Hello. Is there anybody in there? Just Nod If You Can Hear Me*

Well, it’s been quite a while since this blog was updated, so I thought I’ll check if any of you is still around! Pardon us, for we’ve been busy cooking up a few interesting items that we’ll be showcasing to you in the coming days. And we also promise that we’ll post more often and share our learnings, experiences and what we’re doing towards revolutionizing how education is being delivered (in our own small ways).

Over the last few months, we have been mentioned in some of the leading publications of the country and also got recognized for the work we’re doing. It’s very nice when such attention and recognition comes our way. It pushes us to do more, better!

In case you missed it, we were featured in the Independence Day Special edition of Young Turks on CNBC TV18 as one of the impactful startups in the education space. Here’s the video:

The recent issue of Forbes India magazine has featured us in the ‘Check-in’ section. The article is accompanied by a very interesting infographic that compares our solution CourseHub with other solutions/technologies and lays out the advantages in a very simple and effective manner. That goes right into our marketing arsenal! You can read the article here – Aurus Network’s Cloud-Based Online Courses.

Aurus Network’s solution CourseHub compared with other solutions/technologies. (Image Credit: Forbes India)

Oh, and Diwali celebrations reached us a little ahead of time as we were recognized as among the NASSCOM Emerge 50 companies.

NASSCOM Emerge 50 Awards program annually identifies showcases and supports Top 50 highly innovative and agile Emerging & Start-up companies that are foraying into untapped territories and redefining the way IT can make a difference.

We’re among the winners in Emerge 40 segment in the Start-up category. You can see us and the other winners here (you’ll need to scroll down the page). A very nice Diwali gift, isn’t it? And we also celebrated Diwali with an Ethnic Day celebration in the office. Here are some photos:

Happy Diwali!

Office Decoration – 1

Office Decoration 2

But where’s everyone?

Diwali Feast!

Enjoying the sumptuous lunch!

We wish (slightly belated, but nonetheless) all our followers and well-wishers a very happy Diwali and look forward to your continued support and encouragement.

* While we’re Pink Floyd fans for sure, we’re definitely not in a Comfortably Numb state. What else, then? High Hopes, for sure. Money, oh yes!

The Online Education Wave in India.

Indians are tech savvy – we gobble up any new technology or gadget that is thrown at us. Indians are also known best for coming up with ad-hoc solutions to problems with available resources. What happens when you put the two together? Volatility in every aspect of our lives as we absorb and adapt to new ways of doing things – be it banking, shopping or running a million dollar industry!

Same holds true in the field of education as well. Lately our educators have begun to welcome technology of all sorts into their classrooms. Visual aids are used for teaching, online-tests are used for assessing students and a lot of people are reaching out to far flung ‘virtual’ or ‘online’ students using video streaming technology.

The concept of ‘Distance Delivery of Education’ is very popular now. It is extremely relevant too. There are several entrance examinations – JEE, UPSC, CA and others these days. And there are several more training institutes and teachers offering courses to students to help them prepare for these exams. This market is very huge and a lot of educators are looking to expand their education business. One easy way to do this is by offering ‘Online’ classes.

The idea is simple. The teachers stay in their own city or locality. They record whatever they teach using technology of various sorts. And they share this content (either live or on-demand) via Internet with students who may hail from any other corner of the country! This breaks all geographical barriers – popular teachers can now expand their student enrollment rates in no time.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of people/Institutes who have gone ‘online’ lately. Which is not a surprise, considering the number of advantages this technology offers. It would be a surprise, though, if you are an educator and you have not considered this option. What are you waiting for? Get on to and ride the Online Education Wave!

A video is not a video

Watching a sitcom on Hulu, a 3-D movie in a theater, a funny home video on youtube and a course video on coursera are all, technically, about consuming video content. And yet, we won’t say that they are the same thing.

“It can be used for other things as well, right?” We are often asked by well-wishers when we explain that our product helps educators capture, manage and deliver classroom videos. What does a video-product focused on education even mean?

As the example above shows, a video is a TV show, a movie, a beautiful slice of life, or a lecture. A video is not just a video. The experience and expectations from the products delivering these different kinds of video content are different.

Watching a TV show starts with the need for entertainment. You are getting bored, or you need a break, or you need your daily fix. A movie in a theater may be about getting bored, but it is highly likely that it is about an outing with family or friends, your appreciation for specific director or actor, or a love of the medium. Coursera video consumption starts at your need to learn more about something specific, proceeds with searching for relevant courses, best teachers, best platform for peer interaction and getting credits, then ends up on the lecture video.

Not only the consumption of different kinds of videos is different, the requirement of content creators are also different. They need different capabilities from the platform used for delivering these videos. And they need this delivery platform to fit with the rest of their operations.

That is why a video product for education. As a business we need a market large enough for being in the business to make sense. As product creators, we need a market narrow enough to be made happy with the capabilities of the product. And as a team, we need something we are passionate about. We think education fits the bill. That’s why CourseHub!

Let me explain with the examples of some of the decisions made in CourseHub keeping in mind the education market.

  • Video optimizations: One of the biggest reason an educational institute would want to use an online platform is to increase its reach, most likely to places where physical access to quality teachers is difficult. So, we can not make assumptions about what kind of Internet infrastructure will be available to the learners. At the same time, when a teacher is teaching in the class, blurring of the content on the board, or breaking of his voice won’t be acceptable. That’s why we spent a lot of efforts in making sure that HD-quality classroom videos can be delivered at speeds as low as 100Kbps with CourseHub. For many other applications, this may not be the target market, and hence such efforts may not make business sense. For us, it does!
  • Organization of videos: Do you want to have playlists, shows with episodes, or individual movies indexed by themselves? Lectures organized in courses makes sense for education. That is what we did!
  • Enabling Capture: A TV show or movie producer has setup to produce, edit and process high-quality videos. It is his job. A home video is fine in whatever quality the camcorder or digital camera captures it. A lecture video needs to be high-quality, but the job of a teacher or even the institute is not to produce videos. It is to teach. That’s why CourseHub includes not only delivery or management of lectures, but also the capture. Further teachers are at their best when they teach in their natural style. So, the capture has been designed to be automated and non-intrusive. It can capture lectures in a regular classroom. Teachers don’t need to sit in front of a webcam, they don’t even have to be aware of the camera. They can teach their class as usual.
  • Interactivity: Student-teacher interaction is important for learning. So, CourseHub enables that with no requirement of any special hardware or software at student’s end. It enables sychronous as well as asynchronous interaction.
  • Assessments: You wouldn’t usually be quizzed on a TV show at the end of a season, but it is an essential part of completing a course. So, CourseHub has gone beyond videos and created a full-fledged assessment system to help educators and learners have complete educational experience.

The list is practically endless and we are adding to it everyday. Do you have any thoughts on what a video platform of education should have? Let us know!

Grab that Lecture – In Full HD

Jaya Jha, Head of Product & Marketing at Aurus, writes about Lecture Capture on India Tech Online.

What is the technology, you would be tempted to ask? I can just put a cameraman with a digital camera in the classroom, connect it to a computer later, process the videos and upload them to an internal server for download, or to a service like YouTube for streaming. As far as the definition of lecture capture goes, that would be an implementation for sure, albeit a rudimentary one. It can work as an experiment, but it will not let you take you use all the advantageous opportunities lecture capture presents.

Read the complete article here.

Four things to be careful about while flipping the classroom

Flipped classroom is a promising concept. It is a form of blended learning where the activities traditionally done inside and outside the classrooms are switched.  In a typical implementation of flipped classroom, the students would watch the recorded lectures before coming to the class. The lectures would introduce the concepts to them. The class time would then be used for discussions, problem solving, group activities – things that were traditionally delegated for the time outside the class. It makes best use of teacher’s time and helps students learn in their own style and at their own pace.

But the effectiveness of any promising concept will only be as good as its implementation. So, if you are a teacher or an institution looking at flipping the classroom, do keep the following in mind.

  1. Content creation and curation will need efforts: Once you decide to switch what is done inside and outside the classroom, the content and methodology to deliver it will need to be repurposed. At the very least, you will have to record the lectures explaining the concepts you would have earlier done inside the classroom. Or you will have to find and curate relevant online videos/MOOC content. To make the best use of the idea of flipped classrooms, you will need to give the students option of learning through various methods. Those who learn better by reading should be given appropriate material to read. Those who need lectures should have access to the videos. Yet others might be better off with specially created multimedia content. When students have to learn on their own, it is very important to provide them with the tools that makes the process of learning easy for them. And the tools may be different for different people.
  2. Students will need hand-holding: Change is difficult for us to accept. Especially when our established methods of navigating through the system changes. Over the years, students have intrinsically learned what is expected out of them in the course of their education. They look at the practices followed by those who have done it before them. There is a sense of familiarity with the system. Flipping the classroom can significantly alter that familiarity, if not totally destroy it. It can be bewildering for some. So, students will need to reassured and they will need guidance on how to proceed. It will also be important to observe if the they are struggling too much despite guidance and communication. It will be an indication of the experiment going overboard in some direction and there would be a need to relook at the practices.
  3. You will have to be considerate of the time investment expected from students outside the class: While studies are an important part of student life, it is not the end of world. Students need time for other activities, for socialization, and depending on the stage of life, potentially for jobs and earning livelihood. One good effect of flipping the classroom is that it makes the students more involved with the learning process. But if the time investment required outside the class significantly changes, it can be upsetting and will impede the adoption and acceptance of flipped classrooms. One good practice is to not introduce an institute-wide change in one go, rather go course by course and slowly adopt the new methodology.
  4. Classroom activities will have to be carefully designed to solve doubts and further understanding: As with the content that will need to be repurposed for consumption outside the class, the activities planned for the class will also need to be rethought. First step would be to ensure that everyone’s understanding of the topic to be covered is adequate, and if not, they should be helped, potentially not just by the teacher, but also by the classmates who have managed to understand it. Next, if something like project work is planned inside the class, it is essential that all the resources required for it are made available. It is likely to mean more planning on the part of the teachers or students, and equipping the classrooms better on the part of management.

When these things are kept in mind, and change is brought gradually with aggressive monitoring, flipping the classroom can go a long way in enhancing learning outcomes and making the teacher’s job more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Role of Cloud in Education Sector

Jaya Jha, Head of Product & Marketing at Aurus, writes about “Role of Cloud in Education Sector” in CXO Today.

SaaS is an answer to many problems educational institutes face in adopting technology. Cloud hosted SaaS products do not require on-premise deployment of IT infrastructure. This makes the upfront infrastructural costs very low or even zero. Using SaaS also means that here is no ongoing infrastructure management required as the management of cloud-based server is taken care of by the software provider. The software provider benefits from scale as his infrastructure is being used by many customers. The benefit is passed on the customers in the form of lower and usage-based ongoing costs. A huge benefit comes from on-demand, and practically infinite scalability of SaaS products. You can start as small as you want and grow as large as you can.

Read the complete article here.