Of the many GMAT preparation institutes spread across the country, this one is different. Crack Verbal makes use of technology to provide interactive virtual classroom sessions to students far and remote, giving a different dimension to distance-learning for coaching institutes. It is difficult to find good teachers for such organizations, and by creating a secondary classroom, the instructor can teach in Bangalore while a student in Jaipur can attend the class in real time through an interactive whiteboard, video, and audio.
Here is a short conversation with Arun, founder of CrackVerbal:
PI: Was virtual classrooms the idea before founding it up or did it come across later on?
AJ: It frankly came as a necessity later on. My primary focus was on creating content and delivery mechanism which is unparalleled. However after a point I realized there were a lot of enquiries from other centers such as Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai etc. I even went around replicating the brick-and-mortar model elsewhere only to meet with a lot of resistance with regards to the change in teaching quality after my sessions. The problem was primarily with instructor quality. I was not able to replicate the years of teaching experience I had in a few weeks/months.
PI: Are the virtual classrooms real-time? Can students view the recordings?
AJ: All the classrooms currently are only realtime. Only after running this for a few months I want to get into recordings/on-demand, which will be available as a stand-alone product itself. There are 2 reasons why I strongly believe that a “virtual” classroom in which people are NOT sitting at home in their pyjamas, and sipping coffee will work.
1) The experience that a student gets sitting in a classroom is unparalleled. There is an alpha-male in all of us which increases the sense of competition when we see other students preparing, answering questions etc. This is the reason, in some ways, you and I went to school and didn’t do an online course.
2) The education setup has traditionally been where the teacher teaches and the student goes home to solve questions. Students now have all the information at their finger-tips and don’t really need anyone to tell them what they can read up from a book. The reason they are in a classroom is because they can interact, solve doubts, and understand how different approaches can be applied to solve a question. This is something no book can teach.
PI: What was your initial investment, and when did you break even?
AJ: We are profit making from day one. We have had a year on year growth of over 100% i.e. 2009 – 38 students, 2010 – 81 students, 2011 – 243 students. With this model we are looking at breaking into 500+ students in 2012.
PI: Future plans? Do you plan to add GRE, TOEFL, etc to your courses?
Yes – the next step is to add other tests which is aligned to our core promise of demystifying Verbal in standardized tests which are catered for native speakers of the language. I have already started with SAT, and GRE but need some more time before I can formalize it.
We also plan to invest in events which are generic around using correct English in everyday use i.e. promoting English than any specific tests. We are also in the process of tying up with corporate and colleges by providing them with free softskills training.
While this has been done for universities and colleges and there are conglomerates like Reliance catering to such institutes and students, this is a first for a institute preparing students for GMAT providing an interactive mode outside the brick-and-mortar model. This can go ahead, and has a huge future, especially for meccas like Kota and Delhi.
CrackVerbal has cracked this space, but needs to work on their website. I would suggest the team creates a dedicated section, if not a sub-domain, that publicizes, answers queries, and provides information about this new mode they are trying to build up.
Have you tried virtual classrooms? What was your experience?