer, or B2C, edtech startups appear to have struck gold. It comes as no surprise that the likes of Byju’s, Toppr and Lido Learning have seen a sharp spike in student engagement and enquiries on their platforms.
While clambering onto the study-at-home bandwagon hasn’t been quite as successful for business-to-business, or B2B, edtech startups, these companies have begun adapting by enabling school teachers and home tutors add an edge to their lessons.
Sequoia-backed SaaS platform ClassPlus has begun ramping up its coaching centre reach and get more tutors to take their lessons online. In 15 months since its inception, the SaaS start-up has 2,000 coaching centres across 50 cities under its umbrella.
“Conducting offline classes as the only source of student engagement might be tough for tutors. So we’ve enabled all communication to be mapped onto one platform,” said Mukul Rustagi, co-founder, ClassPlus. “We have also started serving more tier-2 and tier-3 towns as the need there is more acute.”
It hasn’t exactly been all hunky-dory for startups like Eupheus Learning especially given the pace at which school closures have been taking place across the country. This has been the case with most startups whose core business area is curriculum.
“We have seen a drop in supply and demand from early March, but what’s heartening is that a lot of schools have come back to us and asked us for a digital intervention in these testing times,” said Amit Kapoor, co-founder, Eupheus Learning.
Through curriculum-driven solutions like online reference books and at-home digital learning tools, startups like Eupheus have slowly begun adapting to the lockdown. In terms of strategy, the startup has provided content for the first quarter of the current fiscal, leaving its implementation to its partner schools.
“The implementation at schools will depend upon the revised academic sessions due to the shutdown,” Kapoor added. “We foresee more clarity by next week depending on whether COVID-19 cases spike or subside across India.” The company has provided free access to certain academic resources on the platform until May 30.
The lockdown has thrown a spanner in the rapid growth of Eupheus, which recorded a three-fold rise in revenues exactly a year ago as it ramped up its presence to 70 cities in India with a reach of 3.3 million students and 3,700 schools.
A large part of getting through the COVID-19 lockdown has been to get teachers and tutors to create content to disseminate to students across multiple locations. “In tier-2 cities, we have been able to maximise digital interactions by sending teacher-made videos and assignments on WhatsApp and interacting with students on Google Hangouts,” said Sunita Gandhi, director of education non-profit Global Education & Training Institute (GETI). “Teachers have used props and hand-made mobile holders to make videos.”
Ever since the lockdown has been in place, GETI has adopted a strategy of online student feedback, which encourages children to put lessons into practice and publish videos on social media platforms. “I believe mobile is the way of the future, and with the crash course teachers have received, they will begin to integrate digital methods more often in their workplace,” added Gandhi.
If there’s one big opportunity COVID-19 has enabled in the academic space, it’s the untapped potential of teaching and learning through the digital medium. Given the enhanced focus on social distancing and online learning, there’s every indication that a big disruptor might be brewing in academics, engineered by startups in the edtech space.
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