An IIT Kanpur Graduate and a Harvard Business School alumnus, Pankaj Agarwal is the Founder & CEO at TagHive, a 3-year-old Samsung funded EdTech venture with operations in South Korea and India. Hailing from a small town in India, Pankaj strongly believes that education is the biggest equaliser in life and that technology can tremendously improve the quality of education. With these beliefs, Pankaj has been building TagHive, which now has gone to double digits in the number of employees. In an interaction with Higher Education Digest, Pankaj talks about the importance of educational technologies, the future of EdTech, opportunities for TagHive in India, and many more.
What are the most significant changes you have seen in educational technology in the recent past?
Over the previous decade, our dependence on technology has increased multifold, even in our routine lives. The flourishing startup ecosystem makes AI-led technology the new normal, and the consumption of mobile application for figuring out even the daily needs is possible. It was evident for this wave of technological advancement to redefine the Indian education space as well. Integration of online learning and assessment tools have been incorporated in the leading metropolitan schools and the established private schools of mini-metros for quite some time now. The transformation was further cemented due to the ongoing pandemic where even the out and out traditional school formats, whether private or public resorted to technology to facilitate education and continue the learning – teaching momentum. The recently approved New Education Policy has further paved inroads for ed-tech in India.
Over the years, we have witnessed the evolution of technology in education space with some significant shifts. Initially, the focus was concentrated on the tangible tools or the technological hardware, we are now experiencing corporates and government shifting focus to software solutions delivering a seamless and efficient product experience. What started off as an adaptive methodology of education is now transitioning to be more customised keeping in mind individual and group preferences and requirements. We are also observing a shift in learning tools, earlier created interfaces were more Teacher led. Now more and more self-learning and assessment tools are being introduced. The method of Flipped Learning to increase real-time learning activity is also proving to be a popular teaching strategy in the current time.
What works well in educational technology? What can be improved upon?
Technology allows exploring diverse pedagogies. It is also observed that the engagement quotient is higher via ed-tech due to the quick access to information, supplementation of digitised information in innovative formats, simplification of time-consuming tasks, flipped learning methods and more. The room for experimentation is higher through ed-tech, thus making learning more fun and informative for the already digitally inclined Gen Z. Education Technology also encourages more inclusivity and participation, even from students who are generally not that forthcoming in a traditional classroom format. The online education platforms enable the educators to take regular feedback from students on assignments and their understanding of subjects in real-time as well as progress and feedback mapping help foster an interactive and productive engagement and learning.
While the pros outweigh the cons in educational technology factors like disconnection of social exchanges, cheating on assignments, individual customisation of the platform still needs to be worked upon to derive at an optimum solution. Also, there is a huge digital divide between urban and rural India. Apart from economical and easily accessible bandwidth, even the set-up cost of the hardware is a challenge that needs to be collectively worked upon by the government authorities, educational institutes and the technology providers.
What would you like to see educators do differently when it comes to technology?
The one thing that educators need to focus on is to train the teaching faculty in terms of technology. Today’s teachers need to be updated with the latest tech platforms which could help them teach seamlessly. Instead of using technology (say making a classroom by merely installing a projector and smart boards) blindly, they should question its efficacy and in fact suggest technologies that can solve their pain points.
What are some of the most innovative technologies in Ed-Tech right now? What are the key trends of Digital Classrooms to follow in 2020-21?
While everyone is talking about online learning these days, we urge schools to use this time to ponder on ways they can make their classrooms smart. COVID-19 is going to go away, but schools and classrooms will all outlive us, for sure. I believe disruption in ed-tech needs to be around AI-based personalised learning solutions that could simplify the lives of the students as well as teachers. EdTech companies must focus on smart solutions that help connect all the stakeholders of the ecosystem affordably and effectively.
Post-COVID-19, what are the opportunities Taghive Inc India sees in the Indian education market?
One of the biggest opportunities that we see for ourselves is disrupting the ‘Tutoring market’. We are focusing on our TagHive at-home learning solutions, which will deliver customised learning solutions based on Artificial Intelligence. Secondly, we are also creating solutions that would connect teachers directly with students. It would be an ideal combination of offline and online technologies that would offer in-class and at-home learning solutions for students.
What would be the future of the Ed-Tech market from now? What is some advice that you have for startups that are emerging in the Ed-Tech space?
COVID-19 has changed the way the world will conduct its day-to-day business activities. While some sectors have been severely affected and would continue to get affected in the near future, EdTech as a sector would be one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Parents would look at allocating some of their spends towards ed-tech to ensure that their kids get the best-in-class learning solutions from the comfort of their homes. As an ecosystem, we have not even scratched the surface when it comes to innovation and growth. I believe a lot of entrepreneurs would be entering this already exciting space, leading to more investments and job creation in this sector.
What is your advice to the educational institutions that are looking for a technology partner?
The National Education Policy, 2020 recognises the importance of integrating technology with education to make it more relevant for our 21st-century learners and in fact has an entire section in the policy detailing the research, development, and integration plans. The policy will introduce an ICT integrated pedagogy for learners from Classes 6 – 12 and aims to use tech innovations to improve teaching-learning, evaluations, and tracking student progress, among other things. So, there is no escaping the adoption of technology in a classroom. But having said that, educational institutions need to assess their needs and review their ability to introduce and sustain a new technology in their existing routine. It will be ideal for institutions to identify their bottlenecks and then look for partners who can solve this with technology. Training of all stakeholders, continuous monitoring and evaluation of the impact is imperative for success. Technology will be effective only if it seamlessly fits in with the institution’s current practices and makes life simpler for all stakeholders.
More About Pankaj Agarwal
Before helming TagHive, Pankaj was a Creative Leader at Samsung Electronics in South Korea, where he also served as the advisor to the CTO. Apart from his academic lineage from IIT and Harvard, Pankaj Agarwal has completed his Masters from Seoul National University. He is also an inventor of over 50 international patents and is one of the 10 winners of TR35 India, 2017. He is the Founder and Chairman of the IIT Alumni Association of South Korea and serves as a Governor on the board of the Indian Chamber of Commerce in South Korea.