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Educators interview Jan-Mar-2020 The Next World

Integrated learning – Changing the dimensions of school education system

Devika S
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Reading Time: 6 minutes

During my teaching days, I first heard of the term, ‘Integrated Learning’, which involves project-based learning. Back then, integrated learning meant the integration of subjects and making projects based on the same. We never thought of any SaaS-based platform that could integrate the entire academic and administrative procedures of a school. However, I have now learnt about recent technological interventions in the education sector, which have the potential of changing the dimensions of the school education system.

Today, I have with me Mr Sameer Bora and Mr Saurabh Arora from Next Education. Sameer is the company’s EVP and Saurabh is the Product Manager. They are super-skilled tech-guys and are working their best to transform the education scenario in India by tailoring technology with education. Today, both of them will tell us what the actual meaning of integrated learning is and what its prospects are.

Sameer, when we talk about integrated learning, academic stakeholders understand just the integration of subjects. Is integrated learning merely connecting subjects across the curricula or more than that?

Sameer: Integrated learning encompasses all aspects of a student’s presence in the school, and how it impacts learning outcomes. It is not just the integration of different subjects. It also includes classroom performance, assessments, attendance, home study and other aspects. A teacher must understand all these components to truly build an integrated learning plan for students. For example, if a student misses two classes, their home study plan must differ from a student who has attended all the classes.

Saurabh, what’s your take?

Saurabh: From a content perspective, integrated learning means understanding the concepts using real-world examples. In terms of performance analysis, it also takes into account various factors (besides academics) that may impact a student’s performance, such as commute time, health issues and attendance.

Hence, integrated learning is about integrating several dimensions with learning.

Moving forward, if a school wants to provide personalised student learning, how can they achieve it? What is the solution that will aid them in this endeavour?

Sameer: If a school aims to reach great heights in terms of providing all the academic stakeholders with a great experience, it is important to incorporate both the academic and administrative processes. In a present-day school setup, integrating the academic and administrative needs on a single platform becomes a Herculean task. In the absence of an online integrated platform, administrators, teachers, students and parents face numerous challenges. 

For administrators, streamlining the operations of a school and coordinating with various departments become taxing both physically and mentally. Data is mostly not in the same format, it frequently has to be downloaded, modified and uploaded on another system.

On the other hand, for teachers, creating lesson plans, assigning assessments and planning different activities are time-consuming and intense. Students’ holistic learning experience too remains far from satisfactory.

Herein comes the role of an integrated learning platform like the NextLearning Platform (NLP) that brings all the processes and procedures under one umbrella. Once all the academic and administrative challenges are taken care of and are streamlined, then only facilitators can pay more attention to personalise learning to provide students with the best learning experience.

Saurabh smiles and adds,

Saurabh: See, all the products and services are getting personalised these days, so education should not lag behind. Personalisation in learning can be achieved in many ways. It involves several aspects, starting from diagnosing students efficiently, recommending different resources for different students and finally, designing an accurate learning path for each student. We are focused on making this work through NLP, where the diagnosis is done using adaptive tests (based on different testing theories), personalised homework assignment through LMS, and resource recommendations based on the results.

So in a nutshell, is NLP a tool that covers all the processes and procedures involved in the day-to-day running of a school?

Sameer: Yes, it is a powerful AI/ML-based integrated platform that helps schools streamline their academic and operational needs.

Its administrative part, called NextERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), handles school operations, whereas its academic part, called the Learning Management System (LMS), handles the teaching-learning operations. 

NLP is designed to enable students and teachers to carry out activities such as creating lesson plans, publishing assessments and submitting homework on one platform.

It brings all stakeholders together, thereby ensuring transparency and communication.

Why is it necessary to have an interconnectedness between the academic and administrative sections? And how does NLP achieve this? Do you think ERP and LMS complement each other?

Sameer: The interconnectedness between different modules of the academic and administrative sections gives detailed insights. For example, the attendance module can help teachers understand the poor academic performance of students. Given a large number of students, subjects and assessments, it is impossible for anyone to manually analyse this from different data sets. 

The importance of stabilising administrative procedures comes here.

  • Teachers get rid of excessive, redundant and manual workload.
  • The ERP modules such as attendance, examination and communication ensure that time is saved, work is more streamlined, and chances of errors are minimised.
  • Once school operations are stabilised, teachers no longer have to worry about the administrative tasks and hence, it will allow them more time and energy to focus on academic needs.

Then comes the role of a platform like LMS, which further streamlines their work in the academic realm. 

Coming to the point of ERP and LMS complementing each other, they cannot work seamlessly without the involvement of each other. For example, the examination module is common to both the tools. While ERP handles the administrative aspects of conducting an exam such as collecting exam fee, providing predefined question paper templates and generating graphical reports, LMS allows teachers to streamline academic operations through the easy generation of question papers and automatic grading.

Saurabh: See, through our user research, we found out that teachers have to spend a lot of time in administrative activities such as taking attendance and updating it on multiple records, communicating with parents and tracking acknowledgement. In addition, they have to take care of academic activities such as designing lesson plans, creating question papers, correcting answer sheets and tracking homework.

There is a need for a platform that will take care of both kinds of tasks and save teachers’ time and energy as they are involved in both academic as well as administrative tasks.

In the case of students, academic performance is a function of non-academic parameters (along with academic parameters) such as commute time to school, health and attendance. A student’s performance depends on various external and internal aspects of their lives. 

NLP has administrative modules such as fee, communication, transport and examination, along with LMS and Adaptive Assessments. The system learns about the student holistically and provides actionable insights.

But what is the necessity of streamlining the teaching-learning process in schools? 

Sameer: In the current scenario, a teacher faces a number of challenges that takes away from their valuable teaching time. Selecting the right resources and measuring their effectiveness is in itself a time-consuming task. In addition to this, they have to prepare assessments, select the right set of questions, etc. They also face difficulty in sharing information and resources with students before classroom lectures.

Streamlining the teaching-learning process with the help of LMS eradicates these challenges and saves immense time.

NextLMS comes along with features such as homework solutions, calliper analysis, course planning and lesson planning, which reduces teacher and student workload.

Saurabh, as the Product Manager of LMS, do you have any special input?

Saurabh: There is definitely a need to streamline the teaching-learning process as technology has evolved at a great pace whereas the teaching methods have remained stagnant. For instance, there is an infinite pool of information on the Internet. However, if a teacher wants help from the Internet, there is no standardised/validated resource list for videos. A lot of time and energy gets wasted only in finding the perfect resource. For students, on the other hand, everything is instant as all the services can be instantly availed. They can access any educational app and test their knowledge. This provision discourages them from taking conventional tests and waiting for months for results. The feedback needs to be instant to ensure immediate action on it. Therefore, to keep both learners and educators engaged and well-coordinated, it is very important to streamline the whole process.

Many might say that LMS adds to the workload of the teacher. What do you think about that?

Saurabh: LMS does add to the workload of the teachers but only for the first few days when they are learning and getting used to the system. This is like any new software. Once the process is established, such products provide great value. With features such as customisable lesson plans, resource creation, homework tracking, assessment creation and OCR-based worksheet scanning, LMS saves so much time and energy that the teachers are never fatigued and can focus on teaching passionately. 

So, I have a final question for both of you. 

In a country like India, where the education sector as a whole is undergoing drastic changes, how can integrated learning platforms like NLP continue to make an impact in the coming years?

Saurabh: The 21st-century teaching-learning environment, especially in India, is influenced by several factors such as an increase in Internet penetration, resources available online,  apps for a variety of tasks, and shift in the learning style. Such an environment requires an integrated platform with all the data of a student (academic and non-academic), and can consistently provide them with insights and corrective actions. Such a platform is any day better than several individual pure-play products where the data is isolated. 

And?

Sameer: See, even schools are looking at differentiating themselves in terms of innovations and educational interventions. They want to excel at not only a neighbourhood level but also a state and national level. Hence, the benchmark needs to be set at that level. NLP is a platform that can take schools to the next level, to a better level! So, yes! We are hoping that solutions like NLP are going to impact all academic stakeholders positively in the coming years.

Devika S
Devika S

Devika S is a copywriter at Next Education India Pvt Ltd. She has completed her Masters in English from the University of Hyderabad. Being a language enthusiast, Devika is well-versed in the Chinese language. She is a passionate reader and ardent listener of a wide variety of music.

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