Mohammed Zeeshan, CEO and Co-Founder, MyCaptain,

Mohammed Zeeshan is the CEO and Co-Founder of MyCaptain, an online mentoring platform. His vision has always been to impact Education and bring a societal mindset shift when it comes to Careers in India and all across the World, and MyCaptain is a step towards this. He comes from a B.Tech Mechanical Engineering background and has a keen interest in Policy, Education, and Impact. 

In 2017-18, UNESCO invited him to Bangkok to help design the Education Policy for girls in STEM fields. Under UCLA Berkley’s Program, Zeeshan was also invited to Jordan to facilitate Entrepreneurship Development amongst young students. Zeeshan is a GSEP scholar and a 4 times TEDx speaker and has delivered guest lectures at esteemed Colleges like IIM Bangalore, Symbiosis Pune, amongst others.

We as a generation witnessed the education system being overhauled out of the brick and mortar classrooms into the online world. While the transition of education to online platforms was an ongoing process, this switch was more sudden recently than anyone could have anticipated. 

The formal era of Online Learning started with the advent of MOOCs – Massive Open Online Classes. These Online Courses are a set of recorded videos of Professors and Educators from different Universities and backgrounds across the World. Needless to say, now everyone and anyone, irrespective of their financial background or geography could access classes of say for example Professor Andrew NG, a Machine Learning professor who taught at MIT for the longest time. Exciting right? People keeping an eye on EdTech at the time stated that MOOCs would change everything and were too revolutionary to be neglected. Fast forward to 2020, let’s dissect what impact MOOCs have created in Education – at least in India. As per stats, it is recorded that only 5-10% of the students signing up for an Online course / MOOC, actually complete the MOOC. These courses, while supposedly they have a lot of subject matter, are monotonous, uninteresting and very theoretical. As Education experts would say: Learning and learning outcomes eventually boil down to the motivation of the learner, and motivation could be molded via support ecosystems.  Because there is no supporting ecosystem to prod the extrinsic motivation of a student, the completion rates and hence educational outcomes are at an all-time low. 

Let’s take a few steps back though. Why wouldn’t it work? The course material is designed by MIT, Harvard, Cornwell University Professors, and delivered by them and their students. This generation is the Instagram generation. We spend hours on Instagram stories every day, and our attention spans are short and unguided. We want to be delighted every other minute. The problems that the brick and mortar classroom faced in terms of being monotonous with one way communication, exist and are exacerbated further by the format of recorded Online Courses that were coined as a “revolution”. Most of these courses don’t focus on a tangible outcome (except for a Certificate)  based on practical real-world implementation for the students that could push them further in the field. Unfortunately, all these Courses did was provide information banks for most students, and they stopped there. 

So how do we solve it? Technology is not the end – rather a means to revolutionize Education and learning (and learning outcomes)  in the World. Online Courses have gotten some things right: Accessibility and affordability. How do we increase motivation, completion rates, and overall Educational outcomes though? With my 7 years of building and scaling MyCaptain, interacting with hundreds of Educators and Stakeholders in the industry, the answer is not that much of a blur: Live and guided learning, and a supportive community and ecosystem to further strengthen the system. Remember that Introvert student in a classroom who would never ask a question, or answer any because of a sense of shame? Technology can break barriers between Teachers and Students like never before, allowing all types of learners to be motivated, guided, and produce real-time outcomes. 

The COVID affect : 

At MyCaptain, we have had Live Classes for the past 4 years now, and our completion rates and outcomes have been at industry leading numbers. COVID and the quarantine have pushed everyone back into their corners, and as they say, has proven to be for EdTech, what demonetization was for Online payment wallets. Live Classes are at a surge, right from schools and Colleges, to EdTech giants like BYJUs, Toppr, etc. also venturing into the same. The Indian market has started to accept Online Learning as a legitimate means, which was not as much before. At MyCaptain our programs are focused primarily towards the age group of 17-24, but we have recently noticed people above 40 happily signing up for the programs and not even minding a younger professional mentoring them. Live Learning brings a sense of proactivity and some extrinsic motivation to learn new and more things. This would not be the case though if the Teachers teaching Live are not rockstars: Primarily because students seek excitement in learning, and a non-communicative teacher would just flounder any progress in that. Also, this proactivity does not have to be restricted to Live Learning, but also building and creating, to galvanize whatever has been learned already. There also needs to be enough community support to push even the least motivated students forward.  

The way forward

Irrespective of our advocacy for Online Learning, or our disdain for anything but physical classrooms, what can’t be neglected is: Online learning is a serious reality now. And it is not expected to disappear anytime soon. For the same, as Educators, Education enthusiasts, and stakeholders in this segment, there are some things we need to work on and encourage others to work on as well. 

One of the first things to be done is to bring our teachers and educators up to date with technology. While I know the duty of this task lies in the fact that change is not easily accepted especially when something as established as the teaching methodology faces it. We also need to train our teachers and educators to use this technology in the best way possible and make learning a memorable experience for the students. A great example of where this happened is Shyam Vengalloor’s social science classes in Kerala. She used augmented reality in her classes, turning it into something that hit the headlines of almost every major newspaper in the country.

Very importantly, with the absence of physical classrooms and immediate social recognition for students to be able to motivate themselves, We as educators and curriculum designers need to make sure that we employ, create and nurture tools that focus on social recognition in Online Learning, and build motivating touchpoints in the learning process. This can be done via gamification and making Online learning more and more focused on tangible outcomes. 

For Colleges and Schools that are moving or have already moved into Online learning systems and methodologies, I would suggest that even after the torment of COVID passes by, we should move into a hybrid – Online and Offline learning system that would not only help us track the progress of the learning outcomes we want to create but also build a beautiful and supportive community and ecosystem for all types of learners. 

This goes for both Edtech companies focusing on online courses, and Schools and Colleges moving into Online Classes. So now it is time for educators to revolutionize their teaching methods and be open to feedback and learning.  In the field of online learning, there is not much scope to teach well if we are not willing to learn the ways of the current times. 

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