The pandemic has been a catalyst for change, not the cause

December 07, 2020

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How NashTech’s E-academy sheds light on the education sector

KCOM Hothouse and how it came about?

If asked ‘what is one of the most used words talked about in the last few years?’ there is a great possibility that “technology” is the first word that comes to people minds. For the past few years, and even until now, technology has accounted for countless headlines of news articles around the world. It is no exaggeration when it is said that this is the era of technology, innovation and digitalisation.

Recently, nations worldwide have been putting huge effort and investment into technology, with numbers reaching, and often exceeding, ten digits. According to CNBC, in the EU region, UK tech investment is growing faster, in which the total deal amount has far outstripped that of its continental rivals. With this being said, the Tech Week Humber event was launched and became the first of its kind to facilitate the growth and innovation of technology in the UK region. The event aimed to showcase the latest trends in tech, create skills for the future and celebrate all that the region has achieved.

This year, due to COVID, the 2020 Tech Week Humber shifted to digital platforms and was held virtually from 9th to 13th November with a series of sub-events including KCOM Innovation Hothouse, in which NashTech was a participant.

The KCOM Hothouse event allowed teams to be formed and compete to solve provided problem statements in either education or healthcare. Alongside the challenge, a wide range of presentations were delivered by partners of the Tech Week to provide insightful content supporting the teams to best deliver their submission. This year, Jon Last, our Head of UK Delivery, shared his insight about the different delivery options available to see a project end to end. NashTech was delighted to be announced as the winner the KCOM Hothouse challenge with our solution for the education sector, E-academy.

Understanding the current challenges in the education sector

The KCOM Hothouse challenge was divided into several sub-phases, which included: Empathise & Define, Ideate & Prototype, and Test & Submit.

The problem statement for healthcare focused on;

  • improving patients experience with language differences
  • how healthcare institutes can deliver their services efficiently regardless of the increase in patients numbers and COVID-19

The education statement touched on;

  • enhancing student and lecturer engagements in an online setting
  • the study experience of students who have previously been in classroom settings and have been forced to study online, from home

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the traditional way of studying. It also presents a challenge to academic organisations to deliver education when travelling is restricted, and it is challenging for people to collaborate from distance. ​ But, since this is the Industry 4.0 era where organisations are demanded to transform, to digitalise and keep up with the fast pace, the pandemic is a catalyst rather than a cause to change, and people need to adapt to cope with it.

With these problem statements, the NashTech’s team recognised and defined that how to enhance the engagement as well as the efficiency for both lecturers and students is a math that we need to solve. This had marked an ideation of our E-academy platform.

The journey of bringing E-academy to life

During the challenge, we formed a core team with members from two locations: Vietnam and the UK. We decided to name our team Nam Anh, in which ‘Nam’ comes from the word Vietnam; the home of our development centres and ‘Anh’ means England in Vietnamese, where we are headquartered. This name is perfect to highlight and bridge the fantastic teamwork and collaboration between our team members across geographies, to come up with the solution for this challenge.

The Nam Anh core team consisted of:

  • Jenny Daker: manage and oversee the whole participation
  • Bung Nguyen: in charge of AI APIs
  • Chau Nguyen, Tam Nguyen and Nghia Dinh: in charge of the portal for remote learning
  • Phuong Le, Hung Nguyen, Duong Nguyen, Binh Tran, Phuong Le and Phi Huynh: support on technical aspects and delivering the demo

Despite some challenges along the way, such as different time zones and teammates not sitting in the same room, clear processes were outlined to collaborate smoothly, which resulted in an extraordinary outcome.

During the ideation phase of building the solution, the team were clear about the goals that the output needed to achieve, which were;

  • to build a platform which helps to deliver online lectures or group studying activities in a more entertaining and effective way
  • to get students more engaged with online studying and make good studying progress
  • to help lecturers and universities capture data from online studying activities, analyse the data to improve learning experiences and support students during unprecedented times

NashTech applied emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) to bring the magic alive.

How the magic works

To address the first two determined goals, the E-academy platform enables users to have a better experience in studying and for lecturers giving lectures by applying a set of AI technologies that include:

  • Face detection and face recognition: the platform uses this technology to detect whenever a student enters the virtual classroom. The system will send notifications to lecturers so that they know when there is a student entering or leaving. The E-academy system also deploys face recognition functionality to verify if the student joining the lecture matches with his/her registered identity
  • Face expression: this enables lecturers to understand students’ emotions while participating in lectures. With the magic of technology, the platform is able to detect whether the student is happy, sad, confused or surprised. Since in-person lectures are limited at the moment, with E-academy lecturers are able to understand more about the students’ reaction towards the studying content and understand if it is being engaged with.
  • Object detection: According to research by European Commission on the impact of COVID-19 on education sector, it is shown that COVID-19 may affect individuals’ emotional wellbeing due to the combination of the public health crisis, social isolation, and economic recession. Students may feel stressed and anxious, which may negatively affects their ability to concentrate on schoolwork and motivation to engage in learning activities. As such, it is a challenge to academic institutions to enhance the students’ concentration and engagement during their study remotely. The E-academy system can detect whether a student is reading the course book or using their mobile phones, etc. and reflect this back to the lecturer.

In the future, we intend to extend the functions to bring more diversity. For example, if the student raises his/her hand to ask questions, it is also reflected and illustrated in the system.

NashTech E-academy mockup

The mockup of E-academy. Yellow (left-hand side column) is the student’s view and green (right-hand side column) is the lecturer’s view.

To support providing more insights on the session’s performance, data is captured from online studying activities and recorded on the system. Key information will be captured about the students’ attendance, their concentration and emotions. This will help lecturers to understand more about his/her students’ attitude towards the studying activities, which will lead to improvements in future sessions based on learning. The system can also monitor concentration rates so that they understand their current performance and where to put more effort in. 

NashTech E-academy data reflection mockup (1)
NashTech E-academy data reflection mockup (2)

Mockup for the data reflection

The E-academy platform, with its functions, is expected to create a game-changing shift in the education sector. 

“I think we have been able to use our imagination and show how we can apply it with the magic of technology to solve real life problems. We can see how this (platform) can evolve. The possibilities, the power of this solution, is endless.” 

Jenny Daker

Engagement Manager of NashTech

Besides education, this can be evolved and utilised in various sectors with diverse settings. Jenny went on to say, “we can extend and develop the functions to fit with different settings. Banks can use this to authenticate identity, businesses can apply it in the workplace, especially for online meetings, and the healthcare industry can apply it to know if the patient is understanding what the doctors are saying, etc”.

The face expression functionality can be applied to better understand human emotions and help with their emotional well-being. Judges from the challenge had given positive feedback towards the platform due to its high feasibility and scalability.

According to Dan Wilkinson, Managing Partner at Nordstar, the organiser and judges at KCOM Hothouse:

“The magic that E-academy adds is the ability to gauge the emotion and, by extension, the engagement in the lecture. I think the application for seminars, panels, workshops etc. is really exciting as it allows the facilitators to understand how the messages are landing and makes them able to adjust their delivery of the message accordingly. With the prevalence, and for some preference, for remote working the need for something that adds warmth to these communication tools is bound to grow.” 

Dan Wilkinson

Managing Partner of Nordstar

NashTech is striving continuously to explore the full potential in technology and contribute to the growth of this industry worldwide. We were delighted to participate in such a meaningful event and are proud to have been chosen as the winner for the Hothouse challenge. We will continue our efforts in delivering technology excellence.

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