LumenEd: A Startup Connecting Classrooms Around the World Even Where There is No Internet

US-based LumenEd is a startup that is trying to connect classrooms around the world through a Video Pen-Pal program using a multimedia device – Bright Orange Box (BoB) that works everywhere, even in environments without electricity or Internet. The Video Pen Pal Program pairs classrooms from different geographic, social and economic contexts to engage in weekly videos conversations.

The BoB, a battery-powered smart projector, allows classrooms in the US to interact with classrooms in India while bringing digital learning content to under-resourced classrooms in India. By pairing a bright projector and loud stereo speakers, the box allows teachers to present videos, music, and powerpoints to their whole classroom.

LumenEd was founded in 2013 by five students – Thomas Kreek, Prakash Paudel, Henry Harboe, Saksham Khosla, and Shiva Mandala, at Oberlin College who wanted to use technology to make a difference in education. It is working towards overcoming infrastructural barriers to quality education in the developing world. The startup aims to empower students, teachers and schools across the world by providing them access to digital educational resources and a platform to share their stories.

When asked why LumenEd is revolutionary, Prakash Paudel, CEO of LumenEd, said “In an increasingly interconnected world, global perspectives are becoming sorely missing from American classrooms. Far too few American students are having the deep cross-cultural experiences necessary to become compassionate, globally competent citizens.”

How does it work?

Classrooms in the US and India are part of a weekly Video Pen Pal Program that allows them to easily send videos to each other. This service is made possible by the BoB, which can record full HD videos in classrooms lacking internet and power infrastructure. To make the video recording and sharing process easy for both classrooms, LumenEd is developing a unified Android and iOS app that teachers in India can use with the BoB, and teachers in the US can use with smartphones.

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Partner classrooms explore each other’s cultures by recording and sharing 1 – 3 minute video messages with our custom app. It make the connection, process and share the videos, and take care of everything else.

The device’s battery supports 3 hours of continuous playback. It also includes a large touch screen to allow allows for easy content navigation. The 3G connection allows students to connect with their peers around the world.

How do students learn?

The opportunity to connect with students on opposite ends of the world is an eye-opening experience. Through short simple videos, students find their unique voices, collaborate creatively as a class, and explore cultural similarities and differences inside and outside the classroom.

Who is participating this year?

The startup has been able to expand the program to classroom anywhere in the world through its unique multimedia device — the Bright Orange Box. This year’s program focuses on pairing classrooms in the US with low income Teach for India classrooms in New Delhi.

Amount of funding raised till date

LumenED

Shown Above: Founders’ Team, LumenEd

The startup has raised $11,000 from its personal funds to finance upfront development and manufacturing costs. It has received $15,000 in grant funding from the Kathryn W. Davis Foundation, Creativity and Leadership at Oberlin College, and the LaunchU Pitch Competition at Oberlin College. LumenEd is raising $40,000 over a month-long Kickstarter campaign. The funds will go towards developing an Android platform of the Bright Orange Box and building the mobile apps.

Revenue Model and Monetization

LumenEd has a couple of revenue streams: first involves a cross-subsidy through the Pen Pal Program — schools pay a yearly subscription fee of $1,000 for the Pen Pal service and sponsor a device for a classroom in a Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) Indian school at $870. The second involves a direct purchase of the Bright Orange Box by interested parties (US Schools/General – $870) and NGOs/Non-profit/Charity for $700.

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Who is it competing it?

The startup is competing with other players like ePals, which provides project-focused collaboration between classrooms and primarily targets internet-enabled classrooms, and PenPal Schools, a startup that uses a web platform to facilitate written exchanges between students.

Future Goals

The startup’s growth strategy involves initially scaling its classrooms abroad through the Teach For All network, with extends to 35 countries and 11,000 schools. This will allow it to offer a diversified network of schools and add support for language programs. It also plan to scale to rural locations and government run schools.

In the US, LumenEd’s plan to scale vertically to affordable private schools and public schools. The Video Pen Pal Program will partner 100 classrooms in the US and India from July 2015-March 2016, and will expand to 250 classrooms next year.

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