Remote learning applications have proved to be invaluable tools during the coronavirus pandemic, which sent tens of millions of students online. This encouraged almost all educational institutions to take a bold step toward new technologies.
For educational institutions, which were caught on the wrong foot at the very beginning of the outbreak, this educational period will be the year of maturation. The transformation that has come along with the pandemic has accelerated innovation and investment in educational technology initiatives.
This week’s Ventures60 event brought together educational tech ventures who shared areas they specialize in.
Four different initiatives drew attention with hybrid reading, virtual classes with cloud technology, student-oriented educational content and games that enhance child development.
The educational tech initiatives that have transformed learning have begun to receive great attention from domestic and foreign investors.
One of these is Kunduz, an ed-tech startup aiming to make educational resources more accessible for everyone and democratize test prep and learning.
Meaning beaver in Turkish, the venture is for instance said to have slashed high school and university exam prep costs down to just TL 500 ($56), from TL 15,000.
Kunduz’s flagship question and answer (Q&A) product is a mobile platform that helps students get their questions answered through its tutor network and proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
In addition, it provides personalized AI-based tests, practice tests, video lectures and tutoring and guidance support. With its innovative approach developed according to the needs of students, Kunduz reaches fifth grade to high school students belonging to different socioeconomic levels.
Educational institutions that were forced to find instant solutions at the beginning of the pandemic are now building their own virtual classrooms.
Specialized in e-learning and distance learning areas, Advancity initiative provides its customers with e-learning products and solutions enriched with technical support.
It also provides and produces high-quality learning content for academic, K12 and business areas. Advancity’s main products Advancity Learning Management System (ALMS) and Perculus (virtual classroom) are used by over 70 companies and universities all around Turkey.
Advancity executives shared examples of how they built a digital campus with scalable cloud technology with the NGN Cloud infrastructure.
The transformation has accelerated due to the flexibility of digital campus cloud technology and the time- and space-independent educational opportunities of remote access. The number of solutions that allow students and teachers to focus on the content is increasing.
Mehmet Arslantunalı, who has significant experience in the content infrastructure of educational institutions, is now focusing on the hybrid reading experience with the Boodio brand.
With a solution that combines the experience of reading digital books with audiobooks, Boodio now aims to open up to the global market.
On the other hand, the MentalUP initiative, in which Türk Telekom, one of Turkey’s leading information and communication technologies companies takes part as an investor, is focused on games that enhance child development.
It focuses on educational games through which children want to learn voluntarily. It is now offering a solution that combines gaming and education.
Students themselves gave Kunduz its name, the ed-tech startup’s co-founder Başar Başaran said, stressing their role as a mobile education platform that aims to democratize education and provide everyone with a high-quality education at affordable prices.
After India, Kunduz now aims to expand to the U.S. market, Başaran noted. “We moved our office to New York's Silicon Valley. After a year of preparation, we have launched the application,” he said.
He stressed their belief that “a student should be the focus of education,” and that education should be available to everyone. “We want to help narrow the gap between the educational opportunities that students have both in Turkey and in the global markets in which we operate.”
India was Kunduz’s first market after Turkey before the startup conducted yearlong research in the U.S. market.
“We have successfully completed our intensive trial process in the last six months. In this process, we have found that we provide a faster, better quality and more economical service than our competitors in the United States,” Başaran said.
“We will focus on delivering personalized education to everyone. Our team is committed to our goal of making Kunduz’s personalized education available to everyone at an affordable price. Our investment in the U.S. will continue with rising momentum.”
Advancity CEO Cem Atacık suggested that due to the pandemic, educational institutions will have to develop their digital campuses.
“The educational world was one of the first ecosystems affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which soon affected the whole world. During this period, many educational institutions switched to the distance learning system and moved the courses and exams to the online environment,” Atacık noted.
This attached greater importance to new generation technologies such as digital transformation and cloud infrastructure, he added.
“We have made the content easily applicable in universities. In order to keep up with this rapid change and ensure continuous learning, Advancity has moved its virtual classroom software to NGN Cloud and reached a cloud infrastructure with the desired performance,” Atacık explained.
By keeping the virtual classroom software in the NGN Cloud infrastructure, he said they reached 50,000 users at the same time and enabled over 2 million students to receive an education.
Beyazıt Öztürk, director of NGN Data Center and Cloud Solutions, drew attention to the flexible and pay-as-you-use infrastructure that cloud technology offers to educational institutions.
“Educational institutions will focus on the content. (The institutions) will not deal with technological infrastructure or increase in capacity. We have responded to the changing video content and the video calls need. We gained significant experience during the pandemic period,” Öztürk noted.
MentalUP, Turkey’s first gamified education platform has proved itself through reliable games that enhance mental capacity and have already attracted millions of children.
The platform, of which Türk Telekom is a partner through its venture capital fund TT Ventures, seeks to develop cognitive skills such as attention span and memory of children.
MentalUP Business Development Director Başar Kaya stated that the children learn and develop as they participate in voluntary learning in the form of games.
“MentalUP began its journey with games used to treat diseases that the elderly often contract. Children then became the focus after demand came in that there was a need for such games. We are trying to make children develop themselves with games. The contribution of our games was also approved by international institutions and attracted the attention of educational institutions and investors from all over the world,” Kaya noted.
MentalUP offers more than 100 educational brain teasers and 200 exercises in a single application.
MentalUP mobilizes millions of children with its newly added “Fitness” feature, an exercise program that suits their age and physical needs.
Boodio co-founder Arslantunalı touched upon the reading experience, which he said has changed over the recent years.
“Everyone complains that the new generation does not read. Actually, this is not entirely true. The reading experience has changed from before. The reading channels have changed. This changing experience also prompted publishers to renew themselves as well,” he noted.
Thanks to the experience they gained from educational institutions, Arslantunalı said they have designed a new hybrid reading platform.
“We have brought audiobooks and digital books together. We have achieved significant download figures in Turkey in just three to four months. We want to launch the next-generation reading platform in several languages,” he noted.
Arslantunalı also said they have more than 2,000 books on the platform and an artificial intelligence reading assistant helps in analyzing whether the child fully understands the book they are reading or listening to. The platform has already been downloaded more than 110,000 times since its announcement in April.
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