Putting the ‘tech’ in ‘teaching’ – Hyderabad-based Creatist plans to do so
Managing a large class of students can become quite a nightmare for a teacher. The noise, the distractions, the inability to track every student’s progress is an inefficient way for a class to function. Shouvik Dhar and his two fellow Co-founders set out on a task to ensure learning and making the classroom a more functional and an efficient space with the help of technology.
They came up with Creatist, a tool and a platform to allow teachers to track the progress of students, to share information with ease, to be able to ‘lock’ out all distractions from devices, and to allow students to make their voice heard among the din of a hundred others.
We, at YourStory, spoke to Shouvik about this new piece of technology.
SD: Subhash Chanda and I had initially started something called Career Aces in 2010. It started off as a training organization for graduates, to get them placed in companies. Subhash and I have been friends from our days of graduation; followed up with being fellow Radar Scientists at the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). I joined the Indian Business School in Hyderabad after my stint at DRDO; and before Career Aces.
With Career Aces, we had trained more than 6,000 graduates all over Andhra Pradesh and managed to place about 66% of them. We soon learnt that this business wasn’t a scalable one. In early 2013, we worked on developing our product to enhance traditional teaching experiences. We brought on Kankan Bhattacharjee, a senior from college, who was looking to do something ‘technologically challenging’.
In about 7 months Creatist was born. The motivation behind developing Creatist was my association with the Center for Teaching and Learning at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. Our biggest motivator was when we saw instructors using the system and finding that the experience was seamless. We realized we had created something of value.
YS: How big is your team, and where are you based?
SD: We are a 7-member team and we work across shared offices in Hyderabad and Bangalore.
YS: How would you describe Creatist?
SD: Creatist makes using technology in teaching easier. It is a real-time, active learning enterprise tool that enables instructors to address the mundane pain points in teaching through content management and delivery, tracking students’ activities, and enhancing interaction.
We realized that a lot of institutes refrained from using technology due to the amount of distractions that devices brought into the class. In addition, poor internet connectivity didn’t help the cause either.
Some companies like LanSchool, NetOp, Radix, etc. have built solutions to work in ‘closed’ local environments. Although this solution solved the unreliable internet connection problem, they proved to be an expensive affair because organizations had to buy as many devices as there were students.
Creatist currently has 13 pending claims that solve the issues of poor connectivity, distraction, content management, dependency on devices and cost. Our solutions can work on any platform on any device. Our systems also ensure 99% reliability in cases of erratic internet connection through a queuing mechanism we have developed.
YS: What is Active Learning?
SD: Active learning is an umbrella term that refers to several models of instruction that focus the responsibility of learning on learners. It is an environment where learners work collaboratively, discuss materials while role-playing, debate, engage in case study, take part in cooperative learning, or produce short written exercises, etc.
YS: Who are your target customers and what channels do you use to connect to them?
SD: Our focus is currently on Higher Education institutes in both India and abroad. We’ve had extended trials at institutes like the Indian School of Business, UNIST, Korea, Texas Tech University, etc. to build customer awareness. Our focus has been to enlarge the group of early adopters for us to create ambassadors for Creatist, who can then promote the product. We have successfully roped in five institutes in India, two in the United States and one in South Korea as of now.
The data collected from the pilot initiatives is getting published in international journals and conferences, such as the INTED 2014, Valencia. This has also helped us promote our product further.
YS: Who are the other players in this space?
SD: Lanschool and Learning Catalytics are doing some really great work. Radix, Netop, Smarttrch, etc. are some of the other players in this field.
I don’t think we have any direct competitors in the Indian market yet. Harness Touch, Magic Pencil, etc. offer products with similar features to Creatist, however.
YS: What are some of the challenges you have faced till now and how did you overcome them? What are some of those challenges/problems specific to starting up in education sector in India?
SD: I think one of the biggest challenges we faced was while conducting our pilots in renowned universities; there was no margin for error. Another challenge any EdTech product faces in the education sector in India is the uphill battle against the adoption inertia. Getting people to try our product was a big challenge. That’s actually a reason why we are heavily focusing on expanding our ‘early adopters’ group.
YS: What are some of the mistakes you have committed and your lessons learnt from them?
SD: We took certain things for granted while we were launching our product. To make a product successful you need to put yourself in the shoes of the user and anticipate all the challenges, however small they may be. Very few organizations work on this exhaustively. As a result, we’ve now set up internal processes that test out how a certain change in the software would affect the flow. We spend a lot of time to make sure we’ve covered all our bases.
YS: What are your expansion plans?
SD: We will look to expand the size of our team in the next six months. On the funding side, we are looking for investment to be able to scale up. We are not hiring currently. We’ll start hiring in about 6 months from now. We have also been in touch with key channel partners in India, the U.A.E. and France.
Do you think this can make an impact?