Notebook: Learning for a better tomorrow

What if a classroom wasn’t necessary for learning? What if a student could learn in an environment and at a time most convenient for her or him? What if the blackboard could come alive in colours and animations to help the learning process? What if every chapter became a story? A team of about 50 people have been working in Kolkata over the last year to answer these questions. Meet team ‘Notebook’ – a venture to use engaging content delivered digitally to make learning more ubiquitous in India.

Notebook is a mobile-first product that combines video and text content to deliver learning according to the school curriculum. With engagement in mind, visuals and audio are used in a way to create maximum impact through short-form content. The syllabi across CBSE, ICSE and multiple state boards are broken down into topics and sub-topics. Every sub-topic is then converted into a script for the video. The videos include an instructor-led component as well as some graphic visualisation elements to reinforce the storytelling. Besides the sub- topic video, there are short recap videos to recapitulate the key learnings as well as solved questions provided in the video form. To enable further reading, text notes and solved questions are provided.

The product also classifies the solved questions into categories by difficulty level. Machine learning is used to serve the questions as per the learning curve of the individual student. Thus the overall experience becomes completely personalised. At completion, the product will cater to 16 boards, 6 subjects in English and 10 vernacular languages. The product design itself has been a result of in-depth research into multiple educational initiatives from across the globe.

Research introduced the founders, Achin and Subhayu, to the edX initiative formed as a collaboration between Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. Anant Agarwal, who leads this initiative, had stated that he had witnessed a phenomenon where peer learning was proving to be an effective method of clarifying doubts. Notebook is banking on the network effect between students across India and they envision a future where a girl from Mumbai will have her doubts answered on the Notebook social community pages by a boy from Jharkhand.

One area where Notebook is expected to be a seismic shift in ed-tech is in the inclusion of vernacular languages. According to a report by Google and KPMG, nine out of ten new internet users between 2016 and 2021 will be a non-English language internet user in India. With the rapid adoption of mobile internet, this provides unprecedented reach to students in the farthest reaches of the country. In recent times, vernacular driven apps like DailyHunt have seen massive growth and the product is geared to ride this wave. Plans are also on the table to develop an audio design to help students with visual disabilities, and serving notes in a format suitable for students with Dyslexia.

At launch, on January 26th, 2019, the product comes with content for the English syllabus of CBSE – classes VIII, IX and X. Soon to follow is the content for Hindi. Achin says, “Language is very important as it helps you express yourself – a student will be able to leverage his or her knowledge in any subject if expression and command over language is good.”