Jimit Dattani, former Chief Information Officer at XSEED Education, discusses how innovative technology is changing the future of education...
Starting his career from humble beginnings, Jimit Dattani, former Chief Information Officer (CIO) at XSEED Education, has held many roles throughout his 17-year spell in IT. To name a few, he has held titles such as Project Manager, Business Analyst, Portfolio Manager and Chief Technology Officer at GTS Interactive and CIO (XSEED Education). “My career started in 2002 and has spanned across many avenues. After graduating in India, I moved to Australia to complete my masters working with a company called Stellar before moving to GTS Interactive. In 2016, I was approached by XSEED to help them in their digital transformation journey, becoming their CIO.”
As an active professional in the technology industry, Dattani has witnessed tech’s significant evolution first-hand throughout his career. “Whether it's a change of environment, new skill, or even the attitudes people have towards technology, the tech industry is constantly evolving. When it comes to the education sector specifically, it has drastically transformed from a basic four-walled classroom to one that is booming with technological tools,” says Dattani.
“Being in the education space for the last three years, I personally feel that analytics, adaptive learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are very hot topics right now. There are a lot of conversations happening around the world relating to the adoption of AI to develop learning, improve access to education and reduce costs.” To stay ahead of these trends, Dattani explains that “there are many hurdles, with so many things going on it’s impossible to read everything. However, I typically subscribe to lots of tech sites and brands as well as attending networking events to stay ahead of the latest buzz regarding technology and how to best apply solutions to business challenges or to upskill a business.”
The benefits of digital transformation in education
“In my opinion, digital transformation should be a priority for all education institutions,” says Dattani, “whether it’s educational learning or research studies, there are huge benefits to digitalisation, including increased availability and faster consumption of information.” Dattani also sees modular learning benefiting from digitalisation, “because institutes have to cater to different competencies. Digitalisation can help to measure effective adaptation, as well as upgrade teaching abilities with the assistance of collaborative learning via virtual classrooms and mobile learning apps. Digital transformation has brought about unprecedented changes in the modern education system.”
However, despite the promise of high rewards, in Dattani’s experience “the environment is faced with barriers”. In particular, Dattani has experienced the reluctance in India to adopt new technologies, along with challenges around talent gaps and a lack of data driven business culture. “Half the time, people in schools do not have the right talent to operate basic technology, with most large schools not knowing where to begin.”
Further reflecting on his experience in the industry, Dattani explains some of his own digital strategies he has implemented during his career. “When I develop my strategies, 99.9% of the time they are based on four concepts: customer engagement, empowering employees, optimising operations, maintaining alignment with company goals and increasing productivity,” he says. With this in mind, he goes on to explain that, when he joined XSEED Education, the company was a pre-digitised organisation that ran its sales team on legacy financial systems and Excel. “In order to digitally transform XSEED Education, I took a holistic view of the business strategy to build an integrated strategy that connected its customers, consumers and internal functions.” With XSEED Education rapidly expanding globally, the strategy incorporated a move from legacy systems to 100% paperless and cloud-based ERP system with the help of vTiger, NetSuite and DocuSign. The strategy also incorporated a restructuring of its internal IT functions, and implementation of data analytics and security.
The benefits of Big Data and analytics in education
“Data is like liquid gold,” says Dattani. “It is of utmost importance. Whether it's institutions or universities, they need to realise that data accuracy is far more valuable than simply possessing data that is uncleansed, cluttered and cannot be interpreted effectively. In order to make sense of Big Data, empirical evidence is required for any theoretical framework.” The process of deconstruction is critical, rather than just consuming what is served, otherwise we have failed our children and all we have achieved is digitizing “glorifying” rote learning.
When it comes to the benefits it can provide to education, Dattani sees “the adoption of Big Data analytics leading to enhanced learning and helping to make critical decisions for predictive teaching, assessment strategies and improved market analytics - something which XSEED has been aggressively implementing.” However, alongside the power Big Data provides there are also ethical considerations, particularly in terms of privacy. “This is a very big challenge that poses many questions. Do we have consent? Have we got enough protection? What data should be combined and analysed and the purposes to which this should be put.? All of these challenges result in the stunted growth of Big Data usage.”
Reflecting on his career, Dattani explains that he has been utilising Big Data from very early on. “The biggest implementations of Big Data that I have done, have been with Amadeus and XSEED.” When working with Amadeus - a global provider of travel solutions - Dattani used Big Data and analytics extensively for a project known as Amadeus OneClick. “There are more than two million bookings that Amadeus facilitates on a daily basis. The idea was to structure that data and process it, so that at any point organisations can know where their employees are, where they are travelling to and if they need any assistance. With Amadeus’s new cloud portal, the company can analyse its data based on a number of variables to predict potential travel risks, spend and booking demand.” With XSEED, Dattani’s previously mentioned strategy incorporated Big Data in two ways. “We had vast amounts of student data at XSEED. With analytics we could better understand product insights such as: which products are doing well and why? In addition to product insights, XSEED also used Big Data and analytics to analyse and optimise the content curriculum and improve the delivery of learning to be more effective for students.”
The future of innovative technology in education
When it comes to the use of innovative technology within education, Dattani would love to see a greater adoption of AI. “The challenge that I see with AI is a lack of clear strategy. Currently the biggest barrier is a lack of talent and daytime leadership commitment to move from aspiration to adoption. However, I have seen some success stories. Some I've been part of myself with XSEED, such as gamification for engaging digital classrooms while recording and assessing engagement. I have also seen the use of robotics to help with shortages of native English teachers in South Korea, as well as the use of 3D learning - especially in science. I have seen this in Dubai where the classroom and labs are connected with super high speed fiber connections to deliver lessons via TV platforms.”
Another innovation Dattani has seen is the use of Amazon Alexa to drive interactive teaching inside and outside the classroom. “I have seen Amazon Alexa provide interactive education in the classroom, as well as providing education to those in remote areas of India who cannot access a school,” says Dattani. “Over the years, Amazon has been a key partner for implementing digital transformation strategies. They have provided much more than just a buyer/seller relationship. They have been vital consultants within the implementation processes too. Amazon has provided workshops and training on various tools in order for users to gain the most benefit from the solutions.”
Reflecting on his career and experience within the technology industry, Dattani is humbled by his opportunities “I've been very fortunate that every interaction I've had with my customers, I've been able to deliver on their expectations and beyond. I am very proud to provide a duty of care that can deliver this,” he concludes.