“If you look at the type of education that is offered in our schools … the narrative is pretty much the same as when we were in school,” says Yashovardhan Poddar, co-founder of Openhouse, a Bengaluru-based educational technology startup, who wants to change the way people think about learning after school with various clubs and activities.
But Poddar and his co-partner Akshay Rampuria, both Stanford University alumni, need help from neighborhood tutors in their quest to rethink after-school learning and support and promote a culture of deeper learning. beyond what is taught in schools.
“I realized that much of the after-school learning is in the hands of these local neighborhood teachers, and they are actually in a complete black economy,” says Poddar. indianexpress.com in a video interview. “They go door to door or have little training centers, and I felt like that’s not the future of after-school learning.”
Poddar says the ideology behind Openhouse has always been to create a platform where the role of teachers from across the neighborhood will be at the forefront, a model similar to Uber.
The startup, founded in 2018, started with offline training centers, one in Kolkata and one in Bengaluru, but since last year, due to the pandemic, the company changed its model and now classes are taught completely online. Students can use the Openhouse online platform through their mobile application.
How IBM India built an artificial intelligence-based chatbot to help students learn English in rural Bengal
“A lot of these companies are content-driven and are trying to create digital content for kids to consume,” Poddar said, referring to how India’s largest educational technology startups are focused solely on developing electronic content for the consumer. consumption. “I think Tech 1.0 was much more about learning content, and while I think learning content is very interesting, that’s not inherent in how kids like to learn,” he adds.
Poddar, who has a master’s degree in public policy from Stanford University, says he doesn’t believe in the idea of students becoming self-taught by downloading the app and understanding the concepts by watching videos. He, instead, is a big believer in the platform style approach by bringing hundreds of neighborhood teachers to a common platform and training them with the right “digital tools” and the right “learning content” including modern quizzes. and automatic reports. cards.
“Education is a highly trust-based economy,” he says, adding that “the parent already knows a neighborhood teacher, and if there is a more convenient and higher-quality way that teacher can teach the children I think that’s the future of educational technology. “
Openhouse, as Poddar describes, follows the market model popularized by Zomato. There are about 150 teachers on board and Openhouse follows a revenue sharing model. “They have most of the classes, but we take a percentage of the classes for all of these services that we provide, in addition to mobile marketing support,” Poddar explains of their business model.
Born and raised in Kolkata, Poddar is aware that most of the neighborhood teachers are competent in what they do, but lack the technological knowledge and the ability to contribute their subject matter expertise in the form of quizzes or learning games. . That’s where Openhouse’s content and technology team comes in. Classes are conducted using the company’s own video platform and each new teacher who joins Openhouse has to go through a month of training to become familiar with the platform.
“The profile would be the type of teacher that we have already heard about or have already heard from your neighbors,” explains Poddar, adding that 60 percent of the professors who teach academic classes at Openhouse are recommended by students. “If you ask me 10 years later if India wants to be on top of educational technology, it will be behind this currently fragmented tutor economy.”
Openhouse, which teaches academic classes and runs after-school clubs, focuses primarily on urban centers in India. There are more than 2500 students enrolled on the academic side, while around 1000 students come to the Poddar platform just to be part of the clubs. Kolkata and Bengaluru are still the popular Tier 1 cities where Openhouse is popular, but Poddar is now looking to Delhi as the next big market. “We hope that by the end of this year we will partner with 1000 teachers… I think maybe we can touch between 20 and 30,000 students,” he said.
Openhouse follows a subscription-based model, the ideal option to obtain recurring and stable income. Rather than offering semester or annual packages, of which Poddar himself is not a huge fan, he believes that parents often get stuck paying a large amount and then insist that their children continue to attend classes despite In the absence of interest, Openhouse charges a monthly sum (starting from Rs 2,500 depending on age group).
“We always wanted to create an after-school learning platform where students don’t just come for math, not just chemistry, they can come for creative writing classes and public speaking. “I think students in levels 11 and 12 should be able to discuss if there is a war going on between the United States and China, how will it affect India?”
Preliminary Openhouse targets students in classes 6 through 12. Classes, according to Poddar, are held in small groups, with only 10 students per lot. “One of the things that we have observed for online classes is that the default behavior for most children is to turn off the video and be silent, and they are just listening,” he said. Poddar says this learning style is the biggest problem for student motivation and he wanted to solve the problem of online learning by making classes taught at Openhouse more social and interactive.
Poddar emphasizes that the “parent angle” is crucial to the way online classes are conducted. “I often tell our teachers and students that they may like the Internet, but if a parent is not convinced of the effectiveness of an online class, this evolution will not happen in our country.”
Poddar says he doesn’t want Openhouse to be seen as another educational technology platform where students come and learn after they are done with school. “One of our responsibilities is to not only provide classes that are what parents know and want to pay for, but can actually motivate students to think for themselves and plan for the future,” he says. “It is always good to grow up with a good mentor, if Openhouse can be that for them, I think we are doing our job well.”