April 29, 2020
"We’re always sending updates. We're serving grades from kindergarten to grade 5, so it’s integral that we update the right groups with the right information at the right time. That’s where Autopilot is essential.”
The global impact of COVID-19 on education
According to a recent UNESCO report, over 1.5 billion students worldwide have been impacted by the restrictions imposed to combat COVID-19. With most governments closing all educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread, over 91% of the world’s student population were moved, suddenly and unexpectedly, to remote learning.
While businesses were scrambling to re-establish their workforce remotely, educators were facing a similar but more complex challenge - how to mitigate the impact on students, particularly younger students in important developmental stages, as well as older students in important exam periods.
For the most part, the solution used by both businesses and educators has been the same - using platforms such as Zoom to set up virtual meetings and virtual classrooms. However, where those businesses had access to a suite of software tools, designed specifically to assist organizations in transforming how they operate, the same options don’t exist for the education industry.
Further, as any parent reading this will agree, home learning inevitably involves parents in the day-to-day learning process to a greater degree than ever before, effectively removing the need for the question “what did you learn at school today?” a staple of the last century’s family dinner conversation zeitgeist.
Accordingly, many teachers and parents began researching what online tools were available to help create a productive learning experience at home. Enter Evgeny Milyutin, CEO and Founder of Happy Numbers, an adaptive math learning program for K-5 students.
“In the early days of the pandemic, we saw a significant increase in enquiries,” says Evgeny, “but we knew that was coming. We were keeping in contact with our customers all through the early stages, understanding what conversations were being had on the frontline. Further, we had China as a bit of time machine, as most of their schools had transitioned to online learning already.”
Evgeny and his team understood immediately how teachers would be looking to organize their home lessons. Happy Numbers uses a scaffolded approach to carefully lead students through each lesson. These lesson journeys are personalized for the student (and we at Autopilot never stop touting the value of personalized journeys), and also enable teachers to individualise the curriculum by including/ excluding modules. For the younger students, Happy Numbers uses dinosaur and space themes to keep it engaging and entertaining.
Despite a PHD in Engineering, and a Masters Degree in applied physics and mathematics, Evgeny credits most of the insights built into the platform to the fact he’s been tutoring in math since he was a student himself.
“I was seeing more and more devices get introduced into schools, however there was such a poor offering on the software side.”
Evegny grabbed one of his University friends and established the key problem they wanted to solve: how to create an engaging and effective way to teach math through a device to enable independent learning. The idea wasn’t to replace the classroom, but enable remote learning in its own right.
In a recent article, the CEO of Flatiron School, Adam Enbar noted:
“Right now, educators are relying on Zoom and Slack to teach and engage with students. We’re realizing it’s falling short in replicating the classroom experience, but the truth is that it was never meant to be a substitute. In fact, no ed-tech tool or platform can or should replicate the in-person classroom; tech’s role is to create new experiences altogether. Nothing spurs innovation like people experiencing problems. When things are back to normal, Zoom and Slack usage will go down—and that’s okay. Instead, we’ll see a boom in technology that is built by entrepreneurs looking to create entirely new experiences custom to the remote education or work experience.”
It is this insight that forms the foundation of Evgeny’s strategy: that Happy Numbers is not a tool to ‘get through’ the crisis period, but an independent learning solution that can continue to be used long past a return to packed schoolyards and traditional classrooms.
“Many of the school districts in the USA that we work with were well equipped to deal with the transition, in the sense that each student had a device that enabled them to go home from school and continue learning,” Evgeny notes. “The real challenge was moving the entire learning experience online, and from what we’ve seen teachers have done such an amazing job to adapt and undertake quite rapid professional development to ensure no student is disadvantaged.”
Evgeny also credits the positive impact parents have had, and will continue to have moving forward. Seeing that increased involvement, his team quickly built out a series of resources specifically for parents in their help centre. This has proven to be a valuable addition, helping to contextualize the platform for those parents needing its help.
How Happy Numbers uses Autopilot
Happy Numbers has been using Autopilot for over a year and achieving amazing results. As communicating effectively with teachers across the USA and the globe is such an important part of their business, Evgeny utilizes the value of Smart Segments.
“We’re always sending updates. We're serving grades from kindergarten to grade 5, so it’s integral that we update the right groups with the right information at the right time. That’s where Autopilot is essential.”
Evgeny also uses segmentation to achieve their marketing objectives, personalizing their messaging to communicate with different audiences. For example, ensuring their administrator-centric content is being made available to school and district administrator enquiries.
“Autopilot is also flexible so I can experiment with different tactics. I commonly run A/B split tests and then optimize my campaigns for what works best.”
Facilitating learning, for free
In the midst of the uncertainty of recent times, all industries have had to find innovative ways to adapt and persevere. What is unique about Happy Numbers is that their response to the increased demand driven by the pandemic was not the traditional response of sales first. Instead, they’re offering up their platform free of charge until the end of the school year.
“Teachers and parents were under enough pressure, enough strain, without us making their jobs and their lives more difficult. We decided this isn’t the time to talk business. We knew our product was a great solution to a problem and we decided to bring our community together and remove the roadblocks, and we’re thankful to Autopilot for helping us achieve that. At the end of the day our goal is helping children learn, and right now delivering on that intent is more important than ever.”