Suman Matcha, Chief Executive Officer, Online Adaptive Knowledge System (OAKS)

The vision of Suman Matcha, CEO of Online Adaptive Knowledge System (OAKS), is to provide a quality education through advanced teaching aids enabled by technology to students worldwide. After spending a considerable time learning about new-age education tools by visiting companies across India and Singapore, he wanted to make a difference in the learning experience for students in India. A graduate from the University of West Virginia, Suman pursued his Masters in Pervasive Computing. While working with “Expeditors”, he found his true calling in education and returned to India to help make education better for young minds. In a conversation with Higher Education Digest, Suman talks about the impact of COVID-19 on the Indian education sector, benefits for educational institutions from digital transformation, digital transformation trends to follow in 2021 and much more. 

If there was no lockdown due to pandemic, what would have been the situation of digital transformation in the Indian education sector? How has COVID-19 accelerated its growth?

India has been heading towards a better place on a global pedestal by digitalisation. In the process, digitising education plays a crucial role in upgrading the nation’s stature, which remains an inevitable matter of fact. In the year 2020, when the pandemic hit a wave across the globe, eventually every happening has ceased at a point.  With an idea to not let the situation show its adverse effects on students’ learning process, which would have drastic consequences, every academic organisation in India has enforced the online/digital learning atmosphere. 

COVID 19 have helped digital learning to leap forward by 3-4 years statistically. It has crossed a series of multipliers in a very short span.  The areas brushed upon to drive this growth include improving the calibre of teacher, online adaptive education services, upgradation in the byte-sized video content of complicated topics.

What are the benefits for educational institutions from digital transformation?

Digital transformation helps in transforming the institution from a teacher-centric approach to student-centric approach. It is the only means to implement blended learning/flip classroom, which helps impart 21st-century skills to students. 

Self-Paced Learning: With blended learning, the learner can plan their learning according to their time schedule, which provides them with a lot more flexibility compared to a F2F classroom environment 

Increased Student Engagement: Blended learning can be empowered by digital platforms which leverage ML to identify “areas of improvement” and maintain “leader boards” for students, which would allow teachers to identify specific areas of learning for students, leading to a more personal learning experience 

Digital Resources for Blended Learning: Lesson planning backed with byte-sized digital resources and assignments. Digital educational resources mapped to the curriculum to be used by teachers and students.

 Customised learning:  With the help of analytics, teachers can identify the strengths and weaknesses of each student and can make instructional decisions for differentiated learning of students with different learning curves.

 What is the most important factor that leads education institutions to successful transformations?

Availability of affordable technology devices (gadgets) and connectivity(internet) has turned out to be the helping hand to students in this digital transformation era. This existing option is now a boon for students who can access the widespread learning just at the click of the finger.  

Past COVID, as teachers will be digitally equipped, adapting to newer digital solutions is a cakewalk. Empowerment of prime teachers acquainting them to online education systems is an X factor in enhancing education strategies.  Good teachers pave the path for the flying colours of students by giving undistributed focus to the students. Policy changes like NEP 2020 state that key overall thrust of curriculum and pedagogy reform all stages to move the education system towards a real understanding of any learning. To unlearn rote learning as it is largely present today. Spotlighting on imparting 21st-century skills, as 65% of children entering primary school would end up working in altogether new job frames that would mushroom in the near future. Critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving top the list of skills that employers believe will grow to prominence in the coming 5 – 10 years.

Why should education institutions consider OAKS as a partner in their digital transformation journey?

OAKS (Online Adaptive Knowledge System) is a tool for teachers, practice and learning tool for students. OAKS looks forth to empower teachers and assist them through the walk of the digital transformation. At the comfort of their own space, the teachers would be able to teach, assess the abilities and finetune students in the areas of highest potential by keeping track of students’ performance data and a lot more.

The app makes it effortless for teachers to explain the most complicated topics of the academics. The byte-sized videos available are beneficial to the students considering the child’s attention span by making the topic consumable by the students within that brief period.

Using OAKS practices /analytics, teachers can make instructional decisions for differentiated learning of students with different learning curves. OAKS immediate feedback and scores are helpful in the blended learning environment because it saves time for teachers.

Based on suggestions of OAKS, they can design/assign learning objects for the extension of learning for the students with multiple aptitudes. Teachers can assess and provide actionable feedback. With the help of continuous practices in OAKS, teachers have unlimited access to assist students through the entire process giving them feedback along the way. They have a flexible environment that allows them to make changes as needed.

What inspired you to start an Online Adaptive Learning System? 

The accessibility and affordability to quality education have significant barriers to unlock the Children’s potential. India’s existing K12 ecosystem is not effective, and it needs to be disrupted. Parents and students started relying on supplementary resources to bridge gaps of academics from the classroom. Teacher shortages, poor teacher training, and disparities in teacher-student ratios across geographies, disparities in access to quality education due to varying costs of education, and absence of pedagogy. 25% of students experimented cannot read basic text fluently in any language, including their own. 47% cannot read the basic text in the English language and an equal number of children struggle with foundation issues. Students cannot really solve basic divisions.

Summarising,

  • Lack of personal attention and poor teaching pedagogy 
  • Value relative to the cost of the education 
  • Lack of standards 

EdTech can provide personalised learning paths and instant feedback on student performance besides allowing the flexibility in learning and Standard Content. Adapting the students to Digital education leads to the democratisation of education, bridging gaps in access to quality education and addressing key student pain points. Therefore, we have launched OAKS – Online Adaptive Knowledge System.

What are some of the most innovative developments in Ed-Tech right now? What are the key digital transformation trends to follow in 2021?

The integration of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to the content to make the conceptual learning more interesting and engaging.

Deepened technology – Use of artificial intelligence for insights, predictions & recommendation is the apple of the eye among digital innovations shining the education technology. Few include,

1) ML to assess the subjective questions answered by students. 

2) AI to assess the projects videos submitted by the students. 

3) ML to accurately analyse and customise the learning path and design modules for the students to master the skill sets.

TRENDS:

In 2021, you can see blended learning models being adapted by schools in a big way, as they are set to reopen in this year after the pandemic. 

You can see a shift towards online coaching for competitive exams to continue. 

A surge in education budget 2021 for digital transformation to comprehend the new education policy introduced in 2020. 

What are the exciting things can we expect from OAKS in the next 5 years?

As NEP 2020 focuses on vocational courses along with academics, to make the students harness their potentials, multidimensional skill set can now be acquired by the student with regards to their interests and skills required. NEP emphasises experiential learning for students with the help of internships being introduced from grades 6 – 12. 

OAKS offers various courses (academic + vocational) customised for every individual as per their interests and levels of understanding. OAKS is a one-stop-shop for students to gain mastery over the skill sets which meet their academic standards. In our roadmap we would be working closely with industry for designing the vocational courses alongside a platform for the students to apply for the internships offered by the industry based on OAKS courses, to bridge the gap between the human resources and the shortage of skilled employees. OAKS aims to eradicate unemployment by priming human resources, making them industry-ready.

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