Emerging Entrepreneurs

Doing a little more to make tests fail-safe

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on August 22, 2019 Published on August 20, 2019

Srikanth Ganesan, Founder & CEO, LittleMore Innovation Labs   -  N Ramakrishnan

Srikanth Ganesan’s start-up develops digital device for paperless examinations

Srikanth describes himself as a solutions person, one who loves to solve problems that have a huge impact. It was while working at MeritTrac, a company that provides an online assessment platform, that the idea to come up with a paperless way of conducting and writing examinations came to him. He discussed this with a couple of people over coffee in Bengaluru and founded LittleMore Innovation Labs. While at MeritTrac, he says, he used to visit universities.

“What struck me was there were many campus management systems, ERP, lot of software being used, bits and pieces of hardware for authentication, identification and other things. But what remained constant was the paper that was being used in exams,” says Srikanth. A faculty member spent a large part of the academic year in only administering examinations – setting the question paper, invigilating, correcting the answer scripts. A huge quantity of paper was being used in conducting the examinations, there were problems of question papers being leaked or students trying to influence the marking of answer sheets. No software can solve these problems unless you eliminate paper completely, emphasises Srikanth.

That is when, he says, he thought of coming up with a device that gave a similar experience of writing on paper and solved all the inherent problems of the examination system. Question papers are set digitally, students write the exams on a digital device and the answer scripts are even corrected and marked digitally. “We have encryptions, authentication and identification mechanisms. Everything bundled with the hardware could eliminate all those problems,” he says.

According to him, going digital not only eliminates all the problems associated with examinations but also helps in multi-dimensional data capturing. For instance, with a digital medium, it will be possible to find out how much time a student spent on a particular question and whether it was worthwhile spending so much time on it and how many times a student revisited a question. “I can do a lot of correlation between how much time they have spent and how much they have scored. It will help them improve their performance as they go along. Small data which add up and cumulatively have a huge impact on the quality of education,” says Srikanth.

First commercial contract

 

Srikanth says LittleMore had the proof of concept of a product ready in 2011 and started doing the pilots in India in 2012. It signed the first commercial contract in 2013 with Tamil Nadu Agriculture University. “We started with just eight colleges and a few hundred students. Now, we have 10 large customers in India,” says Srikanth.

He adds that there are 50,000 students who write the exams on the digital device; more than 1.5 million exams have been written and 40 million answer pages have been written with zero loss of data. “It is a proven technology now,” he points out.

LittleMore, according to him, does both the software and the hardware. It supplies the hardware to the universities. The company operates on a turnkey managed services model and runs a cloud-based Software as a Service. The digital device, called DigiTaal, is made in China and the cloud service is called PEXA. LittleMore plans to make the digital device in India by the middle of next year. It is also expanding into UAE, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Srikanth explains that a faculty member can set the question paper on the cloud using a laptop or a desktop computer. Because the question paper is set digitally, faculty members can finalise the questions just a few hours prior to the examination and won't have to do it weeks or months in advance as is the case otherwise. The questions are delivered on the cloud to the students, who can log into the digital device after proper authentication and identification. They will be able to write their answers using a stylus. Their experience will be similar to writing on paper. For correcting the answer scripts, the faculty members can log into the cloud, and mark the answers from their computers. The totalling will be done automatically, ensuring that the whole process is error-free.

“All the IDs are dummy. We also splice and dice so that no one (faculty) gets a full answer sheet. Lots of features are available. It is up to the university to configure what they want to use,” says Srikanth. LittleMore gets paid per student per exam.

Student-owned device

The company is expanding into the western and northern regions. It will also launch next year a student-owned device, which will even completely eliminate paper from classrooms. Students will be able to take notes on the device and also write their examinations using the same device.

“We will be integrating examination intelligence into the learning management system. What we are creating is a platform for education, where exams continue to operate in a secure way,” says Srikanth. The device does not need an internet connection and can work for 10-14 hours on battery power.

Eyeing global market

According to him, LittleMore is looking at a geographical expansion in India, will be tapping a few global markets, enhancing the product features and launching a new student-owned device. It is looking to raise a Series B round to help it in its growth and expansion plans. Since LittleMore owns both the software and the hardware, it had to ensure a foolproof system. “We had to work out algorithms to make sure that if the device fails, you can resume your exam from another device. If the files get corrupted, you had to reconstruct the files. Those kind of incidents have never happened,” says Srikanth. The device is a robust one; each one travels nearly 30,000 km every year, he adds.

Published on August 20, 2019
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