E-learning has changed the dynamics of learning and has come to the rescue of many learners. The number of students enrolling for e-learning has multiplied and so has the need to hire more people who could work in this sector. However, despite the opportunities it offers, there are still only a few takers for choosing a career in e-learning.

NexConnect Ventures, Kolkata based startups aims to use technology effectively to solve educational problems in rural societies. We spoke to one of the Founder Directors, Priyadarshini Dey for better insight into the work that they are doing.

NexConnect Ventures Private Limited, established on February 17, 2017, seeks to be a social business working at the bottom of the pyramid with rural underserved people. NexConnect Ventures was initiated as a research output of Social Informatics Research Group, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta under the mentorship of Prof Somprakash Bandyopadhyay.

According to the same KPMG report, India has witnessed a significant increase in the total internet user population from 2011 to 2016 and it is expected to grow to 735 million users approximately by 2021. The e-learning sector in India is expected to grow to $1.96 billion over the next five years. The industry is booming, and various companies have ventured in this segment to offer affordable and impactful learning to the user. Being a part of the e-learning industry, there is an opportunity for you to change the curriculum, keep it up to date, and help the user make the most during the duration of the training.

Luckily, the advent of edtech sector or e-learning industry is helping address these challenges. The edtech sector is growing with a CAGR of 20 percent at present (or about three-times our GDP growth rate) and is estimated to reach a market size of $1.96 billion by 2021. The paid subscribers in India, which were 1.6 million back in 2016, are projected to become 9.6 million by 2021, which is a six-fold increase.

“Nexconnect Ventures is a social business venture which is incubated in Indian Institute of Management Calcutta Innovation Park (IIMCIP). The venture seeks to address issues of exclusion by empowering communities and connecting them digitally. Our product, NexConnect (www.nexconnect.co.in) is an Online Live teaching -learning platform that connects quality teachers with all kinds of learners from urban, semi-urban and rural areas through interactive on-line LIVE teaching and training sessions using audio-visual region-specific content following Board/Course specific curriculum.” said Priyadarshini Dey, Co-founder, Nexconnect Ventures.

Currently, they provide Live classes in academic English, Mathematics, Science for students aged 6 to 16. They have introduced an informal subject named Grand-parenting which focuses on enhancing holistic development of each child through stories, poems. Quality experienced and retired teachers, Board /Course specific digital content, Personalized mentoring and monitoring, Global connect and Holistic learning are some of the unique selling points of the organization.

Till date, they have expanded in seven districts of Bengal and one district of Jharkhand establishing more than eight study centers (NexConnect Internet Schools) for school and out of school students.

“Development and quick acceptance of this platform among students and parents from all socio-economic backgrounds led us to believe that using and expanding this mode of learning to millions of underserved students in West Bengal, meant that we needed to sustain and scale up our model,” says Arina, co-founder.

The objective of this edutech startup is to provide quality education to all and mainstreaming senior retired teachers using digital technologies. It is a hybrid business model where teachers earn from students in urban areas while providing quality education to students in remote rural areas almost free.

Since its inception, the startup has impacted 850 students (including children and elderly), 30 teachers, and eight villagers-turned-social entrepreneurs. Moreover, it has conducted around 3,500+ hours of online live classes.

“The initial challenge was mostly technological, due to low internet penetration in remote rural areas. This was however overcome due to the Jio movement.  The other important challenge comes from the low quality tuition teachers in remote rural areas who are often misleading students and they sometimes try to sabotage our good work. Rural acceptability takes time as we are introducing technology to those who have never witnessed it in this unique way. However gradually these problems are being addressed, once students see their benefit the interest levels grow well and parents are willing to send their children to our centers.” said Jayanta Basak, Director cum Technology Head.

“We have got excellent responses from the rural artisans’ community whom we taught digital literacy and work place English for six months. Some of the artisans even bought a computer for practicing at home after completing the digital literacy course from teachers at NexConnect. Children too have shown their admiration to the senior online teachers. During the time of Kali puja and Saraswati puja, they invite their online teachers to visit them in their village.” Priyadarshni Dey.

The startup aims to expand learning centres across the country to other developing nations. For the same, it is looking for collaborations.

 

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