“The challenge is that the video will only explain how to solve for the 1/4 (solve for x), the 100 (solve for y) or the 25 (solve for z). The pattern is consistent across all the assessment questions, even though the sheer number of questions is impressive,” says Somarajan. He detected an undeniable pattern.
From learning fractions to solving quadratic equations, you can graft this type of pattern onto any relatable background.
Analyzing the dimensions
For instance, a simulated cricket match, where the batsman’s mid-off sixer is used to calculate angles. But underneath all the “fun” stuff is Raveendran’s own “crack-the-question” method of teaching.
“It’s the FIITJEE model of training, but in a digitized, interactive format,” adds Somarajan. FIITJEE is the Forum for Indian Institution of Technology Joint Entrance Examination—a coaching center that preps millions of aspiring engineers every year for the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) entrance exam.
So is Byju’s just test-prep on steroids?
The Ken asked four education experts, including Somarajan, to vet a few Class 8 math and science modules on Byju’s Learning App. A math curriculum expert, an educationist, a principal and a behavioral psychologist evaluated the conceptual learning journeys using a rubric that analyzed:
- Content coverage and mapping (how matched is it to current class 8 syllabus taught in schools)
- Content delivery (how easy is it to learn from the examples shown in videos)
- Engagement with the platform (ease of navigation, the pace of videos, language, interactivity)
- And finally, assessment and feedback (how does the user know how well/poorly they’re doing)
- Three out of the four experts agreed that the videos have clear and effective explanations and that the content is interactive and the assessment questions well-placed.
Observations made by the experts
However, the Mumbai-based maths expert made an extra observation: the app is a useful supplement if you want to learn a procedure—or master a trick—to max an exam. But it reduces the likelihood of remembering why these steps are important. “This kind of teaching comes from 20-30 years ago when we didn’t have the technology to model conceptual learning online,” she adds.
She was also confused by the learning journey structure, which, she says, didn’t lay out clear goals right at the beginning. “If you’re taking me on a journey, it makes sense to tell me where we’re going. The videos jump into explanations, without clearly telling users what they’re going to learn.”
However, where Byju’s platform could be effective is in churning out, algorithmically, question after intelligent question to help students learn through what it calls “unlimited practice”.
“The platform has a method of ongoing assessment with high quality formative and summative questions. The content is engaging and culturally sensitive and the material builds user confidence,” says Hansika Kapoor, the psychologist who was part of the panel.
Raveendran is pretty happy with the traction that Byju’s has received so far. In fact, he’s set his sights on a new type of competitor.
“When it comes to engagement, who do you compare yourself to?”
“Netflix has more viewers,” says Raveendran, with a wry smile.
In the absence of specific edtech indicators, Byju’s has to rely on conventional ones. Time spent on the app is the closest measure of engagement, which, according to Byju’s, is 64 minutes daily, mostly spread over two half-hour sessions. Byju’s also tracks its Net Promoter Score (NPS), an index that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others, which, as of 2016, was at +16. Byju’s NPS, on a scale from -100 to 100, is average.
But comparing Netflix to an edtech solution is like comparing apples to shampoo. Or is it?
In the business of edutainment, say, experts, you’re directly competing with all the other activities the student might be using the phone or tablet for—especially entertainment content. But Raveendran’s real competition is the time a student spends with a book at home during self-study. Time and attention are the real estates that Byju’s wants to capture. But how much can 64 minutes do?