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AWS Hopes to Revive Public Education with EdStart

 

AWS EdStart, the AWS educational technology startup accelerator, is designed to help entrepreneurs build the next generation of online learning, analytics, and campus management solutions on the AWS Cloud. The program is designed to enable EdTech startups to move faster with specially tailored benefits.

As technology continues to play a key role in many classrooms, institutions, and learning environments, AWS EdStart helps EdTech entrepreneurs build solutions that are secure, smart, scalable, and cost-effective. Available in the US, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, EdStart is a free offering. There are no costs to apply to become a member of the program and AWS does not take any equity from AWS EdStart members.

According to Vincent Quah, Regional Head, Asia Pacific and Japan, AWS, all members must have a solution that serves the education sector and that haven’t been established longer than five years. They also can’t be earning more than US$10 million.

The program provides EdTech start-ups with AWS Promotional Credits, community engagements, customized trainings, marketing opportunities, mentorship, and technical support to help them move faster in building and growing business.

“Education companies in start-up are very siloed. We created a community to bring them together and get them connected as well as have access to solution architects to support their design of solutions and services.”

Since launching EdStart in the US in early 2017, the program has issued over US$ 2 million in AWS Promotional Credits to help customers revolutionise the education industry. In 2018, they moved out globally. AWS reviews all EdStart applications and have an internal assessment to score each applicant to decide if they can be accepted or not into the program.

During the recent AWS Public Sector summit, three start up companies shared with us their journey with EdStart on how they are using their solutions to revolutionise and maybe even disrupt the education system.

 

Arkademi, Indonesia

With Indonesia being a huge country made up of several thousand islands, connecting students with educators around the country was a huge problem. Add that to the growing population in Indonesia; the resources were fully stretched. Arkademi came up with a solution by creating an online platform that is both web-based and mobile app-based.

According to Hilman Fajrian, CEO and Founder of Arkademi, the needs of education is more complex than before in Indonesia. There is an inequality towards education because of demographics. Mobile learning tech solves this problem. Using Amazon S3 to host more than 400 private learning videos, the company assists teachers to design and create high-quality curriculum-based learning and producing mobile learning-oriented content.

Hilman pointed out that while the completion rate of an online course is typically really low, for Arkademi, the completion rate is 85%. He attributed this to the mobile tech, which made internet access available to everyone. Web-based learning would require a laptop or a computer or going to an internet café. Mobile devices provide flexibility for access.

“Everyone loves innovation, but they don’t like to pay for it. Education can’t keep up with tech. But if it’s mandatory to keep up with tech, we help them adopt innovation step by step and help close the gap.”

 

Miao Academy, Singapore

Using AI, Miao Academy aims to revolutionize and disrupt the way students learn and access educational resources with their academic chatbot, Miao. The chatbot helps students with Math and Science problems, similar to a friendly study buddy. By texting or sending photos of any homework problem to Miao, the chatbot provides immediate answers including theories, definitions and detailed guidance for homework problems.

“Singaporeans always partake in private tutoring. The industry is worth SG$ 1.4billion for a population of only 500, 000. It’s a big financial burden on families. There is a huge need for an alternative option. Miao stores the best knowledge and keeps using it. It is able to handle many queries concurrently as it’s done via automation tech,” said Betty Zhou, CEO of Miao Academy.

Betty pointed out that teachers fear they will be made redundant. They are not just afraid of tech adoption; they are worried about the extra workload from this. Teachers need to see technology as a tool that helps them, she emphasized.

Miao Academy hopes to have its application become a global program. They are already looking into the China market and are looking to future potential expansions like voice recognition and more AI capabilities.

 

Inkerz, Australia

“Inkerz’s mission is to make pen and paper smart,” said Vahid Kolahdouzan, Founder and COO of Inkerz. The Australian based platform aims to be a highly-scalable SaaS cloud solution by solving the age-old problem of digitising handwriting without the high cost or inconvenience of special input devices or screens. Using a host of AWS Services including SageMaker, Lambda, AppSync and others, Inkerz wants to eventually be able to integrate pen and paper into the digital world.

Hoping to help students and teachers manage handwritten tasks, Inkerz uses a patented technology that uses neural networks, either to run on hardware or cloud. Inkerz currently works with Canvas, a highly popular LMS. Inkerz’s API enables Canvas users to write straight into the Canvas LMS with any pen or pencil and enables them to write math and science formulas, written or drawing, that are impractical for the keyboard.

“Teachers don’t like change. We are breached between old and new methods. By utilising mobile phone cameras, we are able to capture real-time wiring in any surface. Writing and drawing lead to creativity, and we believe this will enable students and teachers to create and share ideas like no way before.”

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