Will personalised education be the game changer?

August 29, 2022 | 08:00
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Geniebook is continuing its expansion in Vietnam with a new local office and a renewed mission to foster one million changemakers in one of Asia’s most dynamic markets. At the recent launch ceremony, Geniebook founders Neo Zhizhong and Alicia Cheong talked with VIR’s Linh Le about the company’s take on Vietnam’s edtech industry and ways to personalise learning.

What inspired your decision to expand into Vietnam?

Zhizhong: Vietnam has more than 23 million students. Not only are they among the most driven students we have ever seen but their and their parents’ drive to create a strong learning culture is also very impressive.

Vietnamese students excel in maths and science, which is why there are so many world-class engineers and scientists in the country. This is where we can add value to help students personalise their learning journey and bring the future closer and faster, within the next few years.

Will personalised education be the game changer?
Alicia Cheong and Neo Zhizhong (right), co-founders of Geniebook

A combination of the online classroom GenieClass, chat app GenieAsk, and the AI-based GenieSmart seems to have created a comprehensive online learning solution. So how has Geniebook leveraged these resources to create an optimal learning environment?

Cheong: These three features tackle the different needs of the students. Students would start off with GenieSmart - a collection of AI-generated worksheets that identify and shorten users’ learning gaps by recommending questions based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Every customised question is based on a personalised assessment, so students do not need to waste time doing things they are already good at. If the student is strong in fractions, he gets fewer questions on fractions; and if the student struggles with decimals, he will get more relevant questions on decimals, and so on.

With GenieClass and its 150 lessons scheduled each week across all subjects and levels, we allow very easy access to engaging and professional teachers, regardless of the students’ location.

And with GenieAsk, students can clarify their doubts anytime, which makes learning more fun and engaging. This platform provides a true peer learning and social learning opportunity, where a community of students and teachers will collaborate to clarify any further questions a student may have. This is another component of a personalised learning journey.

Will personalised education be the game changer?
With the reopening of the world after massive restrictions last year, and new behaviours being formed in education, groups like Singapore-based Geniebook are hoping to capitalise on new trends not only to grow themselves, but also to help foster a more personalised learning journey for Vietnam’s bright youngsters. Through a combination of online classrooms, chat apps, and AI-generated worksheets, Geniebook has tripled revenues in the past couple of years in Vietnam alone, and stands ready to offer a comprehensive learning solution as the migration to more online education looks set to continue.

What is your take on the most challenging obstacles of Vietnam’s edtech at the moment, and how do you plan to address them?

Zhizhong: The biggest challenge that education, in general, has been facing is how to scale high-quality education and curricula. Our vision is 10 times harder to realise, because not only do we want to scale a world-class education but we also want to scale a personalised education.

As Alicia mentioned, personalisation is crucial and will always be challenging. However, to date, I could say that we have somewhat successfully overcome these problems. More than 220,000 students are using Geniebook globally, with 90 per cent of our students improving after attempting eight worksheets, with the assistance of 300 full-time educators delivering high-quality education.

Entering Vietnam’s market, you have set the ambitious vision to foster a million changemakers for the country.

Can you elaborate on the roadmap to achieve this goal?

" The migration to online learning will not stop, as the megatrend of everything moving online will still continue. And this trend is irreversible. " - Neo Zhizhong Co-founder & CEO, Geniebook

Zhizhong: One million may sound like a big number, but that is actually less than 5 per cent of the overall number of students. And for us, this is only the start.

Our roadmap is simple. Firstly, we make sure that students achieve academic excellence. Secondly, with a strong team of about 100 engineers, we must be able to deliver advanced technology including AI, customisation, and other innovations to help students improve at the fastest pace.

And thirdly, we focus on not only students but also parents, because parents, students, and educators form an interconnected link in pushing the learning process forward. These three components are how we enable effective learning, not only in Vietnam but globally as well.

After the surge in edtech investment in the past few years, do you think the sector can maintain its momentum if online classes are no longer urgent? In addition, what are some of the latest innovations to keep up with the fast-changing nature of learning?

Zhizhong: That’s the talk of the town in education at the moment. But the migration to online learning will not stop, as the megatrend of everything moving online will still continue. And this trend is irreversible.

With education being the second largest industry in the world, there are so many more intersections in innovation, with Web3 and AR/VR and many other new technologies going forward. These are the trends that we will have to keep up with, as we believe they can help students engage in learning more meaningfully.

What are some emerging trends that will shape this sector in the coming years?

Cheong: I think AI is going to be an essential part of learning. Customisation and personalisation are the keys to future learning because one-size-fits-all education will no longer work.

As every student is different, everyone needs a chance to maximise their own potential. And AI is a crucial part of achieving that kind of personalisation.

Zhizhong: The emerging trends will be a lot of intersections with other industries. We are beginning to see more web3 and AR/VR components in education. Another possibility might be fintech or a different mode of hybrid learning.

Could you share something about your next fundraising plans?

Zhizhong: We have been cash flow positive and profitable in the last two years. We have been able to sustain our aggressive growth through our own efforts and recently closed our Series A with East Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

At the moment, we have a lot of inbound investors that are interested in partnering with us. So if there’s a suitable partner, we will definitely consider them.

Geniebook is Singapore’s largest edtech platform for English, mathematics, and science syllabi. Since 2019, Geniebook has achieved impressive revenue growth of over 2,000 per cent, with a fast-growing user base of over 220,000 in Southeast Asia.

In Vietnam alone, the company’s revenues have grown three times over compared to figures from 2020. In October 2021, the company raised $16.6 million in Series A funding led by East Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from angel investors.

Geniebook is known for incorporating AI in its efforts to create an effective and accessible learning platform. The company’s main offering is a powerful suite of online learning products, all of which are based on Singapore’s national curriculum for primary and secondary school levels.

These products include GenieSmart, an AI-personalised worksheet generator; GenieClass, a streaming platform for live online classes; and GenieAsk, an online moderated chat platform connecting students with representative Geniebook teachers for academic help.

Singaporean edtech startup Geniebook raises $16.6 million in Series A funding round Singaporean edtech startup Geniebook raises $16.6 million in Series A funding round

Geniebook, Singapore’s largest online learning platform for the English, Mathematics, and Science (EMS) syllabus, has secured $16.6 million in a Series A funding round which was led by East Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and several prominent angel investors.

Vietnamese edtech market attractive to investors Vietnamese edtech market attractive to investors

Educational technology (edtech) startups in Vietnam have drawn many domestic and foreign venture capital funds thanks to their high development potential.

By Linh Le

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