At a time when loss-making Indian edtech firms are facing heat from investors to show profits, they are quickly learning that artificial intelligence (AI) could be their knight in shining armour — AI-based personalised learning experiences are helping retain students on these platforms. 

At the Bengaluru-based maths tutoring platform CueMath, for instance, teachers use AI to generate prompts that assist students in solving problems, making it a 1:2 session for the student. 

“We are confident that these AI assistants would be a great enabler for our teachers taking 1:4 (group) classes,” says Manan Khurma, founder and CEO, CueMath.

As funding turns scarce, India’s unicorn edtech start-ups like Vedantu, Scaler, and Emeritus are attempting to use AI to build efficiency, growth and scalability.

From grading learners to customer support, innovative assessment methods, content creation, higher education, and upskilling, AI is adroitly lending a hand, according to several edtech firms and industry experts.

“AI allows us to better understand the needs of our learners, identify the skill gaps in the marketplace, and deliver on relevant topics,” says Bhushan Heda, Chief Operating Officer, Emeritus.

Unique learning modes 

Vedantu’s co-founder and CEO, Vamsi Krishna, says the edtech is integrating AI into its products and educational content to create an ‘immersive and personalised’ educational experience.

“Through AI, we are working on providing students on-demand access to their precise requirements. This approach allows each student to engage with the educational material in a manner that suits their unique learning preferences, ensuring learning is as effective and efficient as possible,” he says.

Vedantu says it invests close to $2 million a year on AI across multiple projects, with the investment increasing in line with the value creation of each project.

Edtech major Scaler has introduced an AI-powered teaching assistant that runs on OpenAI’s flagship product, GPT-4. 

The company says there has been an over 33 per cent increase in learners using the tool to solve problems without the intervention of a human teaching assistant. 

“The initial expenses, including research and development, was about $250,000, with a one-time cost of roughly $20,000 associated with training the custom GPT-4 model,” says Abhimanyu Saxena, co-founder of Scaler and InterviewBit.

Beyond educational use 

Edtech companies are using the emerging AI technology to fine-tune other areas of their business also, such as sales and marketing.

Emeritus says marketing is a key area where AI plays an important role for the company, as it helps target the right audiences.

“We operate at a high scale globally, working with learners in more than 80 countries around the world, and AI helps to optimise marketing spends,” says Heda.

For Vedantu, AI-driven tools have helped elevate the quality and structure of its textbooks and academic content, as also in designing marketing campaigns, it says.

Scaler especially stresses the cost factor, noting that AI has led to substantial savings for the company. 

“When a human, especially someone with specialised expertise like a software engineer, dedicates 15 minutes to assist a learner, the cost can exceed $20, considering the minimum wage standardin the US, which often touches $15. In contrast, our AI teaching assistant incurs a mere fraction of that expense, typically no more than 10 cents per interaction, translating into nearly 100 per cent cost savings,” says Saxena.

CueMath is exploring the use of generative AI to assist in its curriculum development by generating content for maths learning, practice, and exam preparation.

“As we delve deeper into this field, we will realise that generative AI has the potential to revolutionise the entire edtech sector,” says Utpal Chakraborty, an AI and quantum scientist who is a Gartner ambassador for data and analytics.

Human factor

Edtech companies, while enthusiastically embracing AI, also stress that human guidance is indispensable as teachers play a crucial role in creating meaningful learning experiences and fostering student development.

Emeritus COO Heda observes that AI use wouldn’t necessarily mean a reduction in human workforce.

“Rather, it entails leveraging our human workforce and AI to enhance the learning experience for optimal results,” he says.

Some learners prefer to engage in conversations with human teaching assistants, says Saxena of Scaler.

“Human teaching assistants are better equipped to comprehend the deeper and more complex nuances of human beings. Human interaction is crucial for learning by resolving doubts in a wholesome manner, as it involves deeper understanding and empathy compared with an interaction with AI bots,” he reasons.

AI should be viewed as a powerful tool that can enhance and complement human capabilities rather than replace them, says Akshay Munjal, CEO and founder of Hero Vired, a learn-tech company offering industry-relevant training programmes for students and professionals.