The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has brought to the fore the power of cloud in ensuring business continuity and adapting to the uncertainty. And, in some cases a complete turnaround.
A case in point is edtech startup, Impartus, that provides innovative video learning solutions to drive better outcomes for the education sector. Cloud not only helped the company enable continuous learning for schools and colleges amid the lockdown but also turnaround its live online learning business by helping scale up from 10 to 160 customers, all within 2 days.
On 4th March, 2020 when a few of the schools in Delhi announced closing down due to the pandemic, the company offered its live online learning platform to schools and colleges free of cost for a month to help them complete their syllabus. It was the first edtech company to do so, a trend which was later followed by many others.
Impartus, which till then had 10 customers for its live online learning video platform, received an overwhelming response as 150 new educational institutions enlisted for the offer.
Fast forward two days, on 6th March, 2020 the company was all set and supporting the additional 150 customers, which included some of the leading educational institutions and edtech companies. From 10 to 160 customers within two days was made possible with cloud.
According to Amit Mahensaria, Co-founder and CEO, Impartus, the move to AWS cloud provided the technology, scale and infrastructure required to quickly meet the surge in demand for online classes.
In fact, Impartus was able to quickly ramp up its infrastructure 10x to accommodate the growth that happened within 2 days, which would have otherwise taken months to build similar capacity on-premise. In fact, by the end of March as the company sensed that even this capacity was less, it further scaled up its infrastructure on cloud 30x within 24 hours.
“AWS cloud enabled our video learning solution to scale quickly and reliably to address rapid and peak usage, and stream significant amounts of data in real-time, providing teachers and students optimal audio-video quality for live classes that mirror the physical classroom experience,” explained Mahensaria.
The statistics are indeed impressive. Impartus onboarded 150 new education institutions, hosted live virtual video classrooms on AWS for more than 600,000 students and 50,000 teachers across India, and also supported on-boarding and training of teachers, to ensure smooth and effective online classes. On an average, Impartus registered 4-5 new institutions on its platform on a daily basis during this time.
But, what’s most fascinating is that the cloud-backed ability to move fast and quick with the free offer helped the company generate new business. Post the close of the free offer, Impartus saw significant conversion with almost 60% of the free customers upgrading to paid customers. Talks underway with more. Today, some of the prominent users of its live video classroom include IIT Delhi, Manipal Group, Fr. Agnel Schools, Shiv Nadar Schools, BITS Pilani, Symbiosis, ICAI and edtech companies like Toppr and Vedantu.
According to Mahensaria, by quickly launching the free offer in response to the educational institutions’ need for continuous learning amid the lockdown, the company was able to provide institutions a first-hand experience of live online learning over video and the opportunity to test its platform.
“For many institutions live online learning became core to their business model and the moment it became core they started looking out for solutions that can handle the scale and complexities required in live online learning. With cloud at the backend we could showcase those capabilities on our platform and promise a superior experience,” explained Mahensaria.
Powering Impartus’ live video classroom solution are a slew of AWS services. These including using Amazon EC2 to autoscale without downtime and enable live videos; Amazon Elasticsearch Service to enable in-video search because students watch live videos and also access recorded videos; Amazon S3 for secured storage of on-demand videos; and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to ensure students are registered and authenticated, as education institutions want to ensure their video recorded classes are secure.
Today, cloud is a key lever behind the success and massive turnaround of Impartus’ the live online learning platform with capabilities around scale being the biggest advantage. At the peak load, the platform has successfully handled 60,000 – 90,000 concurrent users. On a monthly basis, Impartus has reached 20x kind of usage group, which means increase in the average usage per customer.
With the current capabilities on the infrastructure side, the company is confident of handling two lakh concurrent users at any given point of time with 1-2 days required if additional scaling up needs to be done. The scalability benefits are even more pronounced as Impartus has the flexibility to scale down during non-peak requirements, such as during the second half of the day, weekends or school/college vacations.
Real-time heavy processing requirements is another capability of cloud that has helped the platform. One can just imagine the sheer processing power required for a single live session that has 2000 students, a teacher sharing multiple screens, playing audio and video, making presentation, writing on a digital white board while students are interacting with each other and the teacher, which is being livestreamed.
A significant value add that Impartus offers its customers is around providing real-time insights requiring AI/ML capabilities, which again is powered by cloud. It is leveraging AI/ML services from AWS to support use cases like providing insights to the teacher in real-time during the class on engagement levels of students along with suggestions around specific actions to improve these engagement levels and session quality. It further provides actionable inputs to teachers, again in real-time, to improve the delivery of live online classes, with respect to the teacher’s gaze, voice, use of multimedia and also nudges students if their engagement is low.