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Photograph: Sreeram Selvaraj
Every year, about 50,000 Indian students write the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and it is to attract these large numbers that Valued Epistemics Private Limited (VEPL) launched GREedge.com, India's first online training for GRE aspirants.
It was the desire to be an entrepreneur that made Anand Kannan, the managing director of GREedge.com, start something along these lines. The desire to be an entrepreneur was within him even when he finished his graduation from IIT, Madras but he went on to do his Masters from IISc, Bangalore and his PhD from Purdue University.
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"We were hearing a lot of stories about many companies like Infosys [Get Quote] then. Of course, IISc was well networked with the industry. Even when I left India for the US, I wanted to be a part of the growing Indian economy. But I had to work for a while to make enough capital to start a venture". (He worked as a Research Engineer in Nokia's Research Centre in Texas for several years in Wireless LAN research, GSM and CDMA radio technology, entry-level mobile application development and business model development for low income markets. He also did a short stint at Arraycomm, Inc in San Jose, California, during its start-up days).
His ambition was to engage himself with younger people, "those in the early twenties and raring to go". Joining him in the venture was Yogesh Lavanis, also from IISc. "We were sure that our platform was going to be in the delivery of learning. We were looking for a technology that is interesting but close enough to get commercial. We wanted to face the end user directly. Both of us work in the area of signal processing. To make a commercial product, you need a very specific set of end users, with specific learning needs. We did a survey and found that GRE is one such market."
The training module was launched by VEPL. The online test was put on public domain after thorough research and development since 2005, says Kannan.
A student interested in writing GRE can go to www.GREedge.com, register and open an account. He/she can expect a call from the student counsellor. This is mainly to know the aspiration of the student and also for the student to have clarity about what it is all about. He/she can take a 10-day free trial before joining the course.
Once the student pays the fees using a credit card or a DD, s/he is enrolled as an online student of GREedge.com. The fees vary for different programmes.
After enrolment, the students get a detailed orientation questionnaire.
Student facilitator and Analyst
Anyone who enrolls in GREedge.com is assigned a Student Facilitator and Analyst (SFA) who guides the student through the entire preparation stage for GRE.
Students can interact with their SFA by typing in their query in a box on screen and sending it. The SFA responds to the questions.
The Millisecond technology
The Millisecond Monitoring Feedback Technology, developed by the company (they have applied for a patent) enables them to track and report the student's learning pattern. The technology captures information on how students answer the questions, how much time they take, analyse the pattern, and based on that the SFA gives them feedback and recommendations to boost their score. The two important features of the technology are that it captures data and then does the analysis, and it is done in real-time.
When students log on to GREedge.com and start working on GRE model tests, the Millisecond Monitor, which is embedded on the page, records the way they select their answers. With the help of predictive analytics technology, the data is analysed.
"We are more like the friends of the students than teachers. We monitor the students every millisecond. The Millisecond technology observes the students like a teacher does in class. We analyse the data and come up with a very detailed analysis of how the student is progressing and what more the student needs to do to get a better score. We give a very descriptive feedback focussing on their drawbacks," Kannan explains.
Result so far
So far, more than 20,000 students have enrolled for the programme. Students are predominantly from the suburbs of metropolitan cities and small towns. Curiously, 35-40 per cent are from Andhra Pradesh.
The advantage of taking the online programme, according to Kannan, is that students can log in anytime from anywhere according to their convenience. Those who are already working somewhere are always squeezed for time. "It is as good as a classroom as it is interactive, and the student facilitator like a teacher gives specific advice based on data."
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