In the current muru-D class, there seems to be a theme emerging of startups that play in the education space. We’ve written about education platform and fellow muru-D alumni Funetics earlier this year, which is targeted at teaching users to speak english. But because of its wider target market, it would not be surprising if we saw startup vClass reach critical mass at a faster run rate than other more niche focused education startups within the group – based solely on the fact that (a) it’s a duel software / hardware play and (b) the team has decided to target both enterprise and consumers from the outset.
The venture was founded by Masoud Douzan, Vahid Douzan and Shoaleh Baktashi; and like all other startups in the current muru-D class, has already secured additional funding aside from the Telstra money each one of them get from private investors that also sit on the startups’ advisory board, at the same valuation that Telstra has. This, according to mentors within the muru-D program was something that startups had to achieve within weeks of being accepted into the program – an initiation of sorts that allowed them to stay and continue on.
The idea was conceived when co-founder Vahid Douzan, a lecturer at Macquarie University started tutoring students in what were quite often complex disciplines. He found he was spending a lot of time travelling and started to lose out on quality time with his own family.
“Although we have so much technology these days, a lot of those available were not invented with qualitative disciplines such as the arts, science, maths and engineering in mind for online tutoring” says Vahid. This led him to be motivated to create a tool where tutoring would not be tied down or limited to a location.
vClass is an interesting play as to work the startup requires users to use both software and two hardware products that the team have invented – a digital pen and a small recording device of sorts. Unlike other educational tools that utilise technologies to encourage collaborative learning and teaching, vClass uses the traditional pen and paper as opposed to an app and special writing tool, that needs to be used on a screen.
Basically the hardware, which is small and pocket sized, is able to be clipped to the top of a notepad, piece of paper or book and instantly any handwriting on any surface is captured and is then broadcast on the opposite user’s computer screen via the internet.
This technology is targeted towards and will most likely be picked up first by those working in the fields of mathematics and science, particularly at university level where many students require additional lessons or extended tutoring, but where teachers do not have the time or means to provide this physically face-to-face.
“Our goal is to emulate an in-person lesson using this interactive hybrid application” says Vahid. “Our platform is solving one of the challenges of online tutoring by filling in the gap between the physical and virtual classroom. Traditionally in a virtual classroom only the tutor could create notes, present and record the session – vClass means that each student also has a virtual, personal notepad, allowing teachers to access their activities and provide personalised instant feedback.”
The team has a number of goals it is trying to achieve with the product. The first is to perfectly emulate the physical classroom experience with the integration of pen and paper. The second is to reduce the expenditure required by education and tutoring companies allowing them to not only provide a better quality teaching / tutoring experience, but also giving them a way to grow and expand their business across other states and countries if they wish. In essence, vClass can be seen as a tool that allows bricks and mortar educational companies to scale, without an exorbitant amount of spending.
vClass will be launching a consumer focused site in the near future; and along with the rest of the muru-D class will be exploring the Asian market on their roadshow trip next month, which is bound to be full of opportunities for the startup – not just from a customer perspective. Asia has a massive tutoring culture, but also from a manufacturing connection side of things, the team will have the opportunity to lower the cost of production of their devices, which in turn will make it more accessible to the mainstream market.
featured image: Vahid Douzan and Shoaleh Baktashi
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