Arshan Vakil Founder and CEO, Kings Learning

The education sector is evolving rapidly in the face of ongoing technological advancements. There is a steady shift from blackboards and book-based teaching to interactive teaching based on information and communication technology (ICT). Technologies like cloud, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and big data analytics are playing a big role in this transformation. Some institutions have started deploying these technologies with the aim of enhancing learning outcomes and making the teaching and learning experience rich and exciting. However, the deployment of ICT solutions and tech advancements come with their own set of challenges, the biggest being low digital literacy and limited awareness.  Nonetheless, the potential of ICT as an enabling and transformative tool for the education sector cannot be emphasised enough. Heads of leading educational institutions talk about the emerging ICT trends in the sector, the level of technology adoption and the key challenges…

How have the ICT needs of the education sector changed over time?

Over the past two decades, the demand for digital literacy in the workplace has increased. Most jobs, regardless of industry, either require or will require the use of technology. This trend has permeated into the education sector, whose primary responsibility is to get students ready for the workplace.

In addition, reports have shown that an increase in the use of ICT in education by integrating technology with the curriculum leads to a positive impact on lear­ning outcomes. A combination of these two points has led to a paradigm shift in the sector. Schools, colleges and skilling institutions are adopting a more technology-led approach to learning.

What are some of the telecom and ICT solutions used by your organisation? What are your future plans?

Our spoken English solution, enguru, is a self-learning English language and communication skill application with over 20 million learners. It teaches learners Eng­lish in 28 languages, from the basics to more complex conversations. Users go th­rou­gh a placement test when they first use the app, which identifies their starting point. The focus is on providing users ac­cess to functional English relating to their career interests and then linking them to appropriate employers. We also offer en­guruTalk, a web platform that offers one-on-one and group live English and communication skills classes with Cambridge-qualified teachers.

We have enterprise programs across three verticals: corporate training with lar­ge retail firms, hotel chains and IT firms; CSR/NGO training; and most recently, government school interventions with programs running in Karnataka and Haryana.

How will the deployment of new technologies such as the cloud, IoT and big data analytics shape the education sector? What are some of the key use cases?

AI and machine learning will be at the forefront of smart education. By understanding how each student interacts with and consumes content, machine learning will further personalise the learning experience for each student. This will help teachers predict learning outcomes and modify their teaching methodology accordingly. Throu­gh big data analytics, we will be able to understand the most effective structures from across the globe and create new curriculums to maximise the learning outco­mes for students. Teaching material, videos, etc. will all be stored on the cloud, allowing students to access content anywhere and anytime. This flexibility will help students in remote areas who do not have access to high quality teachers.

What are the challenges faced in managing the existing IT/telecom infrastructure and deploying new technologies?

There are two broad challenges that we face while launching our app-based spoken English programs in organisations. The first is hardware related – institutions do not have up-to-date computers or tablets to run programs. Lack of data connectivity pre­vents students from accessing certain features that require a steady data connection – in-app videos, teacher-guided audio lessons, etc. However, the cost of data in India has fallen dramatically over the past two years and we believe data will be ubiquitous over the next few years. Finally, digital literacy is still a problem – students who have never used any mobile device or app before find it somewhat difficult to navigate an app or computer-based software.

The government is increasingly focusing on smart education and smart classes. What are the key technology trends that will help achieve this goal?

Government schools and colleges are budgeting for smart classrooms and creating computer and tab labs. Kings Learning is currently the English learning partner for 10 government schools in Haryana, where the government has launched tab labs for students. After conducting training for government school teachers, Kings Learning launched a blended learning programme for students from the sixth to the twelfth grade. Each student uses a tab to learn English mapped to their curriculum, followed by a teacher-led session to put key words and concepts into practice.