Over the course of our experience teaching thousands of engineering students and professionals and our interactions with several stake-holders, we have heard several concerns from students, faculty members and businesses alike. There are some key patterns in the concerns raised and one of them is about what Engineering students should learn in their curriculum. In this post we make a humble attempt to answer this question with a seemingly simple but effective approach that students can take for guaranteed success.
What it is
While the idea of Virtual Coach has always been in Gautham’s mind since the inception of jnaapti, a startup does not have the luxury to build the entire vision and then launch. Rather, we have to start building the minimum set of features which we can validate with our users and then iterate frequently and let usage and metrics drive the product’s evolution. Jnaapti has been doing this ever since the launch of the first version of the product.
The vision of “Virtual Coach” is to eventually replace a human coach with a “Virtual” coach but in such a way that the learner does not even realize that he/she is being coached by a virtual entity. It follows the Turing test for Artificial Intelligence, but applies to learning and coaching. While we have started with software technology training, we intend to build a generic platform that has the ability to teach anything (any skill) to anyone (no bias) starting from anywhere (irrespective of what they know today).
The problem that keeps us awake at night is, “How do we scale good quality coaching so that it reaches the maximum number of people?”
The initial idea of the training process was tested out using Email as a form of communication between the learners and the coach. As Gautham coached people, he carefully noted down the pains of using Email as the medium of communication. Learners, especially students, didn’t follow email etiquette. So while Gautham was busy downloading the attachment from the solution email, and composing his review, students would send new emails asking him to discard the old solution and consider this new one. The requirements for the first version of the product was to replace Email as the mode of communication and have the interaction around an activity grouped under a single context.
Version 1 – 2011
The first version of the product was called the “Jnaapti Virtual Learning Environment”, later renamed to “Virtual Coach”.