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EZ Vidya’s Chrysalis Techmate :: EZ Vidya Private Limited

  • Written by wes
  • June 26, 2012 at 9:07 am
  • Project Category: Private Sector Initiative :: Best Innovation in Teaching- Learning Technologies

    Details of the Applicant:

    Name: Sundar Raj
    Organization: EZ Vidya Private Limited
    Address: 66 Kamdar Nagar First Street, Nungambakkam, Tamil Nadu. Chennai
    Country: India
    Organization Website: www.ezvidya.com ; https:// www.ezvidya.com/

    Details of the Agency implementing the Project/Initiative:

    Name of the Organization:  EZ Vidya Private Limited
    Address: 
    66 Kamdar Nagar First Street, Nungambakkam, Tamil Nadu. Chennai
    Country: 
    India

    Name of head of Organization: Chitra Ravi

    Project Website: www.ezvidya.com

    Details of Programme /Project/Initiative:

    Brief Description:

    EZ Vidya’s Chrysalis TechMate is an open-source-based on-line and off-line teaching content platform in vogue since April 2011. TechMate provides teacher and student logins via the cloud or a school server. Once logged in, teachers can access a complete digital version of their printed Chrysalis curriculum materials (interactive e-books), with matching audio-visuals, teacher guides, suggested web links, and assessment questions for each lesson. Students, parents and School Heads can access all of the student content, take assessments, and view their progress and performance. The interface is a standard browser (e.g. Firefox), so as teachers get comfortable in Chrysalis TechMate, and in the process they are also learning how to browse the web, and, schools can use Chrysalis TechMate on similar “Smartclass” hardware bundles without violating software installation restrictions.

    Reasons for Starting Programme/Project/Initiative:

    Classroom Research reveals many teachers fearing technology per se , and technology is not adequately used in the way they teach. Technology typically takes the form of Computer laboratories used by students in higher classes for web surfing and report writing. Interactive white boards go unused. Video content libraries are used for short periods, and then abandoned under pressure to “complete the syllabus [textbook]”. Internet connected schools are not too many. The structure of the typical teaching transaction remains largely unchanged – lecture, question, and answer pattern. EZ Vidya saw this as an opportunity to offer a solution – schools were making investments in hardware and not getting much value out of them, and, schools were neglecting the power of the Internet to transform teaching process. EZ Vidya’s rich experience in facilitating teachers use technology since 2001, provided a different platform that overcame teacher’s apprehension and drive usage.

    Objective:

    EZ Vidya created Chrysalis TechMate to( a) give teachers something useful to do with technology daily, (b) run on existing school equipment without additional software,( c) develop and monitor teacher technology skills and (d) be directly aligned (not mapped) to the textbook for teachers. The benefits are shared. Schools get higher usage out of their hardware, their teachers’ skills develop, and their students have better learning and engagement through technology. EZ Vidya also gets additional touchpoints with teachers, students, and parents, increasing customer retention and feedback. Chrysalis TechMate automatically logs user activity, for analysis of which content or feature was most and least popular.

    Target Group:

    4300 Teachers, about 2,50,000 students, and parents from 400 plus Chrysalis (client)-EZ Vidya partnered schools.

    Geographical Reach within India: 400 plus client schools across India : Delhi – NCR, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, accessed via web and/or optional school server approx. 105 servers .

    Geographical Reach outside India: Used by client schools in Singapore, and, anywhere on Earth with an Internet connection (main servers are located at a data centre in Hyderabad)

    Date From which the Project became Operational: 04/02/2011

    Is the Project still operational?: Yes


    Highlight 10 Innovations of programme/project/initiative:

    1. Teachers have something useful to do with technology in class every day, without having to spend much time preparing or pre-viewing videos, as the digital content is a direct extension of the student textbook.
    2. Students and parents can review what was done in the classroom during the day at home via the cloud login
    3. The user interface is carefully designed to hide complexity from the teacher – maximum of 3 clicks to find an appropriate content object
    4. “No software install” – runs using a browser on minimal spec computer equipment
    5. Closely mapped Audio Visuals – rather than following a generic list of topics, AVs match the characters, stories, and scenarios referenced directly in the Chrysalis print materials
    6. Teacher skill development – the TechMate user interface (UI) is accessible to teachers with low technology skills, via a simple layout. As teachers become more comfortable they can access more and more features. For example, EZ Vidya provides pre-defined assessment papers, a bank of assessment questions, and the facility for teachers to create their own questions – as teachers become more comfortable, they can increase their digital contribution; there are multiple entry points where teachers of different skill levels can use Chrysalis Techmate
    7. English language narrations of the text content – teachers can play a professional voiceover of the English text, in a neutral Indian accent, if necessary.
    8. Encouraging internet usage by schools and teachers – the browser interface, suggested web links listed against each topic and lesson are intentionally designed to drive teachers to take advantage of the power of the Internet
    9. Multi-modal delivery – EZ Vidya designed the solution to support a range of school profiles, from on-line and technology-sound schools to low-tech and off-line schools. The back-end PHP on MySQL, leveraging core Moodle, is optimized to run on low-end hardware, for example, Rs16,000 Celeron netbook. Schools with no hardware can use EZ Vidya’s Chrysalis TechMate to create an “instant AV Room” for under Rs50,000, rather than spending lakhs on fancy equipment. Schools can also access Chrysalis TechMate through devices as simple as internet enabled smartphones.
    10. 100% Indian and 100% female development team – all of the programmers who developed Chrysalis TechMate are Indian women!

    Highlight 5 achievements of the programme/project/initiative:
    1. Universal access – All of EZ Vidya’s Chrysalis client schools have access to digital content in school and on the web (each school has a unique URL to access Chrysalis TechMate, for example, techmate.ezvidya.com/MYSCHOOL)
    2. Hugely positive teacher feedback. Comments from client teachers include: “I wish we had this last year, I would have done so much more with technology.”, “TechMate is so nice and easy to use”, and “TechMate puts [Chrysalis] all there for me.”
    3. 200% increase in the number of our client schools interacting with EZ Vidya via the web (i.e. last school year most of our clients were not willing to bring Internet to classrooms and allow teachers to use EZ Vidya content via the web in class)
    4. Value for schools – our client schools with large investments in classroom technology are reporting to use that they are using Chrysalis TechMate easily on their existing hardware, increasing their productivity and Returns On Investment.
    5. Instant feedback throughout the school year on usage of our content

    Highlight 5 Key challenges faced while implementing the project/programme/initiative and how they were overcome:
    1. Teacher apprehension – In the beginning many teachers were reluctant to use technology! We tackled this in design and via support. In design, we went through four iterations of the display theme, simplifiying the interface so that teachers first saw only the “essentials”, with simple consistent icons. In support, we demonstrated Chrysalis TechMate to teachers, printed and distributed an accessible full-colour manual, & quick reference guide, gave 2 hour training in school, and setup an AskEZ service line for phone calls, email, and SMS requests.
    2. Pre-existing market perceptions of content libraries – Chrysalis TechMate is a completely different approach to implementing digital content, with qualitatively different kinds of videos and electronic resources, however, many of our client schools have been “trained” by marketing from other vendors to ask for a video library of topics to choose and use in a “smartclass”. EZ Vidya’s philosophy is that the teacher should be a facilitator, not a Television programmer! Chrysalis TechMate is designed accordingly. Our sales and support teams visited schools multiple times and surveyed teachers on how they wanted to use Chrysalis, to understand the school’s requirements and educate schools on how they could use technology in classrooms differently and yet effectively!
    3. Highly heterogenous client hardware – every school had a different technology setup, ranging from zero to smartboards and wifi internet in every classroom. We tested TechMate on Windows and Linux, running as a “server” on a low-end netbook, against four browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari), at multiple screen resolutions to ensure that it would run “at your school” as promised.
    4. Low bandwidth and no bandwidth – many of our client schools have slow or no Internet connections. Our field team did an inventory of technology resources at each school, and made recommendations for an optimal setup, ranging from running TechMate on an EZ Vidya provided netbook connected directly to a school projector (offline) to requesting a Wifi upgrade in selected classrooms. Wherever appropriate, EZ Vidya installed Chrysalis TechMate on existing school servers, or swapped hardware to make usage viable for the school.
    5. Extremely tight timeline – feature spec was finalized in November 2011, and delivered in April. The team did weekly builds of the code, then daily builds in March to ensure bug-free “go live” – since April 2nd launch, there have been zero bugs reported on the code, only small errors in content (e.g. typo in an assessment question)

    List 5 points on how the Project/Programme/Initiative can serve as a model that can be replicated or adapted by others?
    1. Holistic implementation of technology – we started talking Chrysalis TechMate from the very first interaction with a school, so that school heads and teachers perceived it as an integral part of the teaching transaction, not an “add on”. This meant that teachers were excited and primed to use it, rather than making it a separate line item that could be “chopped off”.
    2. “Hi-tech, Hi-touch” at low service cost. One can’t just “dump” technology in schools and force teachers to use it. EZ Vidya planned and delivered intense support up front; Team EZ Vidya visited every client school multiple times in the early part of the school year, and then we rapidly ramped down the support to minimize cost once a school was self-sufficient. EZ Vidya designed our rollout schedule so that we could meet peak demand without hiring extra staff.
    3. Web-based delivery – we reach the world from our data centre; the user-friendly browser-based approach allows us to go “zero new software footprint”
    4. Indigenous adaptation of open-source software instead of starting from scratch. We researched and picked some core platforms. We integrated and customized them using lightweight languages (PHP, SQL, HTML, and CSS). This allowed us to rapidly develop a very powerful solution at low cost. (We also give back to the open source community!)
    5. Common content formats – EZ Vidya has been developing Chrysalis curriculum materials for 11 years….by clocking more than 2,70,000 hours of research. For Chrysalis TechMate, we prepared a standard “content container” or content-overlay. We loaded content objects of different types, e.g. PPT, SWF, MP4, PDF, etc. into a standard Flash based module, so that when played in Chrysalis TechMate, we could be sure the look-and-feel and technical requirements to run were absolutely consistent. This simplified our development, testing and deployment processes as well.

    List 5 points to elaborate on the scalability of the Project/Programme/Initiative
    1. Content over the web is inherently scalable – divide the development cost by the number of terminals
    2. Our portal simplifies administration – we maintain the license in a central repository, and users self-register using their email address
    3. Support via phone and web – our service desk allows schools to get help when they need it, between visits from our field team. We have remote access into most school’s Chrysalis TechMate instances, so a small number of staff in Chennai can support 400 schools.
    4. Cross-subsidized support – we train our staff internally on technology. Our teams are scheduled to visit schools for curriculum support, Chrysalis TechMate simply becomes part of that.
    5. “Instant content updates” – by going web-based, as EZ Vidya Research and Develop Team innovates on Audio Visuals, we make one update and it’s replicated to all schools.

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