InOpen: An Education Startup that EmphasizesConceptualUnderstanding
InOpen, an IIT Bombay based educational startup, focuses on developing high quality academic content through intense research. InOpen offers products and services to government and private schools. “We are currently serving more than 2.5 lakh students directly through our products,” says Rupesh Shah, Co-founder & CEO, InOpen Technologies.Speaking about how the idea to start InOpen came about, Rupesh said, “During my engineering days, I was doing my B-Tech project under Dr. Sridhar Iyer, (a professor at the department of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT-B). I was passionate about open source and its applications across the education sector. Dr. Sridhar was working on Computer Masti along with his team. During one discussion we figured out we can tap a glaring gap in computer learning. I noticed that everybody just wanted to learn computer application through skill and not through concept. This serious lack of basic understanding made me think about giving computer learning an early start, right at the onset of a growing mind. I could see the potential in Computer Masti. It was only in August 2009 that Dr. Sridhar and I decided to draw on our experience and start a company together. We started the company on Oct 2009.”
The name InOpen originates from the fact that Rupesh was always interested in open source and wanted to do something ‘in’ open source. Hence, the name InOpen! “I feel that that there is lot of sensible stuff around us, like high end technologies, research, and so on. However the common users or students can’t comprehend them. I felt that the bigger challenge lies in simplifying these sensible things,” said Rupesh. This led to the tagline of the company, ‘adding simplicity to sense’.
Computer Masti (CM) is a content-service solution to teach computer science in schools. It consists of an extensively research based curriculum and instruction materials. The primary vision of CM is to nurture independent thinking skills of a child. Apart from teaching the computer literacy skills, thinking process skills such as step-wise thinking and problem solving are an integral part of CM. These are taught and connected to computer and programming skills.
Fun is an important element of learning with CM. The narrative style of the lessons that uses guided inquiry, takes the students along to explore new knowledge through the dialogue between the two characters, Tejas & Jyoti and the facilitator character,Moz.The curriculum is spiral, in that there is an iterative revisiting of topics with each successive encounter being deeper and based on the former.
CM understands the needs of students from developing countries. This is realized in the form of reverse thematic integration and used of tools that are Operating System independent. CM attains thematic integration by giving students opportunity to apply knowledge of other subjects as well as using real world examples in its worksheets and activities. Use of free and open source applications results in reduction of implementation cost, thus ensuring ensure sustained access. Moreover, it allows the students to become creators of technology, rather than remaining mere users of the technology.
“In Computer Masti, conceptual understanding is emphasized over acquiring skills of particular application. This is imperative in a volatile field as computers, since newer version of existing applications and new applications are launched every other day,” informed Rupesh.
Some of the other key features of Computer Masti are:
- CM considers visual programming language that breaks association of math competency with programming skills. Thus, the first exposure to programming is through intuitive, graphic user interface.
- CM makes a conscious effort to prepare students towards STEM literacy with focus on technology. The illustrations challenge gender stereotypes thus sensitizing the students and teachers. The assessment that complements the learning material in CM is in line with CCE (continuous and comprehensive evaluation) guidelines and captures higher order thinking skills. Multiple intelligence based activities and worksheets of CM allow for overall development and inclusive education.
- CM nurtures self learning abilities of children and equips them with the 21st century skills, the 4Cs - critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. Use of Graphic organizers as tools for ideation and representation allows for nurturing multiple representation and organization skills.
“InOpen is serving K-12 market with our flagship product ‘Computer Masti’ and newly introduced science curriculum called ‘Small Science’. We also work with the Government and corporate organizations with our IT literacy solutions,” said Rupesh.Strength of InOpen:
- The implementation in K-12 in a school starts first by creating a tailor made curriculum using Computer Masti Syllabus.
- The execution starts through training the existing IT faculty and setting up the Computer Lab.
- Designing a series of handhold visits where faculty from InOpen visits the schools to do capacity building exercise and solve issues arising out of implementation.
- Carry out assessments 3-4 times a year based on their research.
- Launch Computer Masti 2.0 (A Comprehensive Web based learning experience which will use the power of Computer Masti tutorial logic, software’s and assessment under one single platform). Bring the same learning experience on web by combining learning, practice and assessment on the same page.
- Computer Masti in all Major Indian and foreign languages.
- InOpen’s Computer Masti Everywhere Initiative - Utilize open source potential to gain online community support for making Computer Masti available on Ipad, Kindle, Android devices, etc.
- Open company-operated centers for teacher and student learning activities. Generate e-content for new generation smartphones and tablets.
- Open at least 4 more remote offices for serving the local markets better. They are also exploring opportunities in middle-east and schools in developing countries likeBangladeshandSri Lanka.
InOpen has been fortunate enough to be able to work with some top institutes to develop their services. Computer Masti was developed by a team (led by Prof. Sridhar) of CSE Dept. at IIT Bombay. Similarly, Small Science was developed by HBCSE, TIFR led by Dr. Jayashree Ramdas. The rationale is to create or collaborate with high quality academic content, but it requires a lot of effort both in terms of research, understanding a student’s mindset and validating the research through well-executed POC’s (Proof-of Concept).“Dr. Sridhar and I are always on the look-out for high quality content or people who have the required expertise. We then spent several hours in conceptualizing the implementation process. The inputs from such academicians are very insightful in nature. They mostly talk about how a child reacts to curriculum and how the progress should be over different grades,” said Rupesh.
Speaking about the experience so far and the feedback that they have got about Computer Masti, Rupesh said, “The feedback from the industry has been very encouraging. We started implementing Computer Masti in December 2009 and have since grown from serving 2000 students to approximately 2,50,000 students spread across 75 schools. We have trained more than 2000 teachers and translated Computer Masti into eight Indian languages and two foreign languages. The e-book has been downloaded in 125 countries.”
He further added, “What’s most encouraging is that we get a lot of business from referrals provided by existing schools. To be more precise that almost constitutes 15%-20% of our business. Owing to nature of the startup we feel that a lot more could still be achieved. We are currently busy trying to setup machinery to scale up and increase our capacity.”
Views on EduStars
“I must first congratulate you guys for coming up with such a relevant as well as an enterprising initiative. There are just a hand-full of education startups in the Indian education system. Some of them did really well in a short span of time attracting a lot of traction. YourStory.in and Accel Partners bring the perfect combination that an educational startup would require. Mentorship from industry experts will really help,” said Rupesh.
InOpen is one startup working in the education sector to look out for. We at YourStory.in will be keenly following their progress. Keep watching this space for more updates about InOpen.
To know more about InOpen, visit http://www.inopen.in/
If you are an educational startup and are looking for access to mentors and visibility, then apply for the EduStars Program.