This edtech firm has made learning accessible to 350K students in Telangana during the pandemic
As the coronavirus pandemic prompted schools to shift classes online, the transition posed a challenge for teachers and students in rural areas. To ease their hurdles, an edtech platform was brought on board by the Telangana government to offer online classes for schools aided by it.
Online Adaptive Knowledge System (OAKS), an edtech platform created by Sunitha Infovision Limited, focuses on conceptual and skill-based learning controlled and managed by schools.
The platform helps schools implement blended learning techniques such as flip classrooms. This includes crisp, animated self-learning video content of a maximum of 5 minutes duration on any topic, considering students’ short attention span. It facilitates flexibility through “anytime, anywhere learning”, so students can learn without any time-bound constraints from wherever they are.
The OAKS application was implemented for 350,000 students in more than 1,000 schools spread across 31 districts of Telangana.
“We started implementing OAKS in collaboration with the Telangana government in 1,000-plus schools for 350,000 students for social, tribal, and minority welfare,” says Suman Matcha, CEO of OAKS.
Enabling education in rural areas
As access to smartphones was a challenge for students in rural areas, teachers in each school implemented an “Adopt the Village” initiative, for which they each adopted two-three villages.
The teachers visited the villages twice a week and provided students access to smartphones so that they could use the OAKS application and learn at their desired pace.
The application reduced the workload of teachers with its automated OAKS score, which provided a personalised learning path for every child. It enabled teachers to conduct live sessions and upload tailor-made videos for a better understanding of subjects.
Students followed a hub learning model. Under this model, students of a higher class guided 5-10 counterparts in lower classes. This gave more than 78,000 students in rural areas an opportunity to access OAKS and learn seamlessly.
The Telangana government’s collaboration with OAKS enabled a quick transition to online education.
“The results confirmed that the quick transition to the online form of education was successful and the experience gained can be applied in the future,” says Matcha. “We have reached 350,000 children, who have access to digital devices, from over 1000-plus schools across the state.”
On average, more than 80,000 students are active on OAKS every day and have watched upwards of 8 million minutes of content in five months, he says.
“Due to COVID-19, our students were missing their classes,” says Saritha, a science teacher at Telangana Minority Residential School (TMRS), Bellampally. “So, TMRS started implementing the OAKS programme to help students. Our society has provided credentials to each student.”
Saritha says she finds the app very useful as it enables teachers to assign tasks and monitor students’ performance at a single click.
Tejaswini, a Grade VIII student of TMRS Uppal Girls, says OAKS helped students continue their studies seamlessly.
“I think the objectives of ‘Golden Telangana’ were on track when they suddenly got disrupted by COVID-19,” she says. “But OAKS is again helping us achieve the educational objectives of ‘Golden Telangana’. I did not expect this from our school, but it is significant, running on international standards through the OAKS app.”
The back story
Sunitha Infovision’s founder, MPR Vittal, served in the Indian defence services for over 10 years. Being passionate about providing quality education, he started a coaching centre called Sunitha Academy.
“As the academy was located in a semi-urban area, it caused commuting difficulties for teachers and students,” says Matcha. “This led him (Vittal) to enable remote learning, for which he started shooting videos inspired by Singapore and other developed nations.”
After a series of challenges, Vittal established Sunitha Infovision Ltd in 2002, headquartered in Hyderabad, with the objective of serving the educational needs of schoolchildren across the country. Since then, Sunitha Infovision has served 3,500 schools, 1.5 million students, and 35,000 teachers, says Matcha.
With every subsequent year, the organisation ventured into new areas in the edtech space — from preparation for defence services examinations to a digital classroom solution. In 2017, it designed and launched OAKS with a team of more than 120 tech and content developers, who helped create about 12,000 modules of learning in English, Hindi, and Telugu.
“Our content is engaging and interactive,” says Matcha. “Seeing teachers manipulate a virtual object on the screen engaged viewers at two levels: they looked at the teacher and the animation, along with the hand movements. Another tactic was the introduction of gamification, using badges and point-scoring to motivate students and sustain their interest.”
OAKS is present in many schools of south India and West Asia, including Manipal International Schools, Baldwin Group of Institutions, GEMS International Schools, Kennedy Group of Schools, St Peter's Public School, St Anthony Public School, and International Indian Schools, Saudi Arabi.
The road ahead
Matcha says blended learning is the only way to impart 21st-century skills to children, with the pandemic forcing all teachers and schools to use technology tools in the teaching-learning process.
In this situation, he says OAKS’ goal is to become a strong edtech company that helps schools transform for the 21st century.
“We have aggressive plans to expand from south India to pan-India,” he says. “Also, we want to extend our Middle East (West Asia) presence to Southeast Asia. We wish to serve 10 million students by 2024.”
Edited by Lena Saha