Hi Stanley Han, thank you for doing this interview. Please tell us a little bit about your work and your background.
Thank you kindly for this opportunity. I am the CEO and Co-Founder of the EdTech startup, KooBits. I studied computer engineering and computer graphics, and I have been working with educators and technologists on interactive digital platforms for children for over 10 years. I’m very passionate about applying technology to solve problems.
Share with us the backstory of what motivated you to create KooBits and how the journey has been so far?
Starting something new usually involves a trigger. I think the trigger that led to me starting KooBits came from a few directions.
From a personal perspective: I have always wanted to solve problems. My training is in engineering, thus my natural thinking pattern is to build things to solve problems. I noticed problems in education — namely, that maintaining consistent quality in education is hindered by the difficulty of giving consistent training to teachers, especially in geographically-large countries. So, I started KooBits and to try to solve this problem: to democratize education and empower parents and students, by making top-quality education accessible regardless of geographic locale.
There was also opportunity in the EdTech space: I started KooBits as I had noticed a gap between how technology was used in schools, and how tech was used in the consumer markets. On one hand, teachers and students use very engaging consumer apps that can handle many of their daily routines; however, the tech used in schools tends to be manual and cumbersome. I saw this as a great opportunity for innovation: to create a tech solution that students would find engaging, and would be self-motivated to use, the way they would use other consumer apps.
Our journey so far has been exciting. Children are eager to learn Maths on KooBits. We have over 180,000 subscribers from more than 300 schools around the Southeast Asian region onboard. While we previously worked mainly with schools, we recently launched our two new modules, which are offered directly to households for parents to keep track of their child’s learning progress and get them more involved in their child’s development.
For our readers who might not be familiar with KooBits, could you explain more about it?
KooBits is an EdTech platform that makes learning more effective through real-time teacher-parent-child engagement. Our two new consumer modules are Home-Based Learning’, an online mathematics learning platform, and ‘Live Tutoring’, an AI-enabled online live tutoring service — both with accompanying apps for parents to track learning progress.
KooBits uses personalization technology and gamification to support students’ independent, self-motivated learning. At the same time, we use A.I. and big data to generate learning insights and make them visible to parents and teachers. KooBits also develops engaging and interactive learning content through our proprietary backend content production technology and processes.
The Koobits platform aims to “productize” the magical elements that are found in top teachers and top schools — for example, how good teachers motivate children, how they set healthy learning routines for their class, and so on. We turn those successful traits into platform features that are scaleable, so every child can benefit from it, even without one-on-one face-to-face interactions.
How did your students and their parents react to KooBits and what features do you hope to roll out to your app in the future?
KooBits has been very well received, especially by children. As far as we know, KooBits is the only education website in the region that voluntarily shuts down by 10pm everyday. We’ve done this in response to parents’ feedback that their children won’t stop doing KooBits at night. Our website opens daily at 6am local time, when we have thousands of children queuing up practice maths with their friends on KooBits. They do this by themselves, without being forced to by their parents.
We are looking to broaden our offerings beyond Maths, venturing into subjects like science, language and coding. We’re currently working on the Science subject now, and will be rolling it out in the 2nd half of 2020, and we are also going to offer the e-learning system to tuition centres by end of Q2 this year, to further democratize the best teaching resources and help accelerate the migration toward online teaching and learning.
Where do you see paperless education and the role of e-learning in the immediate future? 5 years? And which other e-learning technologies have inspired you?
I believe online learning won’t replace traditional learning, especially the human touch. I believe online learning (or EdTech at large) serves a different purpose and offers a unique set of values beyond what traditional education programs can do. For example, EdTech enables a child to learn at any time, anywhere; they are able to turn those casual in-between times (like getting stuck in traffic jams, queuing for food) into productive learning hours.
More than other e-learning technologies, the development of KooBits took inspiration from ideas from games and from behavioral economics. The basic idea is that different people need to be motivated by different psychological triggers, like how specific types of game can only appeal to certain groups of players. Why do we assume that our textbook can engage and appeal to all kinds of students? It is not, and it will not. We need different motivation dynamics to motivate different types of students in order for learning to be engaging.
We want to thank you for the interview. We have one last question to ask you. What are 5 important books every parent should read and why? Feel free to suggest more than 5.
My wife reads a lot of parenting books, and I like to read books about history, great people, entrepreneurship, science and technology. My wife and I exchange ideas about what we read on a daily basis, and I’ve found that a lot of great ideas from the books I read can be applied to parenting, and sometimes they look very similar to the ideas in the parenting books my wife talks to me about. I’ve always encouraged people to read more, read widely, and ask questions.
I personally hesitate to recommend books to people I don’t know, as I think reading is a very personal experience. Here are 5 books I like, which have affected me positively, and which I think could provide parents with some alternative viewpoints:
The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell
Think Like a Maths Genius by Arthur Benjamin and Michael Shermer
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg