There is a demand for Singapore’s education system in the region, with it regularly topping the global rankings. However, scaling education quality is often a challenge and is hindered by training issues, resources and access.
KooBits, a Singapore-based startup wants to change. According to them, they are the most engaging website in the e-learning category in Singapore and the region. It already has over 150,000 children worldwide on the platform with more than 20,000 children being daily active users.
Koobits recently launched their first direct-to-consumer solution after building a successful enterprise education solution. With over 361 schools on board, KooBits is currently one of the most actively-used edtech solutions in the region. Their products utilise a strong tech stack that uses AI, personalization technology, big data and gamification.
The two products; ‘Home-Based Learning’ comes with access to unlimited worksheets with full solutions and comprehensive video tutorials; and, ‘Live Tutoring’ provides home learning alternative to face-to-face tuition, that is still personalised to each student’s learning needs.
We had a chance to speak to their Founder Stanley Han about the new launch and how they plan to scale across the region. Find out what he had to share.
Congratulations on the launch of your two consumer modules. Could you give us a brief introduction about these two new services?
Thank you. Our two consumer modules are ‘Home-Based Learning’ and ‘Live Tutoring’. Previously, our platform had only been made available to schools, but with the launch of these two new consumer modules, now parents and households can take the initiative to sign up their children for our programs directly.
Our ‘Home-Based Learning’ module gives children access to unlimited worksheets with full solutions, and comprehensive video tutorials. These tutorials are based on the tried and tested Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract (CBA) approach, which is the model used by the acclaimed Singapore Maths pedagogy. This ensures that children do not simply rote-memorise the steps to solving a problem, but are able to visualise and understand the underlying concepts. Once they have mastered the concepts, they are also able to test their skills against their peers with fun activities and friendly competitions, gaining a mastery of the school syllabus from the comfort of their homes.
Our ‘Live Tutoring’ provides an affordable home learning alternative compared to the industry average. Through a short pre-class assignment that is part of every session, the platform automatically identifies each child’s weaknesses and gaps in learning, and automatically groups them, so tutors can personalise their lesson and address relevant issues for the students during each class.
The platform also enables assignment of homework to follow up on the concepts that require reinforcement, to ensure that understanding has been achieved. As a result, each tutoring session is customized according to the child’s needs — generating a personalized learning pathway that maximises their strengths, and rectifies their weaknesses.
These modules both come with a parent app. With this, parents can keep track of their child’s progress, gaining an insight into their child’s learning — information that was previously only available to teachers. They can understand their child’s strengths and weaknesses, and monitor what milestones their children have reached in relation to the national syllabus, and can also benchmark their child’s progress against their peers. With the democratization of such privileged knowledge and insights, parents now have the guidance and useful data needed to guide their child’s education, closing the loop between parent, teacher and child. It’s like having a virtual PMT (parent-meet-teacher) kiosk at your fingertip, accessible 24/7.
How do you expect to create customised experiences for your students using Live Tutoring if it is a larger classroom size?
KooBits is very unique because it can do high-quality, personalized education at mass level. Traditionally, we have one extreme, which is 1-on-1 tutoring, which is high-quality and personalized to each child, but has low scalability. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s scalable mass, unpersonalized products like textbooks. While we understand a need for products like these, they’re also unable to address each child’s unique strength and weakness. KooBits fits right in the middle. We can provide high-quality, personalized learning experience, yet at scale.
Regarding how we do this, I believe we’ve addressed in our introduction to the ‘Live Tutoring’ module, and the later question on A.I., but, to summarize: As part of every Live Tutoring session, students are required to do a pre-class assignment. The system assesses their responses to identify if they have any gaps in their learning, and then automatically groups according to these gaps. That way, the tutor has an idea of what common misconceptions the students in the class have, and can personalise the session accordingly.
After the class, students will then be assigned homework to follow up on the concepts that require reinforcement, to ensure that their misconceptions have been cleared up. This means that both the session and the after-class assignments are customized according to each child’s learning needs, as they would be with one-on-one tuition.
As you are expanding into new markets, how are you able to manage expansion without being able to travel or with restricted movement? Is your entire team based in Singapore?
Our HQ is in Singapore, which includes the core product and engineering team. For our B2B School business, we do have business teams based in the markets we operate, because they are more familiar with the local people and culture. We are also using reseller partners to reach out to countries where we don’t have a team on the ground.
For B2C business (direct to consumer), it’s easier to expand to new markets via online marketing and distribution.
Which of the countries within Southeast Asia do you see the most potential for growth in and why?
I believe big countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia will all find our product relevant, because the challenge of training so many teachers to reach the same quality and consistency is more pronounced in large countries. Our platform aims to democratize education, empowering parents and students by making top-quality education accessible regardless of geographic locale.
Edtech has become one of the fastest-growing industries almost overnight due to COVID-19, how has it impacted your business so far?
A lot of education companies have been unprepared to deal with the surge in demand for online education. Most don’t have the capacity and processes to deal with the influx of demand and usage, and neither are the customers prepared to shift to EdTech platforms overnight. Parents are struggling to figure out what to do.
Due to the closure of schools and tuition centres, we experienced a huge demand increase for our e-learning service and a big jump in terms of daily active users and usage duration. There have also been a lot of requests from parents for us to develop more e-learning content. We are fortunate that we are used to dealing with large user numbers from our school business. As our school platform has always had high engagement rates, our system is built to cater to a large number of active users online.
Can you elaborate on how your technology has helped create such an engaging platform? What is the AI component within your platform?
The Koobits platform aims to “productize” the magical elements that are found in top teachers and top schools — for example, how good teachers motivate children, how they set healthy learning routines for their class, and so on. The platform turns those successful traits into platform features that are scaleable, so every child can benefit from it, even without one-on-one face-to-face interactions.
Everyday, we have more than 3 million data points deposited by our users. While we do not store private data, like NRIC, addresses or contact details, we do record a lot of usage pattern data and behavioral data about how our users interact with our learning content. In that sense, we do have Big Data from over 5 years of gathering such information, to make meaning of learning behaviours. For example, we can do pretty accurate predictions of a student’s potential misconception simply by comparing the student’s input against the large sample size of inputs on the same content, or along the same learning pathway. From there, we develop smart algorithms to determine a user’s proficiency level, and feed the user with relevant content.
To illustrate that, let’s use a simple example: An 8-year-old child needs to learn how to measure the length of an object against a ruler. Let’s say the question asks the child to measure the length of a pencil. The correct answer is 9cm, but the end of the pencil is not placed at the “0” mark on the ruler, instead it’s placed at the 1cm mark. According to our records, about 40% of Singapore’s 8-year-old students from the 2019 cohort will write 10cm as the answer. This is because the child didn’t subtract the 1cm. Instead the child mistakenly counted the number of bars labelled on the ruler from the tip of the pencil to the end of the ruler. There are 10 bars, so 10cm. This is one type of common misconception.
Here, the A.I. part of KooBits platform kicks in. It basically mimics the human intelligence of a good and effective teacher — What will a good teacher do, given such information about the child? How would that teacher encourage and help the child improve? Given each child’s unique behavior, the system will respond in certain ways in terms of content delivery and content recommendation. The system also groups children dynamically for differentiated learning. So, children who have the above-mentioned misconception will be grouped together, and will be given content that addresses that gap in their learning.
What’s next for Koobits?
We are now growing the business in multiple countries — we’ve just launched KooBits in Malaysia — and are also looking to broaden our offerings beyond Maths, venturing into subjects like science, language and coding. We’re currently working on the Science subject now, and will be rolling it out in the 2nd half of 2020, and we are also going to offer the e-learning system to all tuition centres by end of Q2 this year, to further democratize the best teaching resources and help accelerate the migration toward online teaching and learning.
KooBits is an EdTech company; we believe that the technology we have designed can be applied to many areas in education. We began with Maths, because we are passionate about the subject and are good at it; and also because Singapore Math is well-known internationally, and is backed up by strong pedagogical research. Since then, we have evolved into a learning platform that caters to any kind of Math curriculums and standards. 10 years down the road, I want KooBits to become the Tech Giant of Education, delivering education to students all around the world. Before then, however, I want KooBits to be the “Netflix of Maths”.