eLernity changing the way we view education

This issue Voyageur takes a look at eLernity whose mission is to leverage the power of the Internet to improve education, by combining superior educational resources with advanced information technologies.

Larry Kessler, is the acting general manager of eLernity Thailand, a branch of NetDragon Websoft Inc. (HKSE: 0777). Larry, who has been in Thailand for 15 years, tells us NetDragon was started in 1999 as a gaming company, manufacturing adventure computer games about Chinese history for the gaming community in China. Those games did quite well, but over time, NetDragon chairman Liu Dejian, the founder of the company, realized that wasn’t a good platform for long-term sustainable future, so in 2010 he developed eLernity, his own platform, similar to those developed by Google and Apple and he sold the gaming business to BAIDU for US$1.3 billion.

Soon afterwards, NetDragon started acquiring education companies, one of the first being Promethean, a UK-based company (bought for US$130 million) that is one of the largest interactive panel companies in the world, combining a hardware and software solution, which includes its flagship interactive whiteboards ActivBoards, and software ClassFlow. For US$30.5 million, NetDragon also purchased Cherrypicks, a Hong Kong based company focused on VRAR (virtual & augmented reality).

Larry says the value proposition is to take the knowledge of gaming over the last 20 years and integrate it those with state-of-the-art education techniques. In schoolrooms of the past, a teacher would broadcast a message, students would sit back and take notes and periodically they’d have quizzes and tests, which would evaluate what they learned. Today, you must teach kids in a way that is enjoyable for them while at the same time trying to discern if one child is understanding a concept while another is having trouble dealing with it. Teachers want to know immediately if their students are grasping the concepts they are teaching and interactive learning in real-time allows them to do just that.

Another recent NetDragon acquisition is EDMODO (US$137 million), which has over 100 million people on its platform, including 10 million teachers, who put their lesson plans on EDMODO. So if a teacher in Thailand wants to teach say a 10th grade course in DNA, instead of having to research it on Google, all they need to do is type “best DNA course” into the EDMODO system and EDMODO will look at the work from its 10 million teachers, narrow it down to those who have lesson plans on DNA and then prioritize the top 20 lesson plans, for that particular age level and subject matter.

Any Thai public school can have free access to eLernity’s system. Right now, eLernity is trying to create a global community and they will monetize the platform later on when they have half-a-billion users. Currently, there are 800,000 Thais using eLernity (students, parents & teachers), in about 5,000 schools across the nation. Teachers in remote areas can go online and download eLernity’s applications themselves.

Larry says for the “smart classroom” technology to work you need a good Internet connection and farsighted teachers who can see the benefit of using technology and are ready to embrace changes to the education system as we know it. eLernity has a product called Coding Galaxy which teaches kids at a young age the concepts of coding, or how to think logically, how to do things in the most efficient way and if they make a mistake, how to debug and change the error.

Larry stresses the concept of lifelong learning; in the not too distant future, there are going to tens of thousands of people out of work because of robotics and A.I. – what are they going to do? They are going to need to be retrained, so people need to learn how to learn and how to think critically. That’s the value an education should be able to give. Larry thinks there needs to a fundamental shift in the way the Thai education system views education if the country is to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

And that’s where eLernity comes in, “We have the total answer to the modern education conundrum as we can combine technology with education and make it fun,” Larry says. An example would be one of eLernity’s game School of Dragons whereby participants advance through the game by answering skill-testing chemistry and mathematics questions.

NetDragon has an on-going commitment to invest in lifetime learning that brings together technology and big data in a way that improves the overall user experience for all learners around the world while developing a game-changing education ecosystem at the same time (http://we.101.com).

(Btw, CanCham board member Natasak Rodjanapiches is also a member of the eLernity board)