Striving towards the Digital future of Education
Though there has been advancement in technology, the classrooms in Nepal are still the same it used to be decades ago. The teaching methodologies and learning processes are almost same, though technological revolution has occurred, and smartphones have occupied almost everyone’s hand.
Ram Chandra Timothy, founder and proprietor of Ekta Books, a pioneer publishing house in Nepal, and John Chhetri, a software developer, were having a conversation on rapid expansion of technology but no noticeable change in education system of Nepal, over coffee in an evening.
“We were talking about the concept of going paperless where even the school assignments and project works can be performed digitally. Ram dai shared Ekta Books was also thinking about digitizing textbooks. After knowing the shared vision, we agreed to take the step together,” shared John Chhetri in a conversation with Glocal Khabar.
Thus, the education startup SoAni Tech was founded on July 24, 2016 with just two team members.
The new startup is working to digitize learning process in Nepal and change the scenario of textbooks and learning process. Yes, they are converting textbooks into interactive digital materials that one can use on smartphones, tablets, laptops, or desktops.
They have recently launched a flagship project i-Learning, with a vision to digitize entire education system of Nepal.
In the first phase, they are digitizing the textbooks of Mathematics, Science, Nepali and English for Grades 1 – 5. In the next phase, they are planning to digitize the textbooks of grades 5 – 10. The digitized contents will be released in the form of interactive mobile apps and software and can be consumed through smartphones, iPads/tablets, and computers, both online and offline.
The system will also have facilities of activities and exercises to students where they can even ask queries to teachers, and get solutions, thus making learning more interesting. It strives for efficient learning among students, ultimately revolutionizing education in Nepal.
“The similar e-learning products currently available in the market mainly have textbook contents displayed and two people talking to each other, but students can’t have way interaction. i-Learning will be much advanced with varieties of interactive features,” shared John.
How will i-Learning materials be? And, how are they prepared?
“The i-Learning contents are currently being developed in 2D animation. But, we are thinking of developing 3D contents for the books, that can be used along with Virtual Reality (VR) gears, that is probably not carried out in Asian countries yet. With i-Learning, students can feel what they learn. And, learning science will surely be even more interesting and lively,” shared John, adding, “We will probably start working for VR – based contents by 2020, as the VR concept is slowly gaining pace in Nepal and hopefully human resources will be more easily available by then.”
The digital books are prepared in close coordination with the respective textbook authors, who have advised and provided inputs on how to develop, and make the courses more interactive, and how to use the education package while teaching/learning. The digital books are developed after an extensive research.
Who can use the digital learning system? When will it hit the market?
The materials are not only focused for students in the urban area but even those in rural hinterlands.
In our travel to various places of Nepal, we were surprised to see smartphones in almost everyone’s hands. Computers were rare scenes there, but not mobile phones. Using mobile phones itself, students can now use the digital learning system easily.
We are also planning to introduce such a facility where students can even live-interact with the tutors/facilitators. – John Chhetri
The system they are developing is slated to go in students’ hands by next academic session. Ekta books will be taking the digital education system to students all over Nepal, as they have closely worked with stationeries and schools in every nook and corner of the country since the last three decades.
Was it easy to start SoAni Tech at all?
As the idea was big and ambitious, practically implementing it was really challenging. It was hard to find the expert human resources for animation and other works. Furthermore, finding 2D/3D artists was a real tough job for John. “Like other software development companies of Nepal, we even are facing the problem of staff switching. After gaining some expertise, they simply leave for abroad, though there is even better scope in Nepal,” shares John with dissatisfaction.
Started with just two team-members, the company is now 20 team members strong.
What makes the young SoAni Tech team going?
Around 45,000 copies of every single textbook are printed by Ekta Books every year, and distributed all over Nepal. And, almost every schools in Nepal use Ekta textbooks. If we calculate the total no. of textbooks printed by Ekta every year, it stands very tall with 6.1 million users. As our products will be going with every single Ekta textbook, we see every student in Nepal using our technology to learn school lessons. We have been working that vision. The brighter future ahead inspires us to work even better and with more passion. – John Chhetri
“We have planned to charge digital books in a very nominal amount, as all the students across the nation will be using the service. It will probably be around only 50 rupees per book,” says John, adding “Money should not be a barrier for any rural kid from getting access to the educational resources he needs.”
The team was successful to be among the top 5 ICT startup companies in an official selection for ICT Award this year.
Two words to youths:
Do hard work, have passion on what you do, and keep going. Don’t run after money. We even didn’t have any amount of money while we were starting. As we continued working on the mission, people started to love our work, and recognize our mission. Everything will fall into place once you start, and keep going. If you have faith in your work, you will surely be successful one day. – John Chhetri
Startups for a better Nepal!
Presentation: Basanta Kumar Dhakal