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Mobile-only app targets India’s English learners

An Australian online learning company has announced its first product to specifically target India, which will take a conversation-like form known as ‘Burst Learning’.

"Burst Learning" is a new, wholly mobile-based, learning concept for ELT in India."Burst Learning" is a new, wholly mobile-based, learning concept for ELT in India. Photo: By Degrees

The learning experience will be much like a multi-contributor conversation on existing messaging applications

“For many years online learning has held a lot of promise, but hasn’t delivered much”, CEO of By Degrees Danny Bielik states in a catchy promo video on the firm’s website.

He explained that By Degrees developed the product after learning of Indian students’ struggle to get through English proficiency tests from agency association AAERI.

“[AAERI] came to me with this problem, [students are having] a difficulty with English, and IELTS especially. A lot of kids are just not getting through the test,” he said.

The Australian company aims to solve the problem of low completion rates in e-learning, and the high numbers of Indians under-30 who are not in education employment or training, with a fully mobile product that will act like a conversation to encourage attainment.

“We’re not delivering long, didactic lectures with exercises at the end,” Bielik told The PIE News.

He explained that the learning experience will be, visually at least, much like a multi-contributor conversation on existing messaging applications.

“It looks like a Whatsapp conversation. And over the years people have established ad hoc learning groups this way anyway,” he said.

“It’s not a great secret that the PTE, especially in India, is booming”

“[University students] establish groups in [messenger services] where they say ‘read this’, ‘what do you reckon about that’, ‘how would you go about this’ and so on and so forth,” Bielik continued.

According to figures discussed at an AAERI meeting in early 2017, 80% of all web traffic in India is via mobile devices.

With that in mind, Burst Learning will initially focus on English and training for the Pearson Test of English. Bielik told The PIE News that this was an obvious choice for the firm’s initial venture.

“It’s not a great secret that the PTE, especially in India, is booming. The numbers are exploding. Canada just accepted the PTE for their visa application, so projected numbers are going through the roof,” he related.

“English test prep is a big industry in India… Almost all agencies have their own training department”

By Degrees thinks the Indian market is ripe for this type of short form, fast-paced, and crucially, mobile style of learning – another form of “nano-learning” which The PIE News covered in 2015.

Ravi Lochan Singh, managing director of Indian education travel agency Global Reach, agrees with Bielick that mobile test preparation could find fertile ground in India, though his positivity is not without reservation.

English test prep is a big industry in India… Almost all agencies have their own training department or work with an outsourced third party. There is a scope for technology being introduced…if the mobile based delivery is cost effective, it will find a niche,” he said. 

But Singh doubts that mobile technology such as Burst Learning will be the death knell for brick and mortar training colleges.

How much will it replace face to face training[?] I am not sure.”

By Degrees aims to venture across Asia soon after their first year is complete.

“We’re very much an Asia-focused business, but what we’re doing here has global applicability… we’re hoping to expand quite rapidly,” Bielick told The PIE.

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