How upskilling startup OrangeSlates is making teachers future-ready

Founded in 2020, OrangeSlates upskills educators in a wide range of pedagogies, teaching strategies, and tech tools. It has trained more than 30,000 teachers till now.
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A good education, they say, can change anyone. A good teacher, on the other hand, can change everything!

Aware of this maxim, Pradeep Pillai, Sindu Aven, Vishal Singh Khutel, and Vrushali Sheth in 2020 launched Mumbai-based OrangeSlates to enhance the quality of education. 

OrangeSlates aims to make educators future-ready, and it does this by bringing together teachers from across the globe to form a community where they learn various skills, pedagogies, and strategies to maximise learning outcomes.

Pradeep Pillai, Co-Founder and CEO, OrangeSlates, says: “There was a moment when edtech believed that quality education was possible without the teacher. We realised this was not a sustainable way to solve the education crisis. Removing the autonomy and agency of a teacher and attempting to centralise content design and delivery will only mask the problem – the need for truly future-ready teachers.” 

Post-pandemic, most teachers are keen to upskill by learning new techniques and methods of teaching.

OrangeSlates helps educators stay on top of their game by helping them learn the latest technologies. It offers live instructor-led (synchronous) and on-demand, self-paced (asynchronous) courses, and longer-duration career-defining certificate courses. 

The founders, who worked together at Zee Learn, the education arm of Essel Group, bootstrapped OrangeSlates with personal savings of approximately Rs. 1.5 crore.

How does it work?

OrangeSlates follows a blended approach to design programmes, using both online and offline mediums to complement each other. Courses are delivered through a web app.

“The behavioural shift during the pandemic is teachers' adoption of technology. We capitalised on this and provided the pathway for teachers to start innovating and collaborating among themselves,” the founder says. 

The upskilling startup offers live instructor-led courses through a custom-built platform as the video tool. Self-paced courses use pre-recorded videos and associated content on a Learning Management System (LMS). All programmes are curated using an educator-centric design thinking approach. 

“Teachers come to us as individuals, as part of an institute, or through our partnerships with B.Ed colleges, universities, and other educational platforms,” Pradeep says.

OrangeSlates also runs bespoke programmes for institutes and publisher communities on request. It has a monthly calendar for the live courses. 

The startup has partnered with around 1,100 schools across multiple boards, geographies, and maturity levels. These include the Don Bosco School Group (237 schools), the Superhouse Group of Schools in Uttar Pradesh, the TVS Group of Schools in Tamil Nadu, and Rich Mount School in Nagaland. 

It has a network of about 150 experienced educators and experts who conduct training. These trainers include experienced principals with over 20 years of experience, NABET-certified educators, CBSE-empanelled resource people, Google or Microsoft-certified trainers, mental health practitioners, subject matter experts, international trainers, and edtech innovators.

"We also have a network of industry experts, policymakers, and serving and retired school principals in an advisory capacity. They help us co-create the curriculum," he says.

Training the teachers 

OrangeSlates has over 200 programmes for teachers in Hindi, English, and Marathi.

It offers 45-minute courses for micro-training, but the bulk of live courses run between 90 and 120 minutes. The long-term courses go up to 60-80 hours across three months while self-paced courses run four to five hours. 

The short-term courses cover tactical tech tools for educators to use in their daily work to increase impact and productivity. Live courses deal with key teaching strategies and assessments. 

"We also conduct eight-hour bootcamps spread across four weeks. These include two hours of weekly classes and practicals,” Pradeep says.

The startup claims that its trainers are from across the country. However, it also has a physical presence in Pune, Mumbai, and Gurugram. The offline training programmes are conducted on partner schools’ campuses across the country through the network of trainers.

It has a team of 13 members, comprising operations, content quality team, marketing, and sales.

OrangeSlates claims that 60 percent of the educators come from metro cities and 40 percent from Tier I, II, and III and rural areas. Programmes in Hindi and Marathi have almost 90 percent attendance from Tier III-IV and rural areas.

It also has a user base in countries such as the Middle East, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Uganda, Portugal, and Spain. "We do not actively target these markets and have just over 100 users,'' Pradeep says.

Apart from upskilling, educators are given ongoing live projects on content creation, course creation, and instructional design with leading global edtech companies. These are paid projects ranging from Rs 4,500 per module to Rs 11,000 per lesson, or story boards at times.

“Our platform brings educators the ability to be part of a vibrant community that shares knowledge, resources, and experiences with each other,” Pradeep says.

OrangeSlates has completed around 400 live trainings, customised institutional training, self-paced training, and fests till now. It has upskilled more than 30,000 educators till date.

Partnerships and more

The upskilling startup has partnered with ImaginXP, a virtual university working with over 30 universities, 3D Bear (USA), Thunderbird Global School of Management (Arizona State University), and AIEF (All India Educators Forum).

With ImaginXP, it offers career-oriented courses such as instructional design, digital course design and delivery, leadership courses, among others

"This partnership will lead to courses for over 50,000 educators so they can explore new-age careers such as digital course creators, instructional designers, leadership courses, and so on," Pradeep explains.

The Thunderbird Global School of Management tie-up is part of their ‘100 million learners’ initiative. "This is to bring accredited world-class education online in 40 different languages to learners across the globe," Pradeep says.

With 3D Bear, OrangeSlates offers a bootcamp on becoming a 3D Bear ambassador and using augmented reality (AR) in the classroom. This helps empower educators to use these futuristic technologies to transform students' learning experiences. 

Pradeep says a basic introduction to AR in the classroom was conducted for around 1,500 educators. “We trained over 100 teachers from various schools in our month-long bootcamp to use AR in designing and delivering lessons to their learners.”

The partnership with AIEF involved a series of workshops for educators on the theme ‘Seamless Learning Experiences’ as part of the ‘LearnFest’.

The startup aims to collaborate with progressive educational organisations, publishing and content houses, edtech platforms, and organisations that offer tech tools to build a comprehensive ecosystem for educators.

Revenue model

OrangeSlates has three key revenue streams: live, self-paced, and certificate courses for teachers; school and institution partnerships; and events.

In 2020, the startup began with 1,750 educators. It onboarded 15,000 educators in 2021, and has upskilled over 30,000 teachers till now.

The short-term application-oriented live and self-paced courses range in price from Rs 199 to Rs 2,499. The long-duration, career-building certification courses start at Rs 15,000 onwards.

For schools, course pricing is dependent on the number of teachers and engagement (how many skills/topics and depth) required. Both editions of LearnFest were free of charge. 

According to the startup, there are around 10 million educators in India, including the public and private sectors. The market for teacher education in the private sector alone is estimated to be around $1.36 billion.

 

OrangeSlates operates on the four C’s methodology: creative, challenging, contextual, and collaborative. It competes with companies such as CENTA, Udemy, EdX, the British Council, and Suraasa.

The company has amassed a turnover of Rs 85 lakh till date.

The way ahead

OrangeSlates raised Rs 50 lakh from friends and family as part of a seed round in January 2022. It is planning to raise pre-Series A funding by September this year to expand its footprint in the Asia and Africa markets.

It plans to onboard 100,000 educators by the end of FY23 and upskill over one million teachers by FY25. It has plans to partner with 5,000 institutions and generate Rs 2 crore in revenue by FY23.

“We want to create a global community of a million-plus teachers working and learning together through our platform by 2025,” Pradeep says.

The name OrangeSlates represents a new dawn with a slate to start over. “A slate simply changes form—from stone tablets, actual or digital slates, to represent writing and drawing surfaces, and the beauty of its self-sustaining write-erase-start over feature,” Pradeep says.

“Based on the learning environment the teacher is in, we are able to rewrite what’s on the slate to suit the teacher’s need for development,” Pradeep says.

(This copy has been updated to correct factual errors.)

Edited by Teja Lele

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