Over the years, while start-ups have shut down or absorbed heavy losses across sectors, the education sector, for the most part, seems to be facing ups and downs squarely. A number of edu-tech players have also survived VC’s tightening purse strings in the last year or so. What’s more, in the age of machine learning and artificial intelligence, bots are mushrooming in many sectors – they’ll increasingly take over some functions across a range of businesses. But if Prepathon’s founder Allwin Agnel’s surmise turns out to be largely accurate, while bots help keep his own start-up lean, they won’t replace teachers.
“We’ve removed the coach function as the bots are now replacement for the coach functions,” says Agnel. Prepathon is a test preparation platform that has over two lakh active users who will sit professional examinations across banking, defence, engineering, management and government sectors.
What bots do
Prepathon, which was set up in the second half of 2015, had around five coaches on board previously assisting course-takers. But bots now provide feedback to Prepathon users, making announcements that are relevant to course-takers, offering every user automatic suggestions for topics that may need revision, while suggesting study plans and providing motivation on days users get sluggish on their performance.
Agnel says, “Currently, we are clear that the scope of bots is to reduce the repetitive work that needs to be done. Over a period of time, bots will take on more challenges and will provide functionalities that we currently cannot imagine.”
While Prepathon is the first company in the edu-tech space to employ bots, according to Agnel, the company does have competition in the sector offering test preparation courses for a range of professional examinations. This year will see Prepathon add five additional preparatory courses on its platform.
Most people of an earlier generation will be sentimental about the role of teachers – this is a segment of people who couldn’t once imagine school or university without teachers. But with online distance learning getting ever popular, everyone will be used to seeing teachers online who deliver lessons through videos while students take notes on mobile apps and devices.
However, even as bots proliferate and make their presence felt across businesses, it’s important to notice what they do rather than assume they cause job losses.
“Traditionally, teachers have never had tools that allowed them to impact students beyond their classrooms. Personal attention, for example, doesn’t scale well… now teachers can increase their impact beyond the classroom. Bots help teachers save time by automating activities like providing feedback and individual motivation,” says Prepathon founder.