Learnings Of The Future

In near future the scope of online education will play a crucial role in transforming undergraduate, graduate and professional education.

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The spectrum of Indian education system today is very broad. At one end of it, the Indian education system is a picture dilapidated buildings, broken blackboards, minimum furniture, untrained or semi-trained teachers and half-filled classrooms filled with demotivated students struggling to read, write, speak and learn. This is real and an 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 is a bit better relatively 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 population remains grim as far as the state of basic education goes

But when it comes to professional courses, the other end of this spectrum, there are these world-class institutions that have made names for themselves around the globe. Be it the fast expanding chain of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) or the prestigious network of Indian Institute of Management (IIM), the quality of education and infrastructure is not short of international standards. For that matter, the quality of education and infrastructure of some of our Universities too are above par. Be it the Delhi University or the Jawaharlal Nehru University or the likes of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), or the Indian Institute of Sciences, there are hundreds of examples that make us all proud.

Experts point to insufficient funds, lack of long-term vision and planning and of course, ever growing population as some of the headline challenges that continue to pose problems even after seven-and-half decades of gaining independence. Massive short-fall of trained teachers is another major aspect of this multi-dimensional issue. So what can solve this problem? What is the best alternate to the traditional way of education?

Conventional Vs Online Education 

The formal education in the country is said to be one of the oldest systems and lacks behind due to its traditional model of learning. Although, with the world-wide accepted conventional model of formal education, the education space has been disrupted with online education or e-learning. With the advent of future generation technologies, every sector is undergoing the digital disruption and so is EDUCATION! Given the technological advances taking place day by day and the demands on students or candidates’ time and pressure of learning effectively and efficiently, the online education will play a crucial rule in undergraduate, graduate and professional education in the times to come.

According to a report, 'Online Education in India: 2021' by KPMG India and Google, the Indian online education market is set for a quantum growth of eight times by the year 2021. “The online education market in India currently stands at USD 247 million and is estimated to witness an 8X growth over the next 5 years to reach the USD 1.96 billion market 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 the 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 of a college. Experts, therefore, say that what started 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 realize that learning is a continuous process and that learning can 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

The online education in India is evolving at an exponential rate owing to a variety of reasons. From the growing penetration of internet and smart phones to cheaper and faster internet, the advent of better technology coupled with 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 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, the Indian 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-6 metros and there has been a 4X growth in education content consumption on YouTube in the last one year alone," Shukla further explains. 

The number of internet users in India has registered an annual growth of 18 percent 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 a number of users expected to reach 400 million by 2020.

With internet, there is huge accessibility to young demographic (14-40 year-old), the most active consumers, to enrol in online education, say experts. The online education, according to one expert, fulfills the educational requirements of the younger demography without compromising on time and cost. Online courses also provides diverse degree as well as certificate courses that are easily accessible to 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, 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, e-learning apps at your fingertips. With increasing competition and the development in the technology, you either upskill yourself or you fade. Education, has also brought about a huge mind-set 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 pressure of layoffs and job paucity, especially due to automation and slow-down in the global economy and the Indian economy. Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a leading think tank data shows 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 a need to gain, refresh or enhance skills through career advancement courses. They sense that by educating on online platforms on specific skills can increase their chances of landing better jobs, switch jobs, get promotions, negotiate better pay packages and stay industry-relevant.

Shantanu Rooj, CEO & Founder of Schoolguru Eduserve Private Limited, 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."

Government's 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 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," the Finance Minister Niramala 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 of 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 become the next sunrise industry. The trio of Content, Delivery and Access will act as a change-agent in shaping up online education.

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