Learnings Of The Future

In near future, online education will play a crucial rule in transforming undergraduate, graduate and professional education in the country.

The Indian education system today is a study in contrasts. On the one hand, the education system is represented by dilapidated buildings, broken blackboards, minimum furniture, untrained or semi-trained teachers and half-filled classrooms with demotivated students struggling to read, write, speak and learn. This is a real and everyday issue across hundreds of village, block, and district-level schools not far from major cities in India. So let’s not even talk about the state of affairs in the far end of the length and breadth of India. In some cities and towns, the situation may seem relatively better but still far away from the desired standards. Some states have done better than others, but the overall situation in a country of 1.3 billion remains grim as far as the state of basic education goes. But when it comes to professional courses, there are these world-class institutions that have made a mark for themselves around the globe. Be it the fast-expanding chain of Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) or the prestigious network of Indian Institute of Management (IIM), the quality of professional education and its infrastructure is comparable to international standards. For that matter, the quality of education and infrastructure in some of our universities too are above par. Be it the University of Delhi, the Jawaharlal Nehru University or the likes of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), and Indian Institute of Science, there are hundreds of institutions that make us all proud. Experts point to insufficient funds, lack of longterm vision and planning and, of course, the ever-growing population as some of the headline challenges that continue to hamstrung the country’s education system even after seven-and-half decades of independence. The massive shortfall of trained teachers is another major challenge facing this all-important sector. So what can be done to solve this problem? What is the best alternative to the traditional way of education?

Conventional Vs Online India boasts of one of the oldest educational systems in the world. However, formal education in the country has lagged due to its traditional model of learning. Although the world over formal education continues to be imparted using the conventional model, the education space has been disrupted with online education or e-learning. With the advent of future-generation technologies, every sector is undergoing digital disruption and so is education. Given the technological advances taking place and the demands on students’ time and pressures of learning effectively and efficiently, the online education looks set to play a crucial rule in undergraduate, graduate and professional education in the times to come. According to a PMG India and Google report titled ‘Online Education in India: 2021’, the Indian online education market is set for a quantum growth of eight times by 2021. “The online education market in India currently stands at $247 million and is estimated to witness an 8-fold growth over the next five years to reach $.96 billion in 2021. This growth will be backed by a phenomenal rise in the paid user base for online education in India, which is expected to grow from the current base of 1.57 million users to 9.5 million users in 2021 at a CAGR of 44 per cent,” the report states. Therefore, it is pertinent to understand here that online education goes beyond the realms of secondary, post-secondary and tertiary education. It also offers courses and modules for competitive exam preparation, professional skill enhancement, and other non-academic subjects that are otherwise hard to find in a regular offline university or a college. Experts, therefore, say that after starting as an enabler for connecting students and content providers, the role of online education platforms today have drastically changed to content curators and providers. “Education is quickly moving online and everyone is now empowered to learn practical skills from expert instructors, on-demand, conveniently, affordably, and at their own pace. Both individuals and companies are beginning to realise that learning is a continuous process and should never stop if they want to stay relevant and competitive. This shift in mindset is ushering in a new culture of lifelong learning,” says Irwin Anand, MD, Udemy. The education on online platforms offers flexibility to the learner to consume the material anytime and anywhere. It also provides a different sense of community engagement for the learner by opening the interaction opportunity across borders. The online education industry, as per a latest survey done by KPMG is set to cover approximately 9.6 million learners in by the year 2021. Key Drivers Online education in India is evolving at an exponential rate owing to a variety of reasons. These range from the growing penetration of the Internet and smartphones to cheaper and faster Internet. These coupled with the advent of better technology and growing popularity of online courses are driving the aspirants. Dr Balvinder Shukla, Vice-Chancellor, Amity University says, “Growing penetration of smartphones and improving quality of the internet have opened up these opportunities. With the advent of 4G and forthcoming 5G this is expected to even grow further.” Available data shows that in the past two years alone, India’s online education industry has seen a 2x growth in online searches for education and a 3x growth in searches from a mobile device. Around 40-45 per cent of education searches are now coming from beyond the top six metros and there has been a 4x growth in education content consumption on YouTube in the last one year alone.

The number of Internet users in India has registered an annual growth of 18 per cent and was pegged at 566 million in 2018 mainly driven by rural Internet growth and usage. Similarly, India is also the world’s third-largest smartphone market with the number of users expected to reach 400 million by 2020. The Internet has made it possible and easy for the young demographic (14-40 year-olds) — the most active consumers — to enrol in online education, say experts. Online education, according to one expert, fulfills the educational requirements of the younger demography without compromising on time and cost. Online courses also provide diverse degrees as well as certificate courses that are easily accessible to the urban and rural population. 

Cost-Effective Online education providers reach out to the consumers without setting up a physical infrastructure or incurring administrative costs such as staff salaries, stationery, books, etc. Hence, they are passing the cost savings to the users. Vanita Bhoola, Professor and Head - Executive Education & Project Management, Bhavan’s SPJIMR, says: “Exposure to technology and growth in technology through varied platforms like smartphones has been rapid. Availability of e-books and e-learning apps have increased. With increasing competition and changes in technology, you either upskill yourself or you fade. Education has also brought about a huge mindset shift in the way people think.” Today, India churns out more graduates than most countries around the world. And the Indian job scenario is currently reeling under the twin crises of layoffs and job paucity, especially due to automation and slowdown in the global and Indian economy. Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a leading think tank, shows that India’s unemployment rate today stands at 7.5 per cent. Owing to all the above-stated factors, both job seekers and working professionals feel the need to gain, refresh or enhance skills through career advancement courses. They sense that by educating oneself on online platforms on specific skills can increase their chances of landing better jobs, or held them switch jobs, get promotions, negotiate better pay packages and stay industry-relevant. Shantanu Rooj, CEO & Founder of Schoolguru Eduserve states, “To remain competitive and to have the best chance of success, employees would need to resort to re-skilling and lifelong learning. Employers are using various strategies to improve the productivity of their existing workforce, reduce the cost of hiring and reduce the attrition of their employees. Online courses present a higher signalling value and present a viable strategy to bring better stickiness amongst the employees.” Digital Friendly Initiatives Meeting the needs of an aspiring India in which all sections of the society seek better standards and access to education, the ruling government aims to have the largest network of the working-age population in India by 2030. “By 2030, India is set to have the largest working-age population in the world. Not only do they need literacy but they need both job and life skills,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said recently. The government, therefore, has made announcements for the commencement of degree-level full-fledged online education programme that will provide quality education to students from the deprived sections of the society as well as those who do not have access to higher education. “It is great to see the government is taking steps to boost the online education ecosystem. This will facilitate greater collaboration between educational institutions and online education platforms and ensure the delivery of relevant and high quality content to learners,” says Raghav Gupta, MD, India and APAC, Coursera. Online education stands a promising future and it is on its way to becoming the next sunrise industry. The triple factors of Content, Delivery and Access will act as a change agent in shaping up online education.

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