Based out of Pune, Maharashtra, Nishant Agarwal is the founder of Proctur, an organization dedicated to providing technologically backed educational solutions, focusing primarily on mass digitization in education. He is a product enthusiast and has more than 16 years of cross-functional experience leading various technology brands in Asia and Europe. He is also a serial entrepreneur and has been involved with the founding of various startups. In a conversation with Higher Education Digest, Nishant talks about digital transformation in the Indian education sector, his inspiration to start Proctur, digital transformation trends to follow in 2021 and much more.
If there was no lockdown due to the pandemic, what would have been the situation of digital transformation in the Indian education sector? How has COVID-19 accelerated its growth?
This is the most important of all questions and will therefore be answered at length. COVID-19 has, in reality, been a catalyst in the transformation of the Indian education sector. In a pre-pandemic world, the educational framework was functioning like a dilapidated machine with no greasing – all processes were manually administered and managed. There was a limited deployment of creativity in teaching and the learning process was becoming more and more monotonous for the students by the day. More importantly, all the resources were physical and therefore had to be carried around, the brunt of which, was majorly borne by the students. Without the onset of COVID-19, we would have still been living the same lifestyle with no proactive thoughts directed towards process improvements.
However, with the advent of COVID-19, the educational machinery became a well-oiled engine and there was no stopping it in its path to progress. The adoption of technology rapidly rose and significantly optimized the experience of teaching as well as learning. Microsoft Teams and Zoom took centre stage and became the backbone of education during the lockdown. Attendance, assessment, and evaluation of the students became automated, thus reducing a ton of paperwork for the staff. Moreover, all resources got digitised, thereby making its distribution easier, convenient, and less strenuous for the students as well as teachers. Anyone with access to the internet and a laptop (both of which are now so easily available and affordable) can now be educated from any corner of the country, which in our opinion is the greatest sign of the growth of the education sector among all the previous ones listed.
What are the benefits for educational institutions from digital transformation?
Education institutes, having moved to a digital modus operandi, are now able to dedicate the time they have saved to make teaching and learning a more real-world-relevant exercise. With the online distribution of material, teachers can now disburse the study material a day prior to the students for a precursory reading and then engage them in meaningful discussions as well as debates during classroom time – be it physical or virtual. This enables the students to become apprised of multiple perspectives and form an opinion of their own that is balanced and informed. This learning process nurtures students into well-groomed human beings with mutual respect – qualities that are most difficult to imbibe in a pupil. It is what we like to call ‘experiential learning’.
The educational institute also saves a lot of time by automating repetitive processes such as student attendance, project evaluation and assessment. Learning management systems do an excellent job of managing all of these, freeing up a significant amount of time for the administration. Digital transformation is a win-win for both sides during such trying times and even after.
What is the most important factor that leads education institutions to successful transformations?
The answer is actually quite simple and holds true with or without the existence of a pandemic – it is the desire to keep pace and change with the real world & evolving technologies. So far had nobody thought that the education sector needed to leverage technology, and therefore continued running the same age-old framework. As is with every sector or business, without a need, there is no desire to usher in change.
Now that the pandemic has rendered us immobile, institutions have been compelled to think out of the box and come up with solutions to beat the disruption. The only enabler in such a case is technology, which is why the desire to change is itself at the root of a successful transformation. Creative thinking and collaboration can concomitantly follow the desire to successfully execute digital transformations.
Why should education institutions consider Proctur as a partner in their digital transformation journey?
We can give you several reasons why! A great idea is born when empathy, vision and a problem-solving attitude come together – Proctur is that idea. We at Proctur focus on win-win situations that benefit students as well as the staff. We execute transformations that make learning a fun-filled yet fruitful experience and teaching a hassle-free experience. We also offer cost-optimized solutions so that maximum people can reap the benefits of digital transformation in this industry. We are cognizant of the importance of a digital footprint and provide a free website to every organisation we help transform. To top it all, Proctur also offers innovative & top-of-the-line features that can benefit academic as well as non-academic institutions. Proctur is ambitious, creative, and sensitive to your needs – we want to help you grow and we leave no stone unturned while we ensure it happens.
What inspired you to start Proctur?
The first seed of this idea was planted in my head when I saw the trouble my sister was going through during her stint as a faculty member at a coaching institute. She would be carrying a bunch of heavy books, sometimes enough to give her a backache! And then there were these responsibilities she had to fulfil at the same time in her capacity as a member of the staff. There was a lot of manual juggling of tasks that would get exhausting, and it seemed like there was no end to the entire ordeal.
On the other hand, there were also a whole lot of students who did not have access to quality education. And this problem was starkly visible throughout the extents of India. It was at this moment that I knew something needed to be done and if I didn’t start, they would all suffer. Thus, Proctur was born.
What are some of the most innovative developments in Ed-Tech right now? What are the key digital transformation trends to follow in 2021?
Ed-tech is witnessing a massive overhaul at the moment. Let me fascinate you with some of them:
- Use of AI and Big data: institutions are aggregating data in large volumes to tailor the learning experience for the needs of each student. Well-equipped institutions all over the world are even deploying speech-to-text tools for tutoring students virtually. Data analytics is helping them perform assessments and evaluations seamlessly without a hiccup.
- Gamification: This quite a trendsetter as it combines the learning experience with a fun component by using games to teach students. Experts believe it to be one of the best ways to teach students and utilize their sharp minds for better retention.
- Use of AR and VR: When it comes to teaching complicated subjects or concepts, AR and VR come to your rescue. E.g., the dissection of a frog can be taught with AR such that there is no mess and actual cutting involved. Visual aids go a long way in improving the learning and teaching experiences.
- Contactless Attendance: A feature also offered by Proctur, this has been a key aspect of the teachers’ responsibilities. Virtual attendance using digital meeting tools has reduced a headache-causing issue to ashes.
While all the above will carry themselves throughout 2021, here is one interesting trend that will follow as well:
IoT Learning: The traditional blackboards will be replaced by smart boards connected to the internet and a whole lot of devices over a high-speed network connection. Blackboard is one such futuristic technology solution.
What are the exciting things can we expect from Proctur in the next 5 years?
We Aim to be a Super App for the educational ecosystem, catering to their educational and non -educational needs!
In five years from now, Proctur will impact each stakeholder in the education domain – including students, teachers, admins, school principals or the government bodies.
We will provide services that will address the non-educational needs of the students as well. With the help of AI-based Proctoring solutions, Proctur will maintain the integrity of exams in India.
Proctur will provide varied educational experiences to students, like celebrity-led educational courses, career assessments and other useful services from the best in the industry.
On the communication front, Proctur will make it possible for the authorities to interact with the masses, so that the education ministers can do Man ki Baat with the students, teachers, and principals. Proctur will provide huge volumes of quality content in the test prep and exam prep domain.