The lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic has got many universities and institutions to realise the importance of the digital and many are now leveraging platforms like Zoom, WebEx, Teams to take classes. But, most of these platforms were built for corporate and not so much for classrooms.
Nitish Jain, President, S P Jain School of Global Management, says that "An education technology software should be able to accommodate 50-60 people and facilitate engagement amongst them all". He says these other software don't offer that immersive experience that is a crux of engaged learning.
To overcome this problem, S P Jain developed its own technology platform called Engaged Learning Online (ELO). It took them 18 months to develop the platform and they launched it in April 2019. While it was built to enable the working professionals attend classes remotely, it didn't get much traction. Students would still prefer to visit the campus and attend physical classes.
But since the lockdown, ELO has become a game changer. The institute has seamlessly moved classes online without any degradation of quality, claim Jain.
To access ELO, professors have to go to the Studio (that has 18 television screen where students come live) to give lectures. The difference, explains Jain, is it offers students a virtual but real-time classroom experience. Since the studio is set up with a robotic tracking camera, professor can stand, move around and maintain eye contact with students as they do in a class. The Professor can also have one-on-one conversations with a student or speak to the entire class.
"The professor gets their energy from the classroom, by speaking to students, asking them questions. All of this gets lost on a small screen where you can't see the students. In ELO, each student is live, real size (on a television screen) that helps maintain engagement in the class," says Jain. What is easy is real-time polling and group activities that can be done much faster. It also has an alertness meter where you can actually check how alert the student is through the eye movement. He adds, that the only similar digital classroom platforms are Harvard's HBX and Oxford's HIVE.
Now due to the lockdown all their 2,000-3,000 students from 20 countries are using this technology and the institute is testing the software at a scale.
Currently, SP Jain has a studio in each of its campus in India, Dubai, Sydney and Singapore. "Due to the sudden increase in demand, we are now building four more studios in these campuses," says Jain. They have also identified few more cities where SP Jain doesn't have a campus to cater to the high demand.
As a part of its long term strategy, they'll offer it to other institutions as well. "As we test ELO on scale, in the next six to eight months, we would be able to offer it to others," he says.
"Everything is moving online. Even during this situation of the virus, anything online has not suffered at all. Whoever has the highest or the best technology, they become the leaders. That is the future," he adds.