AI models simplifying the teacher-student dynamic

May 30, 2024 | 09:00
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Vietnamese edtech startups are embracing investment in AI technology to sharpen their competitive edge, while also being mindful of the various barriers to break down.

At the beginning of May, Prep, a Vietnam-based language learning and test preparation platform, announced that it had raised $7 million in Series A funding, co-led by Cercano Management Asia and Northstar Ventures, with the participation of Touchstone Partners, East Ventures, and Saison Capital.

AI models simplifying the teacher-student dynamic
AI models simplifying the teacher-student dynamic, illustration photo/ Source:

Tu Pham, founder and CEO of Prep said, “This $7 million round will allow Prep to further refine its AI models and build more features with improved AI capabilities”.

This strategy will help Prep gain a competitive edge in the education sector, Pham added.

Prep has been among the early adopters of AI technology and stands as the first Vietnamese company to implement AI Markup Language and Deep Learning in Test Preparation. Utilising the former, Prep develops virtual test rooms with significant educational and business impacts.

Prep’s practice modules integrate AI to reduce wait times for learners while maintaining feedback and scoring comparable to that of a high-quality tutor at a fraction of the cost. These AI features also enable teachers to save time grading assignments and ensure students have adequate practice time.

Another edtech startup, Vuihoc, has also stepped up its investment in AI technology after raising $6 million in a funding round last year. Vuihoc quickly launched an AI-powered learning centre, Vuihoc Station, in August 2023.

In addition, the startup has applied AI to voice recognition to provide real-time assessments and grading for students. Facial recognition using AI is also adopted to see whether the student is paying attention to the online lessons so that teachers can give appropriate reminders.

“All of these initiatives help our students study more regularly and more enthusiastically with improved learning efficiency,” said Vuihoc CEO Do Ngoc Lam.

Lam said the company would only invest in AI if it helps address issues with reasonable expenses and optimisation compared with other solutions.

“We are determined not to rush to apply AI widely or invest in it without control, so we can avoid creating unnecessary risks for our development,” Lam said. “Looking at other education companies in the region, we see the growing trend of applying AI more deeply in operations. However, it requires plenty of resources. Thus, companies also need to make sure of what they want, what metrics AI will help improve, and how many resources are needed to achieve efficiency.”

According to a report by South Korean venture capital fund Nextrans, Vietnamese edtech firms are increasingly integrating AI into their platforms, aiming to establish a more engaging and personalised learning atmosphere, with a focus on “learner-centricity” as a guiding principle. This shift towards AI integration signifies a broader trend in the Vietnamese edtech sector, where technology is leveraged to create tailored and effective learning experiences.

Le Hoang Uyen Vy, general partner at Do Ventures, said, “AI is showcasing remarkable capabilities in Vietnam’s education sector. While traditional teaching methods will dominate in the short to medium term, AI will enhance teaching quality and support student learning. AI can create adaptive learning environments by tailoring educational content and pace to each student’s individual needs and learning style. This personalisation enhances student engagement and improves learning outcomes.”

One of Do Ventures’ portfolio companies, Azota, has developed a tool that simplifies homework assignments and grading for hundreds of thousands of teachers.

Utilising generative AI technology, Azota integrated a system based on ChatGPT-4 into their platform to assist teachers in effortlessly creating exams with simple prompts. Leveraging extensive data from Vietnamese teachers and students, Azota can generate customised content and exams tailored to the specific needs of Vietnamese educators.

“Many edtech startups are integrating AI into their products, though most are still in the experimental phase, exploring effective applications,” Vy said. “Edtech firms should prioritise delivering core value to users, using AI to enhance product value rather than just to draw in investors. While it holds great promise, its application in education should be thoughtful and strategic, genuinely enhancing the educational experience and delivering real value to educators and students.”

Pham of Prep added that AI heavily relies on data, meaning edtech startups need to gather ample data to train AI models.

“This process can be labour-intensive and costly, as data must be collected from qualified teachers. Fortunately, Prep has been collecting data for many years,” Pham said. “As a result, our models have been built on millions of hours of research and millions of data points which are comments made by human teachers.”

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By Vy Bui

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