Your Learning Your Medium

Published Date
01 - Feb - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Feb - 2005
Your Learning Your Medium
The last time Snehal Gaikwad was interested in the past was when she watched a historical at the local cinema or on satellite television. Her latest screen, however, is something she will never forget-the white board at her coaching class.

This 15-year-old Standard X student of Mumbai's St Columbia High School actually is excited at learning at her local coaching class. What made  this happen?

Mumbai's Agamaa Coaching Classes, better known as Agamaa Virtual Classes, uses interactive CD-ROMs as a teaching tool, a move that has made students as excited as the teachers who teach the various subjects.

Snehal says, "I like history lectures the best because we see movie clips about various events. This helps me understand the event better and is easier to revise during exams."

Welcome to a whole new teaching paradigm!
Agamaa Virtual Classes is an offspring of Chetana Publications, a Mumbai-based publishing house that specialises in textbooks, and teaching guides. At the classes, however, students learn not by rote, but by associating images and sounds to the words they read in their textbooks and teaching guides. Chetana's already-existing database of computer books and related tools allows Agamaa to make use of film clips, animation, sound effects and 3D graphics to explain and narrate course material. There are, of course, textbooks and teachers, but instead of just talk, there are interactive sessions supported by audio-visual representations of textbook content.

(Left) Learning Hindi the cool way-at Agamaa
(Top) One of the tools being used to impart training-a projector

First Off The Block
Says Rakesh Rambhia, director, Chetana Publications: "Initially, we only had CDs containing courseware, which were made available to students who wanted to avoid going to coaching classes. However, after interacting with students and getting feedback from parents and students alike, we decided to start this venture."

K-Yan-The Community Learning Tool 
K-Yan was developed by financial corporation Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services' (IL&FS) Education and Technology Services (ETS) at its 'Compact Media Centre'. Built in collaboration with IIT Mumbai, K-Yan is a low-cost new-media product for community learning.
K-Yan combines a multimedia PC, a large format TV, a DVD player, a CD writer, an LCD projector, Internet surfing, video conferencing, and an AV studio system, in a single, compact unit that can be operated from a single remote control-cum-mouse unit for changing from TV to DVD, or operating the PC. It can also be loaded with teaching aids that help enhance classroom teaching, facilitate the learning process and help students understand better.
Some schools that currently deploy K-Yan include Garden City College, Bangalore; Tagore International EOK, New Delhi; Oakridge International School, Hyderabad; St Xavier's College, Kolkata; Cathedral Junior School,  Mumbai; and J N Petit School, Mumbai.

K-Yan provides
  • A Pentium 4 processor
  • DVD/VCD/ACD/MP3 facility
  • A CD-Writer
  • An audio amplifier and inbuilt speakers
  • Large data storage facility (120 GB) and 512 MB of RAM
  • Internet connectivity
  • TV cable connectivity
  • An 1,800-lumen LCD projection system which can project images up to 25" x 12"      
  • Plug-and-play capability

Agamaa then took its CDs to schools and demonstrated the courseware. Initially, CDs were made available to be taken home. However, this way, students could not interact with teachers. Agamaa devised virtual classes to bridge this gap.

The Medium
In an education system rife with teachers, students and parents who believe in learning by rote, Agamaa has created a new niche. Fifty of its more than 1,600 students spread across various branches in Maharashtra have now shifted over to the the CD-ROM way of learning.
Says Rambhia, "Audio-visual communication is a powerful tool to influence the attitude, behaviour, approach, personality and thinking of an individual. Experts believe that this medium, if used to impart education, could prove quite effective in helping students perform better in examinations."

It's Got The Look!
Every Agamaa classroom has a uniform look. Projectors, a Pro Dolby sound system, collar microphones and other necessary tools comprise a classroom. Currently, courses are conducted for classes IX and X.

We The Students
Purav Gindra of Mumbai's St Sebastian Goan High School was introduced to Agamaa by his cousin, a former student. Gindra, a Standard X student, is part of the vacation-cum-regular batch of Agamaa, has opted for all the subjects they offer. "The audio-visual interface is a great idea," he says. "We see images and movie clips of our learning material, and this leaves a lasting impression on our minds. It is easier to recall during exams."

Snehal agrees. "The CD-ROMs help me learn better. It is easier to revise during exams," she says.

All this, though, comes at a cost. The fee for the class IX course is Rs 12,000, while the class X course costs Rs 18,000 for all subjects.

Business Prospects
Rambhia feels this new way of learning makes for good business sense. "At present, we only have classes IX and X, but from next year we plan to expand it to Standard VIII and XI as well," he says.

For infrastructure, Agamaa invested close to Rs 10 lakh at each of its centres and the software development cost approximately Rs two crore.

The Competition Hots Up
Even if Agamaa made it first, Navneet, another giant in the private education sector, has introduced Top Scorer Digest Plus-a self-learning preparatory tool in CD-ROM format.

Retaining children's attention span has always been a challenge. No matter how good the teacher is, he or she can never enact a historic event, or show the movement of a spirogyra on a blackboard!
The teacher's role may never go out of fashion, but teaching tools could soon witness a sea-change.

Team DigitTeam Digit

All of us are better than one of us.