In early March, with an outbreak of COVID-19 occurring in India, the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT Delhi) closed all schools to slow the pandemic. With little warning due to the rapid spread of the virus, hundreds of thousands of K–12 school students no longer had classrooms to go to and were mandated to stay home through the remainder of the term.
The Department of Education of NCT Delhi didn’t want public school students’ education to suffer from this interruption, nor did it want teachers to be left unable to connect with and serve their students. So it engaged Career Launcher, an Intel partner, to develop an online platform that would allow students to continue learning from home, and Project Aspiration 2020 was born.
Bringing the Education System Home
With offices around the world, Career Launcher partners directly with educational institutions to provide robust distance learning for learners seeking career development and technology skill acquisition through its online portal, aspiration.ai. However, this portal was designed for the needs of adults seeking continuing education, not public school students and their teachers.
Expanding from their existing audience of around 140,000 learners to create virtual classrooms for the targeted group of K–12 students meant more than doubling the user base of aspiration.ai—a monumental scale-up. It also required modifying the portal to fit the needs and modes of learning of primary and secondary school students.
With a relatively high degree of broadband internet access compared with other parts of India, the city of Delhi was an ideal candidate to trial online learning. But time was of the essence. Every day that went by without a solution was crucial time lost for the young people of Delhi. In order to quickly acquire the resources required to deliver online learning for these students, Career Launcher enlisted Intel and Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help.
A Fast-Moving Collaboration
The AWS Cloud instances employed by Career Launcher for aspiration.ai are powered by Intel® processors, which deliver scalable performance and built-in artificial intelligence acceleration. AWS scaled up quickly and seamlessly while offering a wide array of services and delivering the needed performance for very large groups of users.
Intel and AWS realized the impact Project Aspiration 2020 could have and quickly created a nimble team to facilitate the implementation. Together, Intel and AWS provided funding and worked with Career Launcher and the state government to quickly establish the cloud infrastructure services required to scale rapidly to meet the anticipated demand. Using cloud infrastructure, Career Launcher focused on creating the necessary experience required by their new audience of teachers and students.
It is indeed great to collaborate with tech giants such as Intel and AWS to help education stay uninterrupted in this period of crisis. We hope to take this partnership to a hundred such large projects globally and to be seen as practitioners of the do-good-do-well philosophy.
A Powerful Platform for Learning
To ensure that the special connection between teachers and students could continue, even though through an online system, Career Launcher is using AWS Cloud to offer livestreaming of classes as well as archival and replay of past recordings. By offering both synchronous and asynchronous learning content, the program is inclusive of students who have limited access to broadband internet. While these students are unable to stream the lessons live, they can view the content on demand when they are able to get online—often via a parent’s smartphone.
While aspiration.ai’s portal was designed more for professional development, the capabilities offered by AWS Cloud allowed Career Launcher to offer special interactive features that make learning more engaging and fun for young people. Teachers now have new tools, such as the ability to create learning games, which are enabling new ways to engage and motivate students during this difficult time. The platform also enables the schools to offer mentoring and career guidance to both students and parents. This allows educators to enhance the quality of education students receive by bringing parents into the equation while also providing helpful resources for their families.
In addition to the face-to-face connection that Aspiration.ai allows, the solution is also enabling advanced analytics for teachers. They can track key indicators of student success and engagement in order to make sure that everyone's needs are being addressed.
Speedy Training, Onboarding, and Launch
Ensuring continuity of education for students meant more than computing resources; it also meant training and onboarding for an enormous group of new users. To kick-start the implementation of Project Aspiration 2020, Career Launcher worked with the Department of Education to identify a group of top teachers who would spearhead the transition to online learning. Not only were they given fast-track onboarding in setting up curriculum and taking advantage of the features offered by aspiration.ai, but they also received a course in online education—how to leverage media resources and keep children deeply engaged. Within one week, a select group of online instructors were certified and ready to begin conducting classes with as many as 50,000 live participants.
AWS is pleased to have worked closely with Career Launcher and Intel to build the aspiration.ai learning platform, which is focused on delivering learning, fun, and mentoring at scale. We are glad to be part of this effort to enable continued education for students in government schools in Delhi.
Empowering and Exciting Students and Teachers
Students and teachers have given glowing praise for the AWS-powered Project Aspiration 2020 learning experience and for the leadership of the Department of Education. Pankaj Kumar, a grade 12 student commented, “When the lockdown started, I thought that this will adversely affect our studies, but we are now able to overcome this problem by regularly watching online live lectures.” While Shahid, another student, declared, “Live classes are really amazing and completely supportive.” Jyotsna Davar, an accounting and business instructor noted, “All my students are terrifically enjoying these classes. They look forward to these classes.”
The platform is also encouraging new ways of interacting during learning. Project Aspiration 2020 has empowered hundreds of teachers, many of whom have limited experience using computers, by putting powerful digital tools and skills at their disposal. It’s also changing teaching culture, and helping teachers embrace collaborative learning. Teachers have been excited to see that students who rarely speak up in class are active and enthusiastic in the online classroom chat.
A Transformation in the Making
From the initial group of 55 schools and 1,500 students, the program is now serving over 165,000 students with extremely high rates of engagement: 90 percent of students enrolled are regularly active. With requests to participate in the program coming in from across the country, the project is planned to grow to reach about one million students within the next month.
But the goal for the Career Launcher program stretches well beyond the COVID-19 crisis. The fast scaling that Career Launcher, Intel, and AWS have achieved is inspiring government officials to think differently about education. They’re seeing the potential for this program to have a lasting impact on students’ lives and to help lead a transformation in the education system across the country that gives more children access to the best learning experience possible.