[Product Roadmap] How ImaginXP is helping universities make their students employable
In this week’s Product Roadmap, we feature ImaginXP, a platform that enables future skills degree and for-credit subjects in partnerships with universities in a B2B model.
Wednesday September 15, 2021,
7 min Read
If there was one thing Chinmoy Rajwanshi, and Shashank Shwet were sure of while building a design firm and a niche tech company, it was that design talent was rather sparse.
In 2017, the duo had realised that finding the right talent and people with employable skills was not an easy task, a common refrain they heard from other startups as well. It was during the same time that Prof (Col) Shishir Kumar had written a book called 'Sorry, you are not employable!' on the state of higher education in India.
“Affordability of degree, unemployability and worsening student ROI became a problem that we were determined to solve. Only six universities from India are in the top 500 university rankings worldwide, and we chose to establish a B2B model in partnership with universities to ensure that we can add more of them in this ranking,” says Shashank.
It led the team to start, a platform that enables future skill degrees and for-credit subjects in partnerships with universities in a B2B model.
“That means, we strengthen the academic and technological aspects of universities to enable a better student ROI. In our case, it is the university that does the acquisition, and then the complete learning lifecycle from admissions to placements is managed on the platform,” adds Shashank.
Web to app
The platform enables both the academic and non-academic life journey of a student through both undergraduate and post-graduate programmes.
The academic activities include live classes, timetable, assignments and cohort work groups, mid and end semester exams, mentorship, live projects and placements.
Non-academic activities comprise college fests, technical and non-technical events for buying stationary and books, cohorts for music, art, culture and mind and soul trainings.
The ImaginXP My Coach platform enables the university’s entire journey on a mobile app.
“We started with a web platform during the pandemic to support our ongoing degree programmes, and soon expanded to other universities as well. We launched a mobile app only two months back and got 35,000 downloads in one month. We have 75,000 learners in total today on the MyCoach platform,” adds Shashank.
The duo had roped in Ajay Kumar as the CTO. Ajay had years of experience in the edtech domain and scaled many products. “He had founded Noesis Learning, which was starting to do what we were doing in universities,” says Shashank.
ImaginXP acquired Noesis Learning and Ajay took on building the product. “We were in a unique situation - we had the users but not the platform!”
“We took four months to stabilise the backend and get it ready to scale and concurrency. We chose flutter for app development, but finding good app developers is always a challenge. Our tech needs were sorted with the Noesis team for now, but we needed more hands as we are scaling so quickly. We took two months to develop the mobile app, but much more needed to be done to better the learning experience. The first 10,000 users took six months to come in. The next 65,000 came in over two months with the launch of our mobile app,” recalls Shashank.
Working on different outcomes
According to Shashank, the market is ripe for companies providing full-time and online degree programmes like what ImaginXP is doing.
While the full-time degree programmes are enabled with industry led projects, hackathons, live projects and mentorships, research papers etc, the platform’s model also focuses on the learning lifecycle of four years of undergraduate and two years of post-graduate education.
“The life cycle of the student in these six years gives us various opportunities to impart both academic and non-academic values to the student. We not only provide academics but also an experience of college life on the platform. This is the lens through which we looked at our product roadmap,” adds Shashank.
For example, the team realised that in the first two years of an undergraduate programme, students want to build a portfolio to showcase during their internships and placements. They participate in corporate led hackathons, paper presentation and events so that it can display their behaviour trait in the placement interview.
To cater to increased interest in participation, ImaginXP created a challenge library that students could avail according to his/her chosen field. What’s more, the team also automated the portfolio building process, so now ImaginXP can provide a student’s activity history through the four years to a recruiter.
With students seeking mentorship and live projects from corporate coaches, ImaginXP enabled cohort learning within a set of students and corporate mentorship on the MyCoach platform. Live classroom discussions with pre and post-classroom assessments were also initiated so that the mentor could easily understand students’ level of understanding. The same technology also enabled students from different universities to join together for live projects, along with the corporate client also logging into the classroom with the faculty and the student.
“Student behaviour and habits were great motivating factors to drive our roadmap forward,” adds Shashank.
There are 38 million students in higher education who can benefit from the app and start specialising in future skills or avail participation in challenges, mentorships and other experiences. "There are 120 million more students who are not able to afford a degree, and we aim to make education affordable for them," says Shashank.
“The other thing that we were adamant about was to provide one of the best learning experiences at scale, and for this, cohort learning had to be enabled,” says Shashank. The team developed a set of three principles on which they thought around this:
- Universities needed better student ROI. With ImaginXP being a B2B company, the success of the university mattered, even for building a minimum viable product (MVP).
- Student learning experience is paramount. They should enjoy the class, engage, and respond.
- Cohort can be created amongst anybody - mentor, corporate coach, senior-junior students, faculty - student, company - student.
“The first pilot lasted the length of the semester - six months. Although the product was convenient, we got a lot of feedback, and we learnt from the student experience. At the same time, student behaviour was evolving due to the pandemic, and that gave us a huge set of insights. We tested scale to 10,000 concurrent users, scaled up our video platform capability, made micro services so that the database doesn’t get choked when large transactions start hitting. In hindsight, we should have tested for more. Once the app was launched, we got 16,000 to 20,000 concurrent users, and that’s where we got stuck for the first time.”
According to Shashank, a product’s roadmap is an evolving strategy document. “You can product only a few cycles, the users do the next steps.”
He adds that their cycle is easy - the team starts small, testing with about 500 users, take feedback, make improvements and then launch for 5000 users. Once that cycle is done, then it goes to 25,000 users and so on.
“These small user cycles helps us bottle the frustration of the user as well and make improvements quicker. In each cycle, we aim to make improvements from the feedback as well as add new experiences to wow the users. Some work, some don’t,” adds Shashank.
For the future, the team is looking to build on video AI analysis to help gauge response to student-faculty interactions, audio and video platforms, flutter community, gamification of learning, and cohort-learning use cases.
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Edited by Anju Narayanan