88Guru: Prioritising Learning Outcomes At Affordable Prices
Qualified educators, ongoing assessments and adaptive worksheets make 88Guru stand out among other online tutoring platforms. Founder, Vinod Gupta and Anil Ahuja speak with BW Businessworld in an exclusive interaction on the importance of security and prioritising learning outcomes in K12 education with 88Guru
88Guru is the offshoot of 88 Tuition that came about during a discussion on the role of education and the impact high-quality education has had on the personal and professional growth of the founders of the platform. Based out of Singapore, this brainchild of Vinod Gupta and Anil Ahuja aims to make the opportunity for the same high-quality education available to every child irrespective of their economic and social background.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind 88Guru?
K12 education was a new area for us. However, this came as a big advantage because while we did not know much about this space, we had the best technology available. We were inspired by the pedagogy in Singapore and we learnt as much as we could to build a programme that focused on delivering strong learning outcomes.
The price point also makes our service affordable for everyone. This same ethos has been brought into introducing 88Guru in India.
The number 88 in the name ‘88Guru’ is also a strong number that represents prosperity, fortune and good luck in nearly every culture. ‘8’ is also the symbol of infinity flipped, we wanted to bring the same symbol into our work. It is also very easy for people to remember.
Do you have any plans to move beyond the online platform?
While we have started online, we want to create the option for our tutors to use the programme in a hybrid model. Rather than the company using or implementing a hybrid model, we allow other providers to use our materials to effectively create a hybrid learning environment based on their location, student needs and tutor’s resources. This way they also have the opportunity to create a franchise operation and build their own business based on 88Guru.
What is your teaching format and who designs the courses?
The teaching format is through recorded lectures at designated studios in India.
Initially, we started with Classes V to VIII with all subjects, namely Science, Social Science, English, Maths and Hindi. Within the next year, we plan to launch till Class XII.
We have employed some of the best educators from schools around India, such as DPS and GD Goenka, who work full-time with the platform. They are well trained and have more than 15 years of experience in the classroom and we trust their expertise on the matter.
How do you effectively assess the learning outcomes of students?
Our learning programme is a three-step process. We first have teaching videos, followed by an assessment and then a review. Unlike a normal class where students have regular lectures and assessments every few months, here we will know within the first week how much the student has retained from the classes. This prevents students from falling behind in their studies. Furthermore, since the videos are recorded, students can go back and replay the lectures at their own pace.
Our programme has two elements, there is the learning section and the practice section. In the practice section is about ‘Adaptive Worksheets’. Here, students can declare their own difficulty level and the system will generate a worksheet for students to practice on. There are also auto markers, so the system will generate the right answer and provide solutions for the student to learn from.
What are the unique challenges of running an online learning platform in the K12 segment?
The decision-making and usage process of 88Guru is through the family and not the student themselves. It is actually the parent’s decision to bring the child to the tuition or to bend the tuition to the child. Subsequently, while the platform is for the child to use, the parent is there to monitor or supervise the child, ensuring they are participating in the programmes.
We also engage regularly with parents, taking their feedback and listening to their concerns. We do not engage with the students directly, nor do we currently allow peer-to-peer interaction as the safety of children online is of the utmost importance. Since there is no way to gauge who is sitting behind the monitor, we have created a very straightforward programme where the company deals with only one child (or rather parent) and children do not deal with each other.
Even the best managed systems have been hacked and the last thing we want to do is to have too much data or too much information about children on our system, which potentially exposes us and the child to you know unacceptable or unfortunate situations. Therefore, we do not require students to share too much personal data. A phone number and OTP (one time password) is required to sign up, other than that usernames are provided to maintain confidentiality.
Screen time is also a concern for many parents. While excessive screen time is a problem, we do not think there is anything that can be done to completely prevent this. The question, therefore, is how the child spends their screen time and what they watch. That’s the choice parents and guardians have to make for their children.
Peer learning is also an important part of education, how do balance this with security?
Trying and balance the safety and security of the child versus the social interaction is a big concern. We have conducted live classes in Singapore and we found conversations taking place between students sometimes start to border on stuff that is not relevant to our platform.
Although there is a clear advantage to students interacting with each other, as an organisation we believe the risk is greater than the reward for the time being. We are taking baby steps right now. Only when we feel comfortable with the technology and have a system where we can properly monitor interactions and verify identities, will we consider peer-to-peer interactions.
Standing out among other edtech players.
There is a big difference between an experienced teacher and someone who is following a script. Our qualified, experienced teachers make us stand out. Our price point is our second strength, we are very reasonably priced and affordable for everyone. Furthermore, we allow monthly subscriptions so students can join as per their needs. We also continuously engage with parents and are open to their concerns and suggestions, not leaving the office till every customer request of the day has been addressed.
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