Bengaluru-based WizKlub believes in empowering learners in their early years and equip them with skills beyond the curriculum. Charting a different teaching-learning course than traditional one, its learning programs focuses on ingraining in young learners higher order thinking skills and technology skills like building and coding in the critical phase of learning.
Read excerpts from Courseware World’s talk with Mr. Amit Bansal, Founder & CEO, WizKlub.
Courseware World: To start with, please tell us about WizKlub and what motivated you to start such an Edtech venture?
Amit Bansal: WizKlub is a next gen, research-based education company that has combined technology with research in cognitive learning to empower K-8 students with skills required to succeed in the coming decade. WizKlub’s HOTS and SmartTech programs develop cognitive skills in children aged 5-15 years through an AI-powered tech platform that delivers a personalized learning path for every child.
The company’s vision is to provide high quality education to school children through advances in science and technology and impart skills needed to succeed in future. Our mission is to create a million thinking minds who are lifelong learners, adept problem solvers, and would be creators of technology for a better future. Our team believes that technology can solve both access and quality problems associated with the education sector across the world.
The team has previously worked on two ventures in the higher education space, where we realized we could create the maximum impact by skilling students on specific tools. However, at that age, the basic aptitude of a student is pretty much cast in stone and cannot be changed significantly. So, if a student does not have programming aptitude, one cannot be trained to become a good programmer.
Further, research has established that the core aptitude of a person, which defines one’s suitability for different career roles, is pretty much defined in the first 12-13 years. And, unfortunately, the Indian schooling system is still focused on curriculum instead of focusing on core aptitude that makes one a smart learner and adept problem solver. We decided to address this issue by providing a scientific program to build these skills when the age is right.
We worked on the product for 6 months including prototyping and pilots to establish product efficacy. Our product has 83% efficacy rate which is quite remarkable for a learning product.
CWW: How important is the development of higher order thinking skills (HOTS) for children in age group 6-14 years? Also, tell us about your approach for developing HOTS in students?
AB: Research around the world proves that the aptitude or higher order thinking skills get developed in the first 13-14 years of an individual. A graph from research of Center for Developing Child, Harvard University, indicates that the higher cognitive functions get developed in the early years and plateau at the age of 14 yrs. This is the best period to develop HOTS and largely determines the aptitude of an individual through life.
Most of the edtech players in k-12 space are still focused on curriculum (maths and science). WizKlub on the other hand is focused on core cognitive skills (aptitude) that make every student a smart learner (reader) and an adept problem solver.
Most of the school students in India suffer from the ‘memory and recall’ as their predominant method for learning and problem solving. The rote learning method fails when subject areas become more complex and when the problem areas increase in both breadth and depth.
Our learning products comes in two broad categories, viz. HOTS and SmartTech. HOTS essentially pivots around comprehension, critical thinking, logical reasoning and problem solving. This program develops higher order thinking skills to ensure that every child is a smart reader and a smart problem solver.
The WizKlub SmartTech Program, a first-of-its-kind for children as young as 6 years, is designed to get children to build and code technology. Every month, the child builds and codes a tech product (such as smart light, gesture remote etc). The program builds lifelong skills and confidence to create tech products by application of coding, robotics, smart devices, and AI. The product is delivered on a tech platform and is designed to bring learning efficacy when a child goes through the personalized learning path facilitated by a neighborhood instructor.
The learning path is very important. WizKlub’s products ensure that each child gets a personalized learning path based on the existing proficiency and the learning progression. Every week, the child interacts with the facilitator to master 1 skill and then move to the next one. The sessions are conducted in small groups of 5-6 children.
CWW: Why do you think parents nowadays are opting for such programs for their kids apart from sending them to schools and tuitions?
AB: In early years, parents do not want to enrol their kids for tuitions. Parents understand that the school caters to the minimum requirement of completing the curriculum. However, the curriculum is not enough for students to succeed in future. Hence, they are actively looking out for extra skills that students can acquire in these years.
Most parents want to invest in “future skills” in early years. Essentially, skills that give students an edge and would help them succeed in future.
CWW: What all activities does the learner engage in on the app for development of higher cognitive skills like reasoning, comprehension, critical thinking, and problem-solving? Please cite some examples to elaborate.
AB: WizKlub R&D team has extensively researched the area of skill development under HOTS. The team has broken down this complex area of HOTS in 36 individual skills. Each skill is further graded on 8 levels of complexity. Each week, the student masters one skill.
A student starts with a WizKlub proprietary “Level Mapping Test” that gives a detailed report of a student’s existing level across skill areas. The personalization engine then ensures that the student is given each skill at one’s existing level to ensure maximum learning efficacy.
For instance, one of the skills under Comprehension is Main Idea. A student at level 1 starts with simple exercises. The student is given 4 words such as cat, dog, pet, and fish and the student has to figure out which one word describes all the other words. Then, the student moves to sentences describing other sentences, getting the main idea from a story, and eventually is able to figure out the unstated main idea in a story or article.
CWW: How is the response of students and parents to your program? Are they satisfied? How do you ensure a personalized learning approach?
AB: Students love this program as this is possibly the only program that gives them an opportunity to think. The students keep getting the “aha” feeling as they go through the scientifically designed structured exercises.
Parents are able to see the change after 6-7 skills. They see the child becoming an active reader where they are able to connect the elements, make predictions and inferences. Parents share that the kids are not afraid of solving new problems and have become really confident.
Tech ensures that each student gets a personalized program to challenge them at the level where they are. Personalization ensures continued kids interest and high learning efficacy.
CWW: Why are coding programs gaining popularity among kids today? One such program offered by you is SmartTech; how is it different from other online coding programs?
AB: Coding has multiple advantages. To begin with, it promotes logical thinking and problem solving skills. Secondly, coding empowers a child to “create”.
The SmartTech product gives coding a totally different dimension. We empower the kid to “build and code” real technology products. For instance, a 6-year old can make a smart lighting system and code it to create the patterns of choice on the smart light. The next month, the kid can create a gesture controlled remote control and program the behaviour of various gestures. Every month, the kid builds and codes one tech product that they can use in real life. During the course of this program, the kid learns the basics of coding and eventually learns to code for creating apps on phone, skill on Alexa, and learn to program in machine learning/AI.
CWW: You started in 2018; how has been your journey so far? What all support in form of seed funding and other investments have you received? How is the company faring in terms of revenue?
AB: The journey has been really exciting. We love the change we are bringing in kids to make them creators instead of just being passive consumers.
The business model is subscription based and the investment ranges from INR 10,000 to 25,000 per year depending on the program. Our distribution model is centred on neighbourhood facilitators who impart the program to the students in the apartment or community areas. We launched the program through events in these apartments and found our early adopters.
Revenue model is simple — WizKlub charges the students, who enrol for its program, a subscription fee starting as low as INR 500 per month for a single program.
As far as seed funding and investments are concerned, WizKlub in 2019 received INR 2,00,00,000 Saurabh Chandra,, Hardeep Singh, Pankaj Goel, and Pradeep Singh in angel round. Again, in Jan 2020, we collected INR 7,00,00,000 from Incubate Fund Indian and Insitor Impact Asia Fund in a seed round.
CWW: EdTech industry is expanding in India. What is your opinion and experiences of the emerging EdTech sector in the country?
AB: The EdTech sector has crossed the tipping point in India largely due to consumption of content driven by free data on smartphones. In other words, now quite general content consumption behaviour on smartphones is driving people to adopt the same smartphones for consuming educational content as well. We are witnessing the shift where parents now want the kids to rather use the screen time on smartphone to learn than to simply watch youtube or play a game.
CWW: What are your future plans for company’s expansion? Are more products and services in the pipeline?
AB: In the first year of operation, we focussed on building deep penetration in Bengaluru and chart a blueprint for national rollout targeting 12,000 students. Over the next couple of years, we want to be the preferred choice for supplemental education in early years for over 50,000 students.
Yes, we are getting ready to launch a completely online app based product for nationwide rollout.
CWW: The K-12 online learning sector is projected to be the largest growing segment of e-learning industry in India in coming years owing to huge number of learners falling in this category. How do you see the future growth and prospects of your company in particular and K-12 sector in general?
AB: The k-12 market can be largely broken into 2 segments. One segment caters to the curriculum support (math, science) and has players like Byjus, Toppr, Vednatu, and more. Most of the parents in this segment start shopping for solutions in grade 6-7. The other segment is the early-years segment where the parent is looking for programs beyond the school curriculum. This segment is by and large fragmented and suffers from lack of quality solutions. WizKlub is catering to the early-years market and is offering affordable solution that imparts quality experience and learning efficacy even at scale.