Thursday, 10 January 2013

Launching Phase 1: Challenges & Learnings

Based on our experiences in Phase 1, we have made various changes to all aspects to our launch in order to make the roll-out of Phase 2 smoother and better.  Some of the challenges & learnings include:

1. School Selection: In Phase 1, we were mostly concentrated in urban areas. Many private schools did not match our low fee criteria. Besides many of them already had ICT interventions due to which we had to reject them. Though Government schools matched our fee criteria, most Government schools had the regional language as the medium of instruction and were cumbersome to partner with.

  • Moving Forward: We have engaged our state teams to work on school selection and government partnerships. We are also developing Hindi content that would enable us to reach out to more schools, and we are mostly looking at rural areas to expand the project.

2. Location Selection: One of our major setbacks in the roll out of Phase 1 was a change of location. We were all set to launch in Chennai, but due to unforeseen circumstances we had to withdraw from there and scout for a new location. Eventually, Jaipur, Rajasthan was chosen, but this change delayed our overall launch timeline. You can read more about our process of selecting and finalizing Jaipur in out post - A New Location: Jaipur

  • Moving Forward:  What happened with Chennai was a chance occurrence, and we do not expect any such recurrence. We have planned our locations well, and have spoken to the state teams in detail about the launching in their respective states. Read more about our locations for Phase 2 in our post entitled 'Launching Phase 2'

3. Content:  Content is of utmost importance to us. We faced several problems with the content in the first phase. The content was non-contextual at times, meaning that it was not age appropriate, or did not keep in mind the demographic and cultural background of the children we are targeting. Correcting errors such as grammar mistakes also took a long time. This led to late delivery of the content pushing back our launch.

  • Moving Forward:  For Phase 2, we decided to take the ownership of getting the content created.  We are taking a lot of input from teachers from the 150 schools we’re already in and holding focus group discussions. We are also working closely with the Pratham Science & Math team which have a lot of content generation experience.  IN addition we’re working with teachers from “higher-end” schools to get their input as well.  We will be writing a blog post on our content creation process in the next few weeks.

4. Content Framework: Through feedback and observation, we learnt that the framework of our content was a little bit complicated for our teachers to navigate, which was hampering the full incorporation of the WebBox in classroom teaching.

  • Moving forward:  Taking feedback from the teachers, we have designed a new framework for our content. The simpler navigation should help with increased usage.

5. Launch Timing:  We approached schools after their school year had started, which really made it difficult for us to launch in a quick and timely fashion as schools have busy calendars with exams, holidays, cultural activities and sports events. We had to face delays in classroom usage of the WebBox due to this.

  • Moving Forward: We have taken into account school timelines for the launch so we enter the school in the beginning of the school year so that there is no delay in classroom implementation.

6. Logistical challenges:  There were 2 types of logistical challenges we faced.  One was external challenges such as heavy rainfalls, power cuts, etc. which we couldn’t do anything about.  The second is more internal such managing technical issues, many of us from the central team talking to the state teams, etc. – which was within our control.

  • Moving Forward: For those issues that are within our control, we have already initiated steps for process improvement and better communication.  For example, now we have created an online Google Form thru which our state teams can lodge their technical troubles and the central team follows up with them promptly.  We have also assigned 2 members of the central team to each state.  All communication with that state is to go thru them. This way there is one communication channel.

7. Team Structure and Personnel: In Phase 1, we had hired 1 person to manage every 10-15 schools.  They were responsible for ensuring that the schools were getting all the support they needed to effectively use the WebBox.  This included 2 things: 1) operational support, which included technical troubleshooting, etc. and 2) lesson planning support, which meant that our staff had to work with teachers to lesson plan.  We realized that it was hard to find people who were good at both operational and lesson planning and hence we had to develop and support them in both aspects.   Additionally, we did not have separate trainers for our teachers, and conducted the teacher trainings ourselves.   We realized that we needed to have a separate training and operational support team.

  • Moving Forward: In Phase 2, we have decided to separate the operational and training aspects of the project.  So each state will have 2 representatives: 1) a manager managing state operations and 2) a master trainer who will focus on conducting teacher trainings and supporting teachers with lesson planning. For this we have introduced the Pratham Fellowship, for young people to take up these positions and develop themselves as leaders in the development sector. To read more about the fellowship, please visit the fellowship page

As we start the New Year, we look forward to taking all our learning from Phase1 and kick starting Phase 2.  We are sure Phase 2 will bring with it its own set of challenges and learning, and we hope to overcome and imbibe these to grow in scale and impact.