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The perfect classroom… does exist

For the first 15 years of my life I experienced an Indian classroom in the most traditional sense.

I sat in a classroom of 42 other students, in rows of desks and chairs, facing a blackboard where teacher after teacher would drone on and on about Math and Science and English and Hindi. Occasionally we would be asked a question or two but most of the time we listened to our teachers lecture us and took notes in our brown paper-covered notebooks. When I got bored in class, which was pretty often, I would go for long meandering walks to the girl’s bathroom or sometimes take a nap on my desk; or better yet, when I was feeling particularly disruptive, I would make a snarky comment and get thrown out of class. Most of us would be counting the minutes before the bell would ring signaling the end of the class. And we would live for a lunch break. Before exams we would frantically memorize our textbooks, have extra sessions with our tuition teachers, and general panic, praying that we would all somehow pass. 

This is not to say that I had horrible teachers. In fact, I think I had some of the best in India, but it was really the style of learning of lectures, of drab textbooks, of assignments that asked you to recall rather than think, that really bored me. I don’t remember anything that I learned in school: something that I have realized during all the trivia that we have been playing during the lockdown. I cannot remember the noble gases, and I cannot remember which Mogul empire fell down the stairs and died. 

So if you had asked me then, I would have unequivocally told you that the perfect classroom does not exist. But I had no idea there was even another way of learning, a way where you actually looked forward to going to class and had learnings that you remembered years later.

In 2011, I moved from Mumbai, a city of 21 million people, to a sleepy little town of 2000 people in rural New Hampshire to go to a boarding school named Phillips Exeter Academy.  I moved from classrooms in India with 50 kids competing to get top marks, to classrooms of 12 students where we taught each other through the Socratic method. Exeter had its own unique way of learning – Harkness – where every single classroom had a large wooden table that could seat just 12 students and a teacher. There were no textbooks, no lectures – instead no matter what the subject, our teachers would pose a question, and then through discussion, debate, inference, and confusion, we would collectively discover the knowledge. I distinctly remember learning to derive the formula in Math, rather than just memorize it from the textbook; of working through Shakespeare and interpreting the soliloquies ourselves, rather than noting down the ‘translation’ and interpretation.

In this classroom, I learnt to fiercely disagree with ideas, not individuals, going to dinner with that same person that I had vehemently challenged in class; I learnt how to get comfortable with my own voice and value the uniqueness of others; I learnt how to act as men and women for others, that our talent was wasted, if not in the service of others; I learnt that in the right environment even the shyest, quietest child can blossom. It was a uniquely special environment, and I was acutely aware of how lucky I was to be going through this transformational experience.

This was the perfect classroom, but it was for a select few: my boarding school had a graduating class of 350, a tiny tiny drop in an ocean. The experience I was having in the classroom was something I wanted to bring back home to India, with its 250 million students. This was the kind of school I wanted to bring to India; however, this was also a school that had a $1.5 billion endowment so it was slightly unrealistic. 

Instead of trying to build one Indian Exeter, I started thinking about how I could try to transform the Indian school system that focused on rote learning, memorization, competitiveness, standardization into one that celebrated creativity, independent thought, collaboration, value-based action. And I wanted this type of school to be accessible to every single Indian.

That has inspired my journey into Edtech and why in February 2019 I joined Lido’s founding team. At Lido, we are taking that vision of the perfect classroom, of engaged learners, supportive teachers, interactive formats, and discussion-based learning, and turning it into a reality at scale for millions of Indian students. 

Our classrooms at Lido are designed to teach not just subject matter to students (which we do through immersive storylines and real-world examples, embedded assessments through contests, games and live quizzes) but to also build the skills that are essential to success in the 21st century: critical thinking, English fluency, confidence, creativity, collaboration. By recreating the small group format online, of 1 teacher and 6 students, we create the space for students to speak their mind, ask questions, learn from each other, build meaningful relationships with their teachers, find their voice. And each day, we are pushing the boundaries of what relational and Socratic pedagogy, combined with tech-driven by AI and personalization, can do to build a learning environment that caters to every student’s unique needs and untapped potential. 

So now ask me again if the perfect classroom exists.

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Why we built Lido

The world is moving towards increased personalization and interaction in every way. Education needs to follow suit. However, doing this in education, especially in India is challenging. 

In schools, the student to teacher ratio averages as 1:40, hence it is difficult for teachers to personalize learning for each student. Therefore, schools typically follow a one size fits all approach – standardizing explanations and assessments for all students. Due to the large class size, teachers typically follow a “show and tell” method to teach concepts. In such classes, students do not actively take part in the learning process. Thus, students leave school with theoretical knowledge gained through rote learning and very little knowledge that they can apply to “out of textbook” context.

The scenario in after-school tuition is slightly different, because the class size is smaller, allowing for more attention from the teacher. However, the core problems remain the same: the teacher demonstrates how to solve sums and makes homework and assessments that are the same for students across all batches. But most tutors do not have the tools or the bandwidth to offer tailored practice to students which they need in order to truly improve their weaker areas. 

In the last few years, E-learning apps have tried to fill this gap. These companies disaggregate the problem and attempt to fix parts – one replaces textbooks with videos, another focuses on doubt solving – but none offer the full stack experience for the student, and tracks the student throughout. The onus is on the student to be proactive for their learning, which is hard when most students would rather do anything but study! Furthermore in asynchronous apps, the human interaction between teacher and student and peer-to-peer learning is missing. This connection between student and teacher is critical to success in learning as teachers provide mentorship, coaching, and doubt solving.

What was missing was a solution that focused on giving students both the textbook (aka the content) and a tutor. Great learning outcomes only occur when you are able to control the entire experience. 

So that is why we decided to build Lido.

At Lido, we want to make sure that every single student learns from the perfect class, every single time. We do this by building best in class content to match your school curriculum, and delivering it in the most interactive and exciting format in our live classroom (think animated videos, games, live quizzes!). And we do this in a small group format of just six students so that students can ask doubts, get support, and build meaningful relationships with their expert Lido teachers. 

Learning on Lido is:

  • Holistic, best in class, adaptive learning: We have built the best content, best assessments, best practice problems through deep research. Once a student uses Lido, all the resources they need, and more, are all on the platform: no additional E-learning apps, question banks, practice tests, explanation videos. By tracking individual student learning we are able to customize homework, additional practice, remedial help, and challenges to target where each student needs help the most.
  • Live and interactive: The average classroom size in India is 55 students which means that students do not get the personalized attention that they need when it comes to doubt-solving, coaching, and mentoring. Our live classrooms are led by a qualified and well-trained teacher coach and a peer group of a similar achievement level. The max student to teacher ratio is 1:6 which means that students aren’t lost in the classroom left to navigate through the material on their own or be guided by an AI assistant.
  • Fun: The ugly truth is that most students hate studying, and why wouldn’t they? They are used to drab textbooks, boring formats, and one-directional learning. Not only does learning on Lido happen through immersive storylines, real-world examples, live quiz contests, but we also have a unique reward system that gamifies the platform so the more you learn, the more you earn! 
  • Quality assured: High-quality teachers are in short supply in India so traditional models are unable to scale for lack of teachers. At Lido, you can trust that every teacher has been carefully vetted and trained by our rigorous program but more importantly, they have been given the tools they need to deliver a perfect learning experience every single time. 
  • Affordable: Our goal is to democratize high-quality education: learning should not be limited to the major cities, and to those who can afford it. Through our content, tutors, and platform, we are able to bring best in class learning to every single student in the country at very affordable prices. Our online format makes it convenient to learn anytime, anywhere.

At Lido, we believe that every student is unique and every student has the potential to change the world. Not only do we teach students Math, Science, English, and Coding to succeed at school but we also provide mentorship from world leaders in business, technology and politics, career support, and leadership training. All in the hopes that our students can be the leaders of tomorrow. We believe that no dream is too big for Lido Learners!