How professional development startup OrangeSlates is preparing teachers for the future

A good education, they say, can change anyone. A good teacher, on the other hand, can change everything!

Conscious of this maxim, Pradeep Pillai, Sindu Aven, Vishal Singh Khutel, and Vrushali Sheth in 2020 launched in Mumbai OrangeSlates to improve the quality of education.

OrangeSlates aims to prepare educators for the future, and it does so by bringing together teachers from around the world to form a community where they learn various skills, pedagogies, and strategies to maximize learning outcomes.

Pradeep Pillai, co-founder and CEO of OrangeSlates, says, “There was a time when edtech believed that quality education was possible without the teacher. We realized this was not a sustainable way to solve the education crisis. Removing a teacher’s autonomy and agency and attempting to centralize content design and delivery will only mask the problem – the need for truly future-ready teachers.

After the pandemic, most teachers want to improve their skills by learning new teaching techniques and methods.

OrangeSlates helps teachers stay on top of their game by helping them learn the latest technology. It offers instructor-led (synchronous) and on-demand, self-paced (asynchronous) live courses and longer career-defining certificate courses.

The founders, who worked together at Zee Learn, the education arm of Essel Groupstarted OrangeSlates with personal savings of around $15 million.

How it works?

OrangeSlates follows a blended approach to designing programs, using both online and offline media to complement each other. Classes are delivered through a web application.

“The change in behavior during the pandemic is the adoption of technology by teachers. We capitalized on that and paved the way for teachers to start innovating and collaborating with each other,” says the founder.

The upskilling startup offers live, instructor-led classes through a custom platform as a video tool. Self-paced courses use pre-recorded videos and associated content on a learning management system (LMS). All programs are organized using an educator-centered design approach.

“Teachers come to us as individuals, as part of an institute, or through our partnerships with colleges, universities, and other B.Ed educational platforms,” says Pradeep.

OrangeSlates also runs bespoke programs for institutes and publisher communities upon request. It has a monthly schedule for live classes.

The startup has partnered with approximately 1,100 schools across multiple boards, geographies, and maturity levels. These include the Don Bosco School Group (237 schools), the Superhouse Group of Schools in Uttar Pradesh, the TVS Group of Schools in Tamil Nadu and Rich Mount School in Nagaland.

It has a network of around 150 experienced and expert educators who provide training. These trainers include experienced principals with over 20 years of experience, NABET Certified Educators, CBSE Certified Resource Persons, Google or Microsoft Certified Trainers, Mental Health Practitioners, Subject Matter Experts, Trainers international and edtech innovators.

“We also have a network of industry experts, policymakers, and serving and retired school principals in an advisory capacity. They help us co-create the program,” he says.

Train the teachers

OrangeSlates offers over 200 teacher programs in Hindi, English and Marathi.

It offers 45-minute classes for micro-training, but the bulk of the live classes last between 90 and 120 minutes. Long-term courses are up to 60 to 80 hours over three months, while self-paced courses are four to five hours.

The short courses cover tactical technical tools that educators can use in their daily work to increase impact and productivity. Live lessons cover key teaching strategies and assessments.

“We also run eight-hour bootcamps spread over four weeks. These include two hours of weekly lessons and hands-on labs,” says Pradeep.

The startup says its trainers come from all over the country. However, it also has a physical presence in Pune, Mumbai and Gurugram. Offline training programs are delivered on the campuses of partner schools across the country through the network of trainers.

It has a 13-member team, including operations, content quality team, marketing, and sales.

OrangeSlates claims that 60% of educators come from metropolitan cities and 40% from Tiers I, II and III and rural areas. The Hindi and Marathi programs have close to 90% attendance from Tiers III-IV and rural areas.

It also has a user base in countries such as the Middle East, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Uganda, Portugal, and Spain. “We don’t actively target these markets and have just over 100 users,” says Pradeep.

In addition to skills development, educators receive ongoing live projects on content creation, course creation, and instructional design with the world’s leading edtech companies. These are paid projects ranging from Rs 4,500 per module to Rs 11,000 per lesson, or sometimes storyboards.

“Our platform offers educators the opportunity to be part of a vibrant community that shares knowledge, resources, and experiences with each other,” says Pradeep.

OrangeSlates has completed around 400 live trainings, custom institutional trainings, self-paced trainings and festivals so far. He has trained over 30,000 educators to date.

Partnerships and more

The skills development startup has partnered with ImaginXP, a virtual university working with over 30 universities, 3D Bear (USA), Thunderbird Global School of Management (Arizona State University) and AIEF (All India Educators Forum).

Along with ImaginXP, it offers career-focused courses such as instructional design, design and delivery of digital courses, leadership courses, among others.

This partnership will lead to courses for more than 50,000 educators so they can explore new era careers such as digital course creators, instructional designers, leadership courses, and more. “says Pradeep.

The combination of Thunderbird Global School of Management is part of their “100 million learners” initiative. “It’s about bringing world-class accredited education online in 40 different languages ​​to learners around the world,” says Pradeep.

With 3D Bear, OrangeSlates offers a bootcamp to become a 3D Bear ambassador and use augmented reality (AR) in the classroom. This helps educators use these futuristic technologies to transform students’ learning experiences.

Pradeep says a basic introduction to AR in the classroom was conducted for about 1,500 educators. “We have trained over 100 teachers from various schools during our month-long bootcamp to use augmented reality to design and deliver lessons to their learners.”

The partnership with the AIEF involved a series of workshops for educators on the theme of “Seamless Learning Experiences” as part of the “LearnFest”.

The startup aims to collaborate with progressive education organizations, publishing and content houses, edtech platforms, and organizations that offer technology tools to create a complete ecosystem for educators.

Revenue model

OrangeSlates has three key revenue streams: live, self-paced courses and certificates for teachers; school and institution partnerships; and events.

In 2020, the startup started with 1,750 educators. It has onboarded 15,000 educators in 2021 and has developed over 30,000 teachers so far.

Prices for live and self-paced courses focused on short-term applications range from Rs 199 to Rs 2,499. The long term certification and career building courses start from Rs 15,000.

For schools, course pricing depends on the number of teachers and the commitment (number of skills/topics and depth) required. Both editions of LearnFest were free.

According to the startup, there are approximately 10 million educators in India, including both public and private sectors. The teacher training market in the private sector alone is estimated at around $1.36 billion.

OrangeSlates works according to the methodology of the four Cs: creative, stimulating, contextual and collaborative. It competes with companies such as CENTER, UdemyEdX, the British Council and Surah.

The company has amassed $8 million in revenue to date.

The path to follow

OrangeSlates raised $5 million from friends and family in a seed round in January 2022. It plans to raise pre-Series A funding by September this year to expand its footprint in the Asian and African markets.

It plans to onboard 100,000 educators by the end of FY23 and develop more than one million teachers by FY25. It plans to partner with 5,000 institutions and generate $20 million in revenue by FY23.

“We want to create a global community of over one million teachers working and learning together through our platform by 2025,” says Pradeep.

The name OrangeSlates represents a new dawn with a slate to start over. “A slate simply changes shape – stone tablets, real or digital slates, to represent writing and drawing surfaces, and the beauty of its self-sustaining write-erase-start function,” says Pradeep .

“Depending on the learning environment the teacher is in, we are able to rewrite what’s on the slate to meet the teacher’s developmental needs,” says Pradeep.

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