COVID-triggered lockdown and distancing has thrown lots of challenges. Training, upskilling have become major issues. But not anymore, says Nidhi Agarwal, Founder&CEO - Bookaworkshop, who has developed an Edutainment platform. Nidhi talks to BNC in an exclusive interview on their USP and the future of edutainment as the exciting business model:
BizNewsConnect: E-learning has been limited to just online coaching. Has the lockdown changed this?
Nidhi Agarwal: E-learning was largely limited to pre-recorded videos before the lockdown. Since the lockdown, people have largely opened up to the idea of zoom calls and e-learning through LIVE virtual interactions, which has expanded the scope of e-learning completely. Teachers teaching online remotely, was considered to be a futuristic concept but because of the lockdown, overnight people had to adapt to not only technologies but also the change in the learning and teaching patterns online. Because of the lockdown, e-learning was not only limited to coaching anymore but all kinds of workshops, seminars, discussions, collaborations, meetings, school and college classes, practically every structural human conversation shifted online.
BNC: Is this emerging as a new HR tool for the industry? Will additional skills/ certificates from such platforms hold relevance?
NA: Top companies today value skills over degrees. In fact, Google has launched its own online 6-month course after which they are eligible to apply for a job at Google. Skill-based learning, short courses, workshops have become the biggest HR tool because it helps them identify the right personnel with the right skill set for the job. In today's day and age, the last degree you did doesn't matter anymore, it becomes old and obsolete before you know it. The person who can constantly keep learning and upgrading themselves with the moving times, is the true winner. When your portfolio shows that you have done multiple courses or workshops, they not only see the skills that you have already built for yourself but also see the "learning attitude" that comes with it. The key skill that the top most companies are looking for today is adaptability. The certificates/ courses that you do, showcase exactly that! At Book A Workshop, we aim to provide these "upgradation" workshops for people from all industries to keep in touch with the racing times and learn from the industry experts themselves!
BNC: There used to be a fun element in training workshops earlier which involved travelling and meeting people? How does an online platform meet this requirement?
NA: A change in place always helps with learning and creating a learning mindset. But learning online has its own benefits. Online platforms are transforming the way you can learn online. It is a difficult task, but not impossible. Every session online can be made more interactive through various Q&A rounds, opening up chat boxes for people to connect, creating a strong platform which opens up forums for people to meet and communicate, conduct some entertainment sessions for people to move around or feel more involved. At Book A Workshop, we help our experts create these sessions where we try to keep the content crisp and easy to understand, introduce polls, do Q&A sessions, open up chat forums after the workshops for people to showcase and share their work, etc. I was attending this online summit a few weeks back where we were given credit points. Those credit points could be used to initiate a conversation with anyone in the summit. I think, with time and effort, the online learning space can also be made more fun and interactive.
Watch on BN Channel: Edutainment - The Wonder Platform
BNC: Aren't people getting bored with the plethora of webinars?
NA: Learning is as fun as you can make it. Not all offline sessions are interesting and people do often get bored in them as well. Webinars need active content curation, well planned out session timings, attractive visuals and interaction design. At Book A Workshop, we make sure all our workshops are well planned keeping in mind all that we have mentioned and keep it as engaging and interactive as possible.
BNC: With the impression that it's raining webinars, how do platforms like yours plan to break the monotony?
NA: 1. Instructional design for online sessions, we focus a lot on how we prepare our experts and the content which is different and engaging and completely hands-on. The content is not designed by professors but by industry experts. The knowledge and insights that they have to offer is very unique, easy to understand and can be implemented immediately. Along with that the whole session is planned out in such a way that the participants don't get bored.
2. Choosing the right experts. All our experts and celebrities come with an exemplary record of work that they have done, awards that they have won and various milestones that they have achieved. Some of them even have built the industry from scratch. These are people who learners look up to and admire. We usually learn better from people who we look up to and like. The kind of stories, experiences and insights that they bring to the table are unparalleled.
3. We don't admit more than 50-60 participants per workshop which keep the conversations going and facilitate interaction.
4. We curate content along with the expert. We make sure that the content is extremely specific, crisp, easy-to-understand and delivered in a fun or visual way. For example, we won-t host a workshop that says Finance 101, because that's not possible in a 2-3 hour workshop and is extremely vague. Instead we host specific workshops like- "how to read a balance sheet".
BNC: Can training with physical presence ever replace online normal?
NA: There are pros and cons for every style and platform for teaching. But I personally don't think that the experience that a physical presence can offer can replace the online normal, at least until we can afford VR sets or a technology that enables a virtual presence. The online normal certainly does help with bringing people closer, making resources more available than ever and connecting people across boundaries. A month back, we hosted a workshop with Master Calligrapher, Achyut Palav. He has been teaching calligraphy and practising it for more than 50 years. In that workshop, we had a student of his who now resides in Toronto and studied under him 25 years ago. She spoke about how she has wanted to learn from him again but the place and time just couldn't be managed. After 25 years, she finally had the chance of learning from him again and she couldn't be happier about it!
BNC: What are other emerging trends in this field?
NA: 'E-learning' as a term is too broad and generic. The field that we belong to is called Ed-tech. In this industry, we constitute less than 5% of the industry and have a niche for ourselves, called Edutainment. There's a new rise of interest and exploration in this field as a whole. It's in a very nascent state right now but it is extremely promising looking at how the world is shifting towards skill development and the need to learn and implement and showcase growth over just obtaining certificates. The current trends that I can currently witness is an increase in the number of people who want to learn how to create content for various platforms. Influencer marketing and content creation are the rage right now along with home chefs, space education, fin tech, brewing, gin-making.
BNC: What is in it for brands? For instance, a TVC can help brands to reach out to masses. How does a digital platform help achieve this?
NA: In a D2C world there are many ways to market a product but to create a relevant and lasting brand image, a couple of things always go a long way. To create a lasting impression, brands need to either create content that provides value in terms of learning or entertainment or collaborate/ outsource to content creators or platforms that do the same. TVCs are a way to educate and inform the audience about their product, which remain a great way to market the product/ services. But in order to constantly hammer the brand and make that lasting impression, content creation and placement of the brand with the right content has become extremely crucial. Brand sponsored workshops, act as a great way to reach out to the brand's direct target audience if the placement is done right. This adds a lot of value to the brand since it is now providing "edutainment" content (entertainment + education) to its users, creating a lot of hammering and value for the end user. It also uplifts the brand's image in the minds of the end user.
BNC: Isn't getting an audience for digital platforms a big challenge?
NA: User attention and retention is a big challenge that every kind of platform is facing. It all boils down to the quality of content delivered by the platform and the kind of ways you are using to reach out the audience that will appreciate that content. With a 52% internet penetration in a country like India and easy access to social media and other digital platforms for marketing, it is relatively easier to reach out to your audience. Also, the lockdown has doubled if not tripled content consumption amongst the users of the world.
BNC: Today, the various apps have limited scope such as pure entertainment or shopping? Again shopping is limited to grocery and food? This can never replace the touch and feel concept. Your take?
NA: I think that every platform comes with its own experience and is used to solve a problem or fulfil a need. The touch & feel aspect is an experience in itself. When people go out to shop, it's almost like a plan in itself. From planning to go to the supermarket or shop to travelling there to looking at various things, all your senses are involved which constitute for a very high experience profile. But when it comes to online shopping, it’s more about the ease and convenience. I remember when pepperfry launched its online furniture store, it was the rage. Affordable, good-looking furniture was delivered to your doorstep and a person from the company would come and assemble everything for you! Who could say no to that right? But people who were not confident of their choices, the company, the quality, the options, wanted to visit the store and buy it from there. That's when they came up with a showroom model called the pepperyfry studio which allowed people to come and have the touch & feel experience of the product for them to gain their trust and then the attendant helped them order it online from the store itself. This really helped with the crossover. There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to building experiences for your audience but what you can create is choices in experiences where the audience/ customer feels free to choose the option that fits him/ her best. A personal example would be for movies. I don't remember the last movie I watched in a theatre and I think I have personally lost the patience to go to a theatre and watch a movie because I have access to Netlix on my phone, laptop, home theatre system where I can watch latest movies from the comfort of my home, at a time of my convenience. The next experience that I will be looking for is maybe a VR experience where I can see that movie while I'm in it!
BNC: As we discussed in the beginning, can we go beyond an e-coaching?
NA: I think we definitely can. Learning is usually looked at as a function of young age but it is not. Constant learning is the key to evolution. Like I mentioned earlier, there is a need to inculcate the habit of "everyday learning" amongst adults and young ones alike. For instance, Byjus has done a fabulous job by revolutionising the way K-12 learns but what after that? What happens after you have received your degree or your Masters or your PhD? There are some great sites available that offer you courses to keep yourself updated and learning but what really gives you the motivation to learn and keep learning? I think the need of the future is a learning habit development and the biggest motivation to learn more is a chance to learn from the person who is the best in your industry or someone you have always admired in brief, relevant and crisp sessions. Because let's be honest, we have all reached a point of time where even the 30s compulsory YouTube ad annoy us, so how are we to find the motivation to learn after a 48 hour week work schedule and a family to take care of? Book A Workshop is that platform where we are looking to help people create a habit of everyday learning by creating and hosting content that's bite-sized, extremely relevant and delivered by an expert who the audience aspires to be.
BNC: Can this be a serious business – since digital platforms/apps are perceived to be more for fun and time-pass?
NA: With the advent of technology and probably robots or machines taking over menial jobs, we humans will be left to do more cognitive work. Work that allows us to explore and exploit our true human potential. Hence, developing our minds, constantly training it to unlearn and learn and be extremely adaptive is the way of the future and that's exactly how one can excel in the future. Considering all of this, online learning companies become one of most important businesses. Book A Workshop is not an entertainment platform but an edutainment platform, which opens up various futuristic realms of learning patterns and techniques for our humans of the future.