MindChamps CIO: ‘Classrooms of the future rest in the cloud’
At the Oracle CloudWorld Tour Singapore 2023, GovInsider spoke to Shan Gandhimani, Chief Information Officer of MindChamps to find out how cloud has enabled the international education organisation to leverage emerging technologies to explore new forms of education delivery at scale.
Education is classified by UNESCO as a basic human right, crucial in solving many of the world’s biggest problems. Yet, a recent UNESCO report found that 244 million children and youth worldwide remained out of school in 2022.
The global education system desperately needs to scale, but many factors are preventing it from doing so. Students require personalised learning and attention, but teachers are a finite resource who are increasingly bogged down with administrative tasks.
But technologies like AI, machine learning, and cloud computing can help teachers deliver education to more communities around the world at the same, if not better, levels of quality – all at increasingly affordable costs.
As former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan once wrote, “The vital human connection between educator and learner will always be the crucial spark in education. Technology, however, can enhance that spark by helping teachers to use their time and talents more effectively, and to personalise the learning experience to the needs and interests of individual students.” Rather than replace teachers, such technologies seek to augment the teaching and learning experience.
At the Oracle CloudWorld Tour Singapore 2023, GovInsider heard from international education organisation MindChamps on how cloud infrastructure and AI has enabled them to enhance the learning experience for kids and youth.
Remote learning is personalised learning
In a post-pandemic education climate, students, parents, and educators alike are gravitating towards online learning. A study by the University of the Potomac found that 70 per cent of students agree that online classes are better than traditional classroom settings. On top of that, e-learning has also been found to take less time, leave a smaller carbon footprint, and be more cost-efficient.
One key advantage of remote learning is that it is increasingly personalised to the individual student. Firstly, students are able to access educational resources at times, places, and modes that are most optimal for their learning.
Second, with the help of AI and data analytics, remote learning can customise the syllabus according to each students’ strengths and weaknesses, Shan Gandhimani, Chief Information Officer of MindChamps tells GovInsider.
One way that MindChamps has done so is through its own bespoke learning management system for online learning, ChampsLMS.
“In ChampsLMS, we track how much time a student is spending on a particular course. Then we make the student do a quick assessment to see if they have understood the material. If they haven’t, we introduce another bridging curriculum. If they have, we can even allow them to skip courses and move on to the next material,” he says.
This way, the time taken for each student to complete the entire syllabus may differ, but every student eventually gets to the same endpoint. This is opposed to a traditional classroom of 30, for example, where some students may inadvertently be left behind on courses that they are finding harder to grasp.
Scalable and dynamic classrooms
A third key advantage of online learning is that it is highly scalable. With the right cloud infrastructure, classrooms can be tuned in live by hundreds of students at a time, while still experiencing low latencies and seamless multimedia, making it as close to a physical classroom as possible.
For the past year or so, MindChamps has been building a classroom of the future with MindSpace, their virtual afterschool care classes, Shan tells GovInsider. ”We are setting up studios for our master trainers – our best teachers trained in MindChamps pedagogies – with three cameras and full displays,” he says.
"We are dealing with the future. I myself was at first worried that a teacher may not be able to operate so many kinds of digital equipment at once, but they are experts now and they manage fantastically well,” he adds.
Students can seamlessly switch among different learning mediums, such as powerpoints, live science experiments, and videos. In every physical classroom tuning in, a moderator teacher is also present to answer any questions students may have.
“Teachers can now seamlessly pull in assets and video clips as part of their lesson delivery. The level of interactivity you can get from such an online platform can stimulate the kids to stay on longer to learn,” adds Chris Chelliah, SVP, Technology & Customer Strategy, Oracle JAPAC.
MindChamps eventually intends to leverage facial recognition, augmented reality, and other emerging technologies to further enhance their classroom settings.
Facial recognition, for instance, will be able to help teachers conduct live analyses of student engagement levels. If 40 per cent of the class is looking around or exhibiting disengaged body language, this could inform the teacher that they may have to switch things up with a quiz or joke to re-engage the class.
“We are just the enablers, but at the end of the day, it is still the teachers who control the classroom,” Shan adds.
Education far and wide
Started in 2008 as a preschool education company, MindChamps is striving to make quality education available to many pockets of the world, Shan tells GovInsider. The education organisation currently has branches across Australia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and soon the US.
This need to make educational resources highly accessible to students across this many regions is why MindChamps created and trialled ChampsLMS.
“As our HQ is in Singapore, everything now becomes a challenge – from timezones to the availability of our people at all hours of the day. This is how Oracle came into the picture,” says Shan.
The Oracle team made sure the right infrastructure was in place for students to log in to the online system at any point in time, regardless of timezone or location.
“The infrastructure will scale up and down in real time according to how heavy user traffic is. For example, during after school hours, many students might be logging in to the system and it scales up. When kids go to bed, it will scale down again,” says Chris.
Oracle is currently the only cloud hyperscaler spanning 41 regions, now growing to 50. This allowed the Oracle team to bring educational content closer to the regions MindChamps wanted to expand into, at cost savings of 40 to 60 per cent.
“With other providers, it was more like shopping at a market. You pick what you want, it’s up to you whether you get the right product or not. But Oracle put together a team to support us, and spent a lot of time and energy creating this architecture alongside us,” says Shan.