Mila Smart Semeshkina keeps us updated on rapidly learning practical lessons online.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
Mila Semeshkina believes in creating lasting change through effective education, which she calls fast education. “It is about acquiring specific skills that can be applied in all areas of life immediately after the first lesson,” says Mila, who assembled an international team of professionals and founded Lectera, a platform helping learners to do just that. Mila and her team want to get rid of educational inequalities and thus help people create a better future for themselves and their families by gaining practical skills. She strives to teach them things that can bring tangible results in real time. The mission of the Lectera team, headed by Mila, is to inspire and motivate people to be creative and to foster personal growth and professional development. Here, Mila shares the story behind the platform and what motivates her to keep moving forward.
‘It is about acquiring specific skills that can be applied in all areas of life immediately after the first lesson.’
What was the inspiration behind your company?
In the beginning, it was my own personal experience that inspired and motivated me to create Lectera. I devoted much of my time and energy to science as I completed a dissertation and a postgraduate degree. As much as I enjoyed studying and working hard from an early age, I soon realized that the success of my career had nothing to do with the education I received. My education had no relation to my professional success.
The classical education system continues to provide broad perspectives and knowledge, but it is divorced from the skills that are in demand in many countries. At that time, I was trying to find an educational product that would help me boost my skills, but I couldn’t. Rather than seeking knowledge for knowledge’s sake, I wanted new skills that I could apply right away, which led me to create Lectera.com, an educational platform that helps people succeed in business and careers.
What makes Fast Education different from other courses? How has tech played a part in this?
The speed of Fast Education sets it apart from other courses. To boost skills, we provide information in the most understandable and concentrated form, focusing only on the necessary theory. AI-led technology then immerses our students in various situations and cases. Having acquired new information, the student applies this skill to practice by immersing himself in a case and getting at least a “virtual” experience. Methodologists and artificial intelligence create situations and problems that people studying a certain topic may encounter. Having completed the task, a person has acquired the skill to apply the learned knowledge in a practical situation.
The technologies responsible for [our] training, particularly artificial intelligence, are thus essential.
We have no mentor on our educational platform, which is also our superpower, because all processes are automated. The use of artificial intelligence allows you to train skills faster, accelerating the process of learning and applying skills.
What role should tech play in learning and education?
Education, including online education, is now quite outdated, and some breakthrough technologies are needed to move forward and make a new leap forward.
Some courses still use outdated methodologies, which involve mentoring and live teacher-student interactions. Using artificial intelligence and automation technology, the learning process can be significantly streamlined, reducing the need for human intervention. Students benefit from technology because there is only them and their website or app, reducing stress from mistakes and communication difficulties. By immersing himself in the learning process and controlling it, the student is not distracted, and therefore, will learn more effectively.
Using AI to evaluate your knowledge makes it easier for students to accept failures, such as not passing a test. It simply means you only have to study the topic again and pass the test again, thus reducing emotional stress.
Each individual learns at a different pace, and technology and automation allow the student to learn at his own pace without compromising the quality of his learning. [We have] already implemented all of these technological advances, and more platforms are beginning to adopt our experience, which is great news.
What is the state of education in today’s world?
I believe that the education industry is in a deep crisis right now.
What makes you say that?
I’m referring to the global approach we see in many countries to education in general. Primary, secondary, and higher education is far behind the market and the changing world. Education today is a set of clumsy learning standards that change very slowly, and the industry working with this system repeats the mistakes that it has made. Schoolchildren are studying the same things that they did in the middle of the 20th century while the world moves forward.
‘Schoolchildren are studying the same things that they did in the middle of the 20th century while the world moves forward.’
In fact, the Coronavirus pandemic did not lead to a significant improvement in the market. To put it simply, the online education market has grown primarily because old textbooks and classes have been digitized. Despite its increasing use, modern technologies are still relatively rare. I can speak so confidently about it because [we are] a fairly large employer with employees working across all continents and from a variety of educational backgrounds.
We also work a lot with students. In our experience, retraining an energetic student with a strong desire for results is more effective than trying to adapt his knowledge to our needs. I am sure many businesses would agree with us.
How do you measure your platform’s success, and how successful has it been?
The success and failure of [our platform] is measured with facts and figures, with bare analytics, where the main measure is the number of users growing. Today, we are seeing a steady progress of students who are starting to study on our platform. For example, we received more than 170,000 new students in September. A key indicator of how effective the course is is the number of students who complete the course. Today, we have an average course completion rate of 86%, an unparalleled high rate in the market.
OF COURSE. The types of topics Lectera covers are intended to serve students, employees, jobseekers, and entrepreneurs looking to immediately better themselves and advance their careers.
We see how the number of users who access [our platform] every day is growing day by day. When we first started, there were days when we had no more than 50 people on the platform per day. However, we never doubted that the chosen course would work. We now have around 56,000 people studying on the platform at any given time. During this year, we expect the total number of students on the platform to exceed one million. All [of our] courses are currently available in 5 languages. Additionally, we plan to localize our platform into 15 new languages to make it accessible and understandable to over 50% of the global population.
Who are your main students today, where do they come from, and what do they learn?
The average Lectera student today is about 60% female and 40% male. The majority of our students are young, 25-35 years old. Indian students are the largest number of students on the platform among all our regional markets. Globally, our courses are in high demand in markets where there is a competitive job market and a need for fast upskilling. The most popular courses today are digital marketing professions, social media marketing, courses on soft-skills and career planning.
What trends are you watching in edtech, and in the near future what can we expect from your company?
There is no doubt that automation of learning processes is the main trend. More and more platforms are realizing that live communication is too expensive and inefficient, and that the human factor is no longer necessary. Although live learning will remain, it will gradually become less and less common, and it will ultimately become such a niche product in theory.
The multiscreen trend is another important one. Users are learning simultaneously on several platforms and devices at the same time. To create continuous quality learning, technological solutions are needed for smartphones, desktops, tablets, and even TV sets.
There is also a trend of accelerating learning. Courses that have been designed for months are losing their market share. For example, imagine there are still 24-month digital marketing courses available. In 2 years, all digital marketing is updated several times, marketing software is updated and completely changes, and specialists with outdated knowledge enter the market. Obviously, such courses lose in competition.
‘…imagine there are still 24-month digital marketing courses available. In 2 years, all digital marketing is updated several times, marketing software is updated and completely changes…’
In terms of [my company], we will continue to improve our product in accordance with the wishes of our customers, while at the same time expanding into new markets. We are planning to expand the number of platform languages from the current 5 to 20, which will ensure that a significant portion of the world’s population is covered.
To provide you with the latest knowledge, we will continue to release new courses and update existing ones. As a result of the data we collect from students taking courses, our courses will be even shorter in the future. We’ll increase the number of lessons, but cut them down to three minutes – this is the format that students prefer.
Increasingly, students are able to earn money by simply using a computer and gaining knowledge through remote jobs, which may be a new market segment for us. We want to enable students to earn money by simply using a computer and learning new things. It’s essential to monetize your career, not just build one. It is possible to advance your career and earn income through studying, which is more than just learning.
Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: email@example.com