A Life Less Analog, Technology

Edusuite platform keeps schools running amid pandemic

Technology column header

As I’ve previously mentioned in this column, education is very dear to my heart. That’s why I was happy to learn that Philippine startup Edusuite aims to help improve the educational system here with its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered school management system for K-12 to college. This allows schools to focus less on administration and more on education.

Now, I’m a techno-optimist and a big believer in AI. I love Edusuite’s vision of having AI co-manage the school together with human administrators. Otherwise, as Edusuite Co-founder and President Niel Dagondon pointed out at the press briefing on July 29, you are using software but still just manually administering the school. But how challenging is it to get school officials to adopt this mindset and allow AI to co-manage?

Edutech empowers

Edusuite Co-founder and President Niel Dagondon says an automated school management system allows schools to become more efficient and focus on more important tasks.
Edusuite Co-founder and President Niel Dagondon says an automated school management system allows schools to become more efficient and focus on more important tasks.

“I have to admit that it’s not going to be a fast process. Sometimes we launch Edusuite with a school and it takes them sometimes as much as two years to enable all the features that Edusuite has. And what we did is to make it in a way that we can turn off the AI-specific features one by one. So if a school does not trust the system to do the AI at the start, they’ll be able to do the planning their way. For example, if they don’t want the student advising module to automatically advise the student, they can just turn it off and have someone on the backend manually approve each time a student would take a certain number of subjects. So it’s not going to be automatic, that as soon as they implement Edusuite, all the AI features are turned on,” Dagondon said.

Edusuite empowers schools by helping them move their operations to the cloud. Because of this, schools can manage student information and grading, scheduling, online enrollment, statement of accounts, faculty load, and clearances — even when their schools are closed. Through smart algorithms and AI, Edusuite also helps administrators, faculty, and students optimize their school’s available resources.

Edusuite is one of the recipients of the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development’s Startup Grant Program in 2017.

Change in mindset

The education technology (edutech) startup also secured Php12M (US$235,000) in funding from seasoned investors from the Manila Angel Investors Network.

It’s no surprise that Dagondon is once again blazing a new trail in the Philippines, this time in edutech. He’s been a pioneer and innovator for the almost two decades that I have known him. In 2001, he founded Anino Games as the first game development studio in the Philippines. I was then an online editor at INQ7.net, now INQUIRER.net.

What’s great about Edutech’s approach is that it leverages powerful technology, but tailors it to the needs of the schools and the comfort level of the clients. Digital transformation, after all, is not just about technology, but also a change in mindset.

AI is our friend

This is a continuing process, with schools becoming comfortable with the system as they use more of its features, and AI learning more about their needs as more features are activated.

Much of the fear about AI is based on the mistaken belief that it will replace human workers. That’s why I like how IBM refers to AI as “augmented intelligence“, to emphasize how artificial and human intelligence will work together.

An automated school management system has become more relevant today because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while hybrid learning is a reaction to this crisis, we can expect education to change in the post-pandemic world.

“While we look forward to going back to what normal used to be like, schools must also transform their systems to respond better to current and future needs,” Dagondon said in a press statement.

Helping more schools

Edusuite recently signed up the Sacred Heart Academy in Pasig City, University of San Agustin in Iloilo City, and Joji Ilagan Bian Career Foundation Center in Davao City and General Santos City.

These schools join Edusuite’s partners Ateneo High School, CIIT College of Arts and Technology, Benedictine International School, International British Academy, King’s College of the Philippines, Sumulong College of Arts and Sciences, and Batangas Eastern Colleges.

“The pandemic made us realize our school’s need to go digital. It has been an extraordinarily challenging time for us since we never relied on any management system as we were used to a face-to-face approach,” said Patricia Mauricio, assistant directress for finance of the Sacred Heart Academy of Pasig.

Edusuite first prototyped its solution with CIIT College of Arts and Technology back in 2017.

“CIIT has always prioritized efficiency because it allows the school to keep costs within control. This directly benefits students in terms of school fees. When a very smart system allocates your classrooms, faculty members, and students in a very efficient manner, it allows the school to utilize all its physical facilities and talent pool. You see and feel the financial impact for the school and our students,” said Sherwin O, president of CIIT College of Arts and Technology.

On June 15, CIIT became one of the first institutions to commence its term through a purely online setting.

Welcome to the brave new world of education. It’s time for schools to embrace the future.