How startups can revolutionise education with emerging tech and gamification

The education sector in India is at the cusp of AI disruption to amplify the learning experience and transform it into an interactive, fun, customised way of knowledge acquisition and retention.

With advancing emerging technology and a wealth of global information at one's fingertips, education is no longer limited to acquiring academic knowledge but upskilling oneself to navigate the ways of the ever-evolving world. Edtech startups like BYJU'S, Udemy, Unacademy, and many more have revolutionised the educational paradigm, shifting classroom learning to a more fun-filled and experiential virtual setting, based on the learner's interest and style.

As terms like individualised learning, hyper-personalisation, smart content are surfacing and gaining popularity, the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in learning is becoming more important than ever before. Data science and Machine Learning (ML) are also being increasingly blended with traditional pedagogical structures to build tailored content based on individual student experiences, interests, learning abilities, and pace. AI-powered voice assistants, digitised textbooks guides, personalised bite-sized video content and learning material, interactive live sessions, smart notes, personalised worksheets, digital flashcards are some of the interesting ways of quick learning for both kids and adults.

How AI is transforming education

In India, Mindspark's AI-based adaptive-learning programme, for instance, offers personalised tutoring based on learners' strengths and weaknesses. LeverageEdu's digital marketplace uses AI to match a student's profile with relevant schools and colleges. An AI-built proctoring solution by TCS can monitor thousands of examination venues simultaneously.

While the privately-run education businesses are scurrying to lead the sprint, tech intervention in the public education sector in India is gradually picking up pace. It has already made headway with the launch of the Ministry of Education's first e-learning platform SWAYAM in 2017.

NITI Ayog, in their National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence report, stated the 'low-retention rates' with one-third dropouts before eighth grade, poor learning outcomes, low interactive learning, and lack of need-based professional teacher training courses as some of the persisting problems of the public education sector, especially in remote rural areas. In addition, the lack of required infrastructure and ICT training for teachers has made tech penetration a far cry.

However, the larger the concern, the greater the scope of AI integration for seamless resolution of these long-standing issues. Some state governments have been forerunners in implementing AI solutions in education. The Andhra Pradesh government deployed Microsoft's Azure ML solution that finds predictive patterns using ML and analytics to identify and help prevent dropout cases. The Haryana Department of School Education used AI-enabled adaptive learning tools to offer need-based tutoring and feedback to learners. It also integrated an automated system to grade essays.

While governments are taking initiatives to amplify emerging tech-based learning, the lack of engaging modules that can hook the interest of both instructors and learners still stands in the way of any major disruption. An interesting solution to the issue could be using AI-integrated gamified training modules that would be interactive, fun, and custom-built to capture interest and retain knowledge.

Gamified training modules for interactive learning

SmartWinnr, a Hyderabad-based startup, addresses the key issue of low knowledge retention through their AI-driven gamified learning. The startup has introduced customised bite-sized videos, quiz content, and bite-sized training modules to make learning fun and engaging. The company uses a spaced-repetition algorithm and AI-driven gamification to design personalised questions. These questions are repeatedly triggered on the learner's app to convert their knowledge into behavioral adoption through knowledge familiarisation.

Shiladitya Mallik, Co-founder, SmartWinnr, believes that repeated exposure to key information followed by repeated questions helps in knowledge retention. For example, SmartWinnr's algorithm can club 50 questions in sets of five bite-sized questions and trigger those regularly to the user until the knowledge transforms into actionable habits. The ML algorithm identifies the user's learning behaviour gap and custom designs questions accordingly. The startup has also integrated an AI-driven recommendation engine that monitors the learner's responses, offers recommendation-based learning, and helps streamline it toward positive actions and behaviours. The platform can train all government and non-government officials, ranging from healthcare professionals and engineers to bankers and policymakers.

According to Shiladitya, today's professionals are usually too busy to take up a three-hour or day-long training or upskilling course. However, watching a five-minute video capsule every day will gradually take them through personalised learning to meet their specific needs. SmartWinnr's AI algorithm also builds personalised assessment and the right nudges to make learning easy, engaging, time-saving and a positive habit.

Eduncle, another promising edtech startup, has given a unique twist to teaching-learning by gamifying its model for trainers and not trainees. Eduncle caters to the undergrad section, aiding them in preparing for entrance exams for higher education. They help students prepare at their own pace through live classes, video modules, and printed and web content. With a database of 85,000 questions, their doubt-solving feature is gamified for the tutors who win coins (in terms of actual money) for solving students' queries. These tutors compete with each other to be the first ones to claim and offer correct solutions to doubts raised by the students. They are rewarded with bonus coins depending on the difficulty level and time to solve a query. Once a query is resolved, the solution is added to the database.

According to Arpit Pareek, Co-founder and COO, Eduncle, the company runs data analytics on all previous year questions to predict the possible questions for a given year and tags every question based on several matrices to optimize search results. It uses the prediction model to carve out the important lessons and courses from the entire syllabus and design their lectures and notes for the year that would cover more than 80 percent of the question paper. Such a prediction model reduces the burden on the students and helps them strategise their preparation for better results. The model employs AI and ML to analyse each student's strengths or pain points and offer personalised feedback.

Currently, Eduncle is testing AI/ML models to convert text questions and solutions to video bots that look like real persons solving student queries. The company believes this would give a more personal touch to an automated process. Talking about the future course of action, Harshit Goyal, Co-founder, and Head of Products, Eduncle mentioned that they currently offer more than 24 subjects and aim to add more to other higher education and government sector exams by replicating the current learning model.

With such innovative technological interventions, AI proliferation is expected to augment classroom experience and complement teachers' roles and responsibilities. However, rest assured that it will only enhance the ease and experience of learning and not replace the traditional classroom setting.


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