Online Education: Brace For The Fatigue

Online classes can be a great supplement to in-class experience, but one must be careful and not position it as a replacement for school.

A 2017 report on Online Education in India by KPMG and Google projected the industry would grow to $1.96 billion, have 9.6 million users and Primary and Secondary supplemental education becoming the largest category by 2021. It is quite possible we have already crossed this milestone, largely due to COVID-19.  

Key players like Byju’s have recorded tremendous growth in the last 4 years - from 108.96 crores in FY 16 to 1281.09 crores in FY 19.  

Professional learning platforms like Upgrad have grown at a scorching pace too – from 55 lakhs in FY 16 to 85.14 crores in FY 19. Clearly there were signs that Online Education is the next big thing.

While the entire economy has come to a standstill due to COVID-19, online education seems to have benefited from the lockdown. Between Jan to March 2020, Byjus’s is estimated to get an average of 14.45 million monthly website visitors and while Vedantu has been getting 10.60 million visitors during the same period.  

The number of users signing up has increased as well. Vedantu has witnessed 36 folds growth in the number of users signing up for free live online classes. Toppr has seen a 100 per cent increase in enrolments since launching free classes.  

Expectedly, observers see COVID-19 as a tipping point for the industry and projecting a higher growth citing the “new normal”. Some are even going to the extent of declaring online classes are the default model for education.  

What many seem to ignore is the possible fatigue that might have crept in for the students from these online classes. If executives are already suffering from ‘Death by Zoom’, kids are probably already being ‘Bombarded with likes of Byju’s’.  

Here is what the industry should watch out: 

Drop in Userbase 

Yes, there are new registrations and downloads happening every day. But with schools closed and parents who are working from home, people have no option but to shift to online education. And not to forget, most platforms have become free. It is like retail stores are cramped with customers on a sale day but goes missing when there is no sale. Once the lockdown ends, expect logouts for the platform!      

Innovation will be the key  

As cliched as it may sound but this will be the holy grail for the companies. Thanks to the lockdown you got kids familiar with the online platform and format. What next? What is the reason for kids to come back to the platform again and again? Videos alone won’t be enough. Let’s not forget YouTube is still the default video platform for everyone.     

Not just the platform, the ecosystem needs to be affordable   

Shifting to online education can be quite an expensive move. Apart from the online course fees, parents will have to invest in a laptop/desktop/tablets for the kids. If you have two school going kids, the situation becomes more challenging. Mobile phones aren’t the most convenient form factor for online classes. At a time when parents are facing job losses, pay cuts and dealing with economic uncertainty shift to online education is not guaranteed.     

Dine-in isn’t the same as takeout nb 

For all the convenience and flexibility online platforms may offer, there is nothing to beat the experience of being in a class and interacting with fellow students and teachers. It is like going to restaurant v/s ordering food from the same restaurant. The food is the same, but the overall dining experience and spending time with family and friends is what we really crave for. You cannot compete with that. Online classes can be a great supplement to in-class experience, but one must be careful and not position it as a replacement for school.        

Regulations need to change    

Millions are opting for online platforms and get certified. But the industry is far from accepting these certifications (or even degrees). A quick scan of job openings on various portals still shows formal graduation is preferred over certifications. We are yet to see a job posting that says ‘Online degree/certification’ is acceptable. The industry recognizes the impact of online education but has stopped short of recognizing them at par with ‘formal’ education. Unless online & offline education models are treated at par, online education will not evolve any further. Until then let us hop on to that morning school bus. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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online education Fatigue online classes COVID-19

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