How Are India’s Biggest EdTech Startups Winning Students? By Treating It Like A Game

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When learning is a stressful process, it hampers motivation and a student’s quality of education. With gamification, personalization and positive messaging, learning is continuous, interactive and highly effective.

Not everyone excels or develops in the classroom for a variety of reasons–but a new generation of edtech startups in India think they’re on to something when it comes to making learning a lot less tedious: gamification, or the integration of gaming-like experiences into lessons.

But let’s look at the challenges faced by students first.

One of the biggest problems in India’s schools is the skewed pupil-to-teacher ratio. India has around 1.5 million schools from levels K-12 (kindergarten to Grade 12), with a student base of 253 million. In an independent study done by the Azim Premji Foundation of 1,887 schools in Karnataka, classrooms with a Pupil-to-Teacher (PTR) ratio between 15 and 20 showed the best learning levels, while performance dropped sharply as PTR increased. Now, PTR at the national level for elementary schools is 24:1, while it’s 27:1 in secondary schools.

The rising pupil-to-teacher ratios often compromises a complete learning experience for students in Indian schools.

Game Design Principles For Easy Learning

Technology-driven learning apps are using gaming elements such as point-scoring and interaction with other “players,” personalization, and data-driven insights to help boost the learning process for students and sharpen their basics in multiple subjects. Edtech startups are personalizing the classroom experience for thousands of Indian students, enabling them to compete with peers in classrooms and eventually, board-level exams.

BYJU’S is one of India’s foremost edutech startups riding on this new gamification wave. Backed by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, Tencent and Sequoia Capital, BYJU’S uses a combination of gamification techniques to keep students engaged on its app. For instance, during a practice test round, when the app asks, “Hey, did you answer that question a little too quickly?” the aim is to get students to think more about how they approach learning. Other scenarios involve the student embarking on an adventurous path to uncover the right answers to questions, or giving students “lifelines” during tests. “Exams are known to make children very anxious. But when the same challenge is presented like a game, user engagement is much higher due to positive reinforcement,” says Ranjit Radhakrishan, chief product officer at BYJU’S.

“When learning is a stressful process, it hampers motivation and a student’s quality of education. With gamification, personalization and positive messaging, learning is continuous, interactive and highly effective,” says Prakash Ramachandran, chief technology officer at BYJU’S.

Following the use of the BYJU’S app, 93% of parents have reported a marked improvement in their children’s grades, according to the company. The platform has 15 million registered users, with 900,000 taking annual paid subscriptions and an 85% renewal rate. The company has reported an average app engagement rate of 53 minutes a day.

BYJU’S has a variety of game design principle-based learning modules on its interactive app that help children learn concepts more effectively. (Photo Credit: BYJU’S)

BYJU’S relies heavily on technology to achieve a high level of user engagement. Ramachandran explains that there are multiple teams of engineers, designers and content creators who execute video creation, scripting, design, UI/UX, technology and product development. In addition, the team conducts concept trials on children in real classrooms before building a game around it.

“This exercise prepares us to handle questions, grasp effective teaching methods and understand where children encounter obstacles while learning,” he says. Based on real-time feedback, learning facilitators map out knowledge graphs and analyze specific parts of chapters that are considered particularly challenging for students. By personalizing a learning module this way, the app adjusts to a student’s adaptability and intuitively guides him to perform better.

Math learning gamified

Cuemath is an interactive learning platform for math. Indian schools and pre-university levels of education put emphasis on students having a strong math foundation. Cuemath Founder and CEO Manan Khurma realized that a lack of understanding in these areas in a child’s formative years often leads to a lifelong “math anxiety.”

“Learning math can be difficult for most kids, mainly because of the traditional ways of teaching the subject, which encourage kids to rote-learn formulae. Our endeavor is to enhance the quality and method of math learning and teaching so the subject is seen as a skill, not a liability.” Cuemath’s multi-format approach to math involves puzzle cards, workbooks, tabs and math boxes.

(Photo by Praful Gangurde/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Gamification turned out to be a huge advantage for Khurma and his team of developers. The startup launched the first ever “Mathematical Universe,” where they developed a set of characters who embark on math-based adventures in stories. This comic book-style medium enables the student to tangibly interact with the infinite possibilities of the mathematical universe. The comic books — Thomas Tallman and Friends for kindergartners to second graders, Zero Squad for third to fifth graders, and Kalina and the Shards of Singularity for sixth to eighth graders — were developed by an in-house team of artists and product designers.

Teachers on the platform, called Teacher Partners, undergo multiple rounds of training before becoming facilitators of the curriculum built by Cuemath.

“While most teachers are used to a traditional form of teaching, the mindset is changing today. Many of our teachers realize students need better guidance to understand concepts, and they are not well-equipped to handle these challenges,” explains Khurma.

The platform currently has 20,000 students. So far, 2,500 have downloaded the Cue Teacher App, while 20,000 have downloaded the Cue Parent App. The startup collects data measuring students’ progress, generating data points on number of worksheets completed by a student in every class, as well as tracking their speed and accuracy while solving mathematical problems. This feedback is also monitored and shared with the parents and the teachers through the app. An inbuilt “adaptive tech” in the Cuemath app helps assess the competency level of every student and then develop a teaching curriculum.

Aside from Cuemath and BYJU’s, gamification is gaining immense popularity among other edutech startups like Toppr and PlayAblo too. Zishaan Hayath, cofounder of Toppr, says, “Gamification has a hugely positive impact on students in India. Not only is it helping them gain confidence in classrooms, it is drastically changing the way Indian education is being perceived. For centuries, Indians have relied on rote learning, but now, gamification is helping students understand subjects better than ever.”

Gamification Revolutionizing Teaching Globally 

Gamification is the buzzword in education today, and not just in India — companies like AltSchool, CK12 and Dreambox are gaining popularity in several schools in the United States. Finland-based learning game platform Seppo is being used by more than 6,000 teachers and thousands of students in more than 10 countries, while Malaysia’s ZapZapMath is seeking to expand in Asian nations such as India, Indonesia and China.

This article was originally published on Forbes India >



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