Spoken Tutorials

Lack of access to affordable education and rapid advancement in technology have created an under-skilled global workforce, high long-term unemployment, violence and increase in crime.

Improving the Lives in Rural India by Technology-enabled Solutions

Education- Spoken Tutorials

Enable rural India talent with quality & affordable IT skills for equal opportunities in the new digitized world

Problem Description & Solution Approach:

Spoken Tutorials (ST) is an amazing innovation coming out of years of pioneering research led by  Professor Kannan Moudgalya nearly a decade ago at one of India’s premier engineering institutions – the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay (IIT-B). With initial funding from the Government of India, Dr. Kannan took on the challenge of making it possible to learn & master computer & software skills for masses living in remote parts of the country at a price of a few pennies! Like many countries of the world, whether a developing or developed economy, India faces the urgent need to enable millions of youth to enter the workforce ready for the skills needed for the new digital world. Every industry in the world is rapidly transitioning from old structures to the one underpinned by information technology at its core. The speed of this transition has created millions of unfilled jobs due to a lack of workers with needed IT skills. Current options of acquiring these skills in either technology-oriented higher-degree educational institutions or in private training centers limit their availability to mostly urban population centers and for those with much higher income levels. In most developing economies, including India, this results in a very large portion of the eligible workforce being left out of the digital transition. Even in developing countries like USA, accessibility & affordability barriers risk further widening education and economic inequity in the society. Further, the lack of enough numbers of quality instructors results in sub-standard teaching at many existing learning centers. Lastly, the learners from non-English native language geographies face huge language hurdles in this skills domain that has nothing inherent to English. Spoken Tutorials are designed to eliminate all these barriers and enable the world-at-large ready for the new digitized world. Dr. Kannan graduated in 1985 with a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Rice University, Houston, and began his career as a Research Associate at the Chemical Process Modelling and Control Research Center at Lehigh University in the USA. In 1988 he became Assistant Professor at IIT-B and has since worked his way up to the position of Each and Meheroo Mehta Advanced Education Technology Chair Professor. He has written several books including the recently published “Digital Control” and another one (“Optimization: Theory and Practice”) with M. C. Joshi. ST innovation has won numerous awards & recognitions such as Google MOOCs Research Award, Reimagine Education Award 2015 by QT and Wharton School, and Re-Engineering India Award, and has been featured on the TEDx platform.

At the core of it, a spoken tutorial is an audio-video tutorial that explains an activity, on the computer screen (where it is typically viewed). An expert explains the working of the topic (e.g., a software language such as C++), by demonstrating it on the screen, along with a running commentary. A screencast software makes a movie of the entire activity, both the screen and the spoken part. This movie is a spoken tutorial. The running commentary can be in English or in any other language. The spoken tutorial is a recording of an actual session. As a result, it can capture every step that is required to explain an activity. While simple in concept, the final product (a series of 10-minute tutorials – which could be as few as half-a-dozen to as many as several hundred, depending upon the breadth & complexity of the topic) requires proper integration of the right instructor, content structure & sequencing, well-choreographed content script, user-interface, and transposition into A/V modules suitable for the average learner. These ST modules are purposely created for consumption flexibility with or without access to an Internet connection. Hence, the size of the video created is of the order of 1MB per minute, for an 800×600 screen size in normal resolution. The resulting file size is small enough for transmission through low bandwidth and also to pack a large number of tutorials on a single inexpensive storage device (e.g., USB stick or CD, or DVD), enabling distribution to remote rural locations.

Further, the overall design & packaging has been done to enable easy dubbing of audio portion in any language that a remote/rural learner feels comfortable with. Many of the existing STs have been dubbed in more than 22 languages spoken within & outside India. Since many proprietary IT software are owned by large multinationals, their licensing costs make them unaffordable for large-scale usage in many emerging countries. This has resulted in the huge development of open-source software technology options across the IT spectrum. To support this, a current library of STs covers most of the popular open-source software families, such as LaTeX, Scilab, GNU/Linux, and Python. While only a small topic can be covered in the standard ten-minute long single ST, by stringing them together, one can easily create study plans that are capable of teaching advanced topics. 

Two other critical features of the ST approach are emphasis on the application of learning, and linkages to current market needs and challenges. While playing the ST, the learner applies the course elements right away by practicing on the computer side-by-side. A combination of the flexibility (to learn at one’s choice of location, timing, duration, and pace) and real-time application makes it a very powerful learning innovation tool. After finishing all the STs for a course, learners can take the examination to test their competency and can compare their scores pre and post-learning. Score and associated details of the course outline are covered in the completion Certificate making it easy for a prospective employer to feel confident in the learner’s fit & employability.

Watch the video from the recent Gala Event, Washington DC.

Read a 2-Pager.


WGF Scaling Plans in Education & Beyond

ST provides an active learning method for any new educational topic in short and simple steps for learning in any language native to the learner. While the initial impetus of the innovation has been information technology topics, from basics (e.g., introduction to computers) to advance courses in demand for high-paying jobs (e.g., Python, MySQL, Java), the ST platform has been expanded to cover new learning topics such as nutritional health for new mothers & babies. 


WGF sees tremendous opportunity in helping scale this amazing innovation on several fronts. India has more than 1.5 million high schools and more than 50,000 colleges& universities, with a large majority of students from lower-income groups or from rural backgrounds, representing a scaling opportunity for more than 100 million youth talent to help take India to a new digital world. Along with scaling in India, WGF with its partners (e.g., CARBON Group) is supporting pilots in countries in Africa where a similarly large number of youth would benefit from ST’s transformational impact.


WGF is also supporting ST’s scaling of a successful pilot in Gujarat to train new mothers in newborn nutritional health and breastfeeding techniques. Besides scaling in Gujarat, several other States (e.g., Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh) are in the current scaling pipeline.

Traction & Impact

As of the end of 2021, there are more than 15,000 Spoken Tutorials already released, and have been used by more than 7 million learners across 6000+ schools, colleges and universities worldwide. These learners have been located in some of the most remote and disadvantaged sections of society. Even with a very conservative alternative cost of Rs 2000 per student spend (which might cover just 1-2 topics, as opposed to the entire library of STs available), the beneficiaries have already received more than Rs 14 billion in high-quality education learning value, in addition to the other key benefits such as being able to take these as many times as needed, in the location/ time/ duration of their choice, concurrent practice opportunity, and scoring & certifications.

About 150 inmates of Nashik Central Prison have received training in computer literacy and office productivity tools using LibreOffice. The learning environ that was created resulted in less internal strives and many inmates told that they had something to look forward to, and that they were hopeful of facing the world after their release.

The Maharashtra Govt. wants us to extend this method to other prisons in the state. This approach can be extended in other places/countries as well. Read more about this activity here.


Awarding Certificates to inmates of Nashik Central Prison

WGF leaders providing oversight:

Education Council leader:
Kannan Moudgalya

Call To Action

WGF welcomes alumni to engage and support the expansion of this transformational IT/Software skills solution with amazing affordability, ease of use, and accessibility to the remotest & poorest areas of the country. For just $70, the entire School can get a subscription to the full ST library. For $1000, alumni can make a difference to 10-15 schools in their hometown/district. Education and skills enablement is a lifelong impact on the beneficiary. Further, alumni can help connect ST-enabled young talent to the new job opportunities requiring IT / software skills in their corporations. Those jobs don’t need to stay unfilled for long periods anymore.

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