ERP Insights >> Magazine  >> July - 2015 issue

Next Education: Experience the Next Revolution in Education

Author : Pankaj Kundwani
Friday, July 24, 2015

Pankaj Kundwani

Let's travel through the time on the roller coaster of imagination! It is the year 2025, a decade further on from now. A 15 year old girl Twinkle, dreams in her sleep of becoming an astronaut and exploring the extravagance of the infinite space. As she wakes up, she begins interacting with her phablet, an advanced device having artificial intelligence, cognitive analytics, gesture control, motion sensing capabilities, speech recognition and other next-gen features. Though it's a Sunday, Twinkle is energized to attend her school through her device that creates for her a personalized learning plan comprising of digital content, activity based learning assignments and give her access to interact and learn from scholars and academicians around the globe. Connected on the Cloud, the teacher monitors her activities through her own device and keeps an eye on her performance, scores, activities, and provides timely guidance.

What a wonderful day will that be, when children will take pleasure in their studies. Albert Einstein had once aptly mentioned,"I never teach my pupil, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn." Truly, the present day generation makes it necessary to go beyond conventional teaching methodologies, and adopt a more inclusive, practical learning experience so that they not only learn theories, but also experience, experiment, and innovate. With the same philosophy came into existence, Next Education, a fast-growing, technology-driven company revolutionizing the education system in India.

Founded in 2007, Next Education has created groundbreaking products that are transforming the lives of more than 7 million students studying in over 7,000 schools. Started by a fantastic four team - Beas Dev Ralhan (CEO), Raveendranath Kamath, KedarChowdhary and Deependra Bharatari, the company has been immensely successful in breaking the barriers of technology adoption in education, and is fast emerging to be a leader in the education domain in India.

Breaking Barriers
The Internet penetration in India was witnessing a boom in 2007, when Beas and his team decided to discover the early mover advantage, and started creating localized content for different education boards in India from K-12. It soon launched its self learning platform on the Internet. Beas says,"The K-12 segment was largely untapped as the existing players in the market were offering generalized content for all boards whether it was CBSE, ICSE or State boards. The audio visual content offered by these players and even some of the well-known brands like Oxford could be used as fillers while teaching, but were not aligned to the curriculum of Indian education boards. We decided to go beyond 'one size fits all approach' and started creating localized content for all these boards."

However, the strategy did not go quite well as the Internet adoption in India did not show a mammoth rise in the years ahead. The company thus adopted an offline strategy to sell DVDs containing customized audio-visual course material for different boards. Beas reveals, "Thinking on our next course of action, we observed that in India, many academic institutions were untouched of the idea of digital, only because of a single determinant factor of affordability. Banking on our belief that technology could change the face of Indian education, we were ready to take risk, innovate and break the affordability barriers. We decided to explore the area of digital classroom and came up with TeachNext, a top class product at an extremely affordable price point."

In 2011, when creating a digital classroom would roughly cost a school an amount of $20000, Next Education changed the paradigm and offered the same at an eye popping price of $3500."We were going to schools to demonstrate and explain how digital was the best way forward. Though they were open to the idea of digital, money was a major constraint. So we offered to invest money in those schools and decided to recover the same in a period of five years. This made us to be prompt in our services because we had to ensure their satisfaction for a very long period. We offered them a facility to try us, and we remained committed to our purpose and our promise," adds Beas.

This strategy worked miracles, and the rest is history. Next Education was successful in a massive roll out of its digital classroom solution in over 3500 schools just within two years. After this success, there was no looking back. The company developed innovative products to make teaching easy, engaging and effective. Its flagship products like TeachNext, LearnNext, MathsLab, ScienceLab and EnglishLab have been widely used in thousands of schools across the country, primarily mapped to cover CBSE, ICSE and 23 state boards in eight major Indian languages.

Unlocking New Potential through Integration
To deliver effective academics in modern times, a school must have an integrated solution that solves an entire puzzle rather than fixing bits and pieces. This is where, Next Education sees itselfpowering academic institutions by integrating products like Labs, NextERP, Teacher Training, Books, and others to deliver an all encompassing school management and knowledge sharing experience. Going forward to the next big trend in education where devices will rule, and time and location constrictions will not exist, Next Education is making great strides to unlock functionalities like never before.Its recent launch of a free mobile app named 'LearnNext' is a testimony of its innovations, where students can find a complete Wikipedia of K-12 concepts. Simultaneously, the company is pushing its solutions through the cloud to make them more affordable and interconnected.

NextERP, More than a School Management Software
Smooth functioning of school has always been a concern in delivering superior academics. From preparing reports for management decision making; to automating manual activities such as creating time tables, preparing report cards, collecting fees, handling admissions and others; to enabling teachers to complete syllabus on time, maintain student records, communicating assignments to students and be more involved in class projects through online collaboration, the list of functions in academic institutions is endless. NextERP comes as a solution to address all these needs collectively.

The end to end school management ERP takes care of all academic and operational aspects of managing a school so that all stakeholders can focus on creating a perfect environment for the students. All a school needs is an Internet connection to get started, without needing heavy investments on costly hardware. Thus, the system effectively integrates, interrelates and streamlines the tasks across departments and ensures transparency, accountability and increases productivity. For a school management, all crucial reports come handy, while parents too can have a track of their children's progress with NextERP's 360? student reports.

Enlightening further on this, Beas says, "ERP is not going to remain a typical organization management software. It will transform into a whole academic learning platform, where apart from managing functions, it will also analyze a child's learning curve, his challenges, and suggest appropriate tools for learning and improvement. Schools must select ERP from vendors who understand the nuances of education and specialize in converging different styles of learning to truly facilitate rich knowledge sharing."

Next Education has also published an award-winning series of curriculum books for KG to 5. It brings the best in physical books (pedagogy, thematic learning, text selection, artwork, paper quality) and merges the same with best practices followed today - catering to multiple intelligences and learning styles, digital integration, teacher training, and hands-on learning. The whole rollout of this, or any other curriculum, can be integrated with the NextERP academic platform.

Not to Judge a Book by Its Cover
While choosing a digital education partner, school administrators and decision makers often make a very short term decision guided by money, as quality of complete product cannot be investigated before selecting it. The vendor demonstrates limited period of good content and offers the product at a very low price. This is where many schools get trapped. Next Education on the other hand, gives schools the freedom to evaluate the product over a long period of time and analyze the associated benefits.

Adding on, Beas mentions that customer support/service has always been an ignored value in India. Opposed to this, Next Education has established a very responsive customer support to fanatically address customers concerns. This is what he believes to be the reason why Next Education has been able to create a stir in the education sector in India, where many others stumbled upon. "Our customers have an opportunity to see and understand the book and then judge its worth," adds Beas with a smile.

Keeping a Watch on the Change to Come
The Hyderabad based Next Education houses a strong team of about 2000 fervent individuals including academic managers, subject matter specialists, instructional designers, programmers, multimedia professionals, project managers, teacher trainers, and many other specialist roles. The team has been single mindedly working towards a vision to touch the lives of over 25 percent kids in India with the wand of digital over the next decade. Beas proudly expresses, "We take great pride in our team of dedicated and talented individuals. In fact, the experience, expertise and enthusiasm of our experts in academia and technology are the driving force behind our success."

Throwing light on his leadership style, he further explains,"My philosophy as the CEO is to minimize risk, keep a watch on what can destroy our company tomorrow and identify what change in the strategy or approach will help us survive. For instance, first we recognized the risk that digital content was not aligned to school text books, we rectified it. Now we see a need to go beyond audio-visual content to activity or assessment based learning, and we are exploring possibilities to do it. Keeping an eye on the change that is coming, makes us do disruptive innovations."

What Next!
With government's digital India initiative, Next Education is confident to see an increased access to education in the country, extensively based on the development of faster communication facilities such as National Optical Fiber Network and widespread adoption of Internet enabled devices. The company endeavors to minimize the cost of its solutions to fuel wider adoption of digital education solutions and be a part of the next revolution in education. It also envisions exploring online quizzes, live streaming of lectures and bringing integrated solutions on the table in days ahead.