Founder Interview: Retention and Scaling Quality Interaction 1/2

I love working with edtech founders to bring their products closer to the lived experience of education practitioners. I met Khang Vo several years ago at a startup weekend, when he was technical lead for an edtech company working in sports, and provide him industry mentorship. Since then he’s been on a mission to improve retention with Classcom, a chat app for education.

Hi Khang, tell us a little bit about what you do

I have been in edtech for 8 years now. My focus is to support educators to improve student retention and outcomes, through scalable, personalised communication.

Why did you decide to get into edtech?

Many of my family members are education leaders, so they inspired me in the field. When I studied at RMIT Vietnam, I saw how quality education could transform society. And the power of technology can help educators to bring quality education to a vast number of people. 

What area of education are you focusing on?

I want to connect students and teachers, as well as students and the information they need. Community is vital to learning; people learn through interacting with parents, teachers and friends. However, the world has changed, and everyone (especially) now wants to learn online or in blended mode. 

It is much harder to engage and create a sense of belonging and learning in these modes due to the lack of human interaction. It is also expensive to do it in traditional ways, so it doesn’t get the funding it needs. This situation leads to a drop out rate of 20-30% in first year at some Australian institutions. The number is even higher in Vietnam: retention is a world-wide problem.

What exactly is meant by retention?

Put simply, retention is the percentage of a school’s students who continue at that school at the next opportunity (census date, teaching period, etc). The number has become very important for administrators: because its cost is so easily quantified as the future tuition revenue of that student. More importantly though, low retention indicates a failure of the system to enrol the appropriate students for a course, and support them to completion.

The current situation with Covid-19, where every student is suddenly forced to move online, heightens the engagement and support problem. Our institutions’ leaders are highly worried about retention from semester 1 to semester 2.

Retaining wall, used as a metaphor
Retaining walls are made of many parts (Photo credit

What are institutions doing about it?

Institutions tend to focus on student belonging, student engagement and student support. In practice this means:

  1. Better learning design and engineering
  2. More personalised learning and support
  3. More understanding about every student
  4. More meaningful interactions between academics and students, and among students.

My primary interests are in items 2-4: interaction and understanding.

  1. How can technology help?

The industry Horizon Report highlights 4 trends of practices with technology: Adaptive Learning, Artificial Intelligence applications, Analytics for Student Success and Learning Design and Engineering.

Among these, Artificial Intelligence still has a lot to offer to education as it becomes more mature. This technology can be used in all areas of learning, particularly: adaptive learning, assessment feedback, and automatic-answering chatbots, all of which free teacher resources for more valuable interactions. It’s really that fundamental opportunity that got me started.

In the second part, Khang will tell us about where he sees this technology going in the future.

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