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COVID-19 Lockdown Effects: A Paradigm Shift in Indian Edtech

6 minutes, 16 seconds read

There has been a significant change in the education industry in India in the past couple of years. From syllabus to teaching methods, from enrollment levels to infrastructure available; technology was majorly responsible for this major shift. Educomp, founded in 1994 and one of the earliest Indian edtech, changed academia with multimedia content, computer labs and teacher training. Today, BYJU’S, founded in 2011, is revolutionizing edtech with its m-learning platform. There’s something more that is contributing to the widespread adoption of e-learning platforms.

As the country came to a standstill with a 21-day nationwide lockdown being imposed, online education companies in India sought this as an opportunity to attract students, academicians, schools, colleges, corporates and the media.

Within the first two weeks of the lockdown, many online and edtech players offered their online courses for free — trying to reach as many audiences as possible. The COVID-19 crisis turned out to be an amazing opportunity for edtech to spread its perimeter and reach out to the audience which was earlier ignorant of this sector. But the question is whether the edtech surge is short-term or will it turn out to be a paradigm shift in India.

Why Online Education?

Government awareness programs have shaped the importance of education in people’s minds, which is that education leads to jobs. But the lack of adequate infrastructure, facilities, and teachers have led to decreasing quality of education. Online education is convenient to access, which is why it is gaining popularity amongst the rural population. In places where there is limited infrastructure, many are turning towards online courses, courtesy — access to the internet.

[Also read: What Makes Saas-based Education Technology in India Effective]

While many cannot afford an institutional education, online education has made it monetarily feasible for the population at large. By 2021, $1.96 billion will be the size of the edtech market in India, a KPMG edtech study reveals. In the current crisis where the lockdown has led to massive unemployment, online education concerning skill enhancement has seen an upsurge.

Technology trends in EdTech

From the introduction of hardware such as projectors and computers in the classroom to learning through tabs and laptops at home, the education industry has evolved tremendously. The ideology behind edtech has been to create newer learning experiences keeping with the pace of rapid digitization. 

Gamification has gained significant popularity amongst Indian education service providers as it has made the learning process interesting. Many edtech players have started adopting technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning which enable teachers and policy makers to get better insights about their students and modify learning methods accordingly. A lot of research is going into technologies like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to create interactive learning modules for better understanding of complex subject domains. In case of long-form answers, natural-language processing (NLP) can make the assessor’s job easy by giving detailed and formative feedback.

[Also read: Top 25 Disruptive Augmented Reality Use Cases]

Cloud-based data storage provides convenience to students who can access and share data easily. With the on-going lockdown and social distancing, there could be scope for untapped technologies such as wearable devices and virtual labs which can take learning experiences to another level. 

For instance, Indian edtech startups like Edureka are very serious about customer experience and are taking AI initiatives for Live Chat Analysis and Career Path Research.

[Read Case Study: Customer experience design in Edureka e-learning mobile app]

Opportunities for Indian EdTech amidst the pandemic

Education can be categorized in different segments such as Primary and Secondary education i.e the K-12 segment, Test Prep, Skill Enhancement, and Higher Education. Schools and colleges have been hit quite a bit due to the lockdown as they remain shut till the situation improves. Even though learning has not stopped as teachers have been taking online lessons, will online education replace a traditional one? 

Many edtech experts say that online learning enables students to interact with a larger pool and gives more focus to individual learning. Certainly, technologies can help create innovative and imaginative learning experiences but can they match with learning through human interaction? That is doubtful. However, edtech would be a very powerful aid for teachers to improve the learning process. 

A research by McKinsey states that teachers spend around 20 to 40 percent of their time on activities which could be simplified by automating using current technologies. This time could be optimized by spending on relevant activities focused on student learning. Children are the future citizens of the world. Teachers have a pivotal role in grooming them towards successful personal and professional life. In order to adapt in the post-pandemic world, technology alone cannot bring the change. The learning experience brought in by a teacher is equally important.

The economic slowdown has made the youth cognizant of the unemployment that may hit the world. The upside to this is that the online education industry will see more enrollments in skill-enhancement courses from both rural and urban population. The digital education initiatives will see a monetary boost by the government. This lockdown has enabled people to pursue their passions and take up online tutorials such as cooking, teaching, writing, learning a different language, fitness, learning musical instruments, and other art. This could potentially lead to a thriving passion economy driven by budding entrepreneurs. 

Probable obstacles to Indian EdTech

Edtech will certainly prove to be a booming sector but there are certain challenges on the way. 

Access to internet and bandwidth issues

One of the biggest challenges to the Indian edtech would be accessibility for the population especially in the rural areas. Issues with internet connectivity, bandwidth, hardware might make it difficult to pursue online courses.

Lack of digital literacy

A major part of Indian populace is still digitally illiterate. Especially, the rural population is still not tech-savvy to understand the features of digital devices. Products with simpler UX suitable for the end-user is the need of the hour. Many edtech players still find it difficult to create user-friendly UX that makes technology easy to apply.

Rising competition

EdTech has been making huge progress in the past 10 years and many have recognized its potential to even grow further with the lockdown. The industry is getting crowded with new entrants which makes it difficult for the consumers to remain loyal to one. Subsequently, it is leading to reduced market share for each company.

Investment in advance technologies

This sector definitely has huge potential. However, with the economic slowdown, huge investment in technologies like AI, ML, AR, VR could get affected. There are huge risks in materializing AI projects and might take some time to receive RoI.   

The Bottom Line

Edtech has its pros and cons but there is no doubt that the industry is here to thrive in the long run. This lockdown has proved that the virtual learning systems can operate. Many education boards have understood its potential to grow and will start integrating technology into their syllabus. 

Furthermore, EdTech could significantly improve the quality of educational content and overall learning experience especially for the rural population. For instance, an edtech initiative — EkStep (a non-profit organization) intended to build an advanced, universal, and collaborative platform for K-12 Education space with a focus on rural India. 

Post pandemic, the world will still follow social distancing for some time but the need for human interaction will not diminish but rather see a craving for it. In the short term and the medium term, the edtech industry can reap the benefits of this crisis but to survive in the long run, continuous innovation in technology that does not substitute but rather aid in the classroom learning is needed.

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[Interview] Mr. Alex Jimenez | Digital Customer Experience in Covid-19 Times

7 minutes read

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon an unprecedented change in our daily lives and routines. Consumer behavior is changing constantly. Lockdowns and social distancing have led to huge losses for businesses across industries. The world is heading towards an economic slowdown. Under these circumstances, organizations are facing many challenges to keep their businesses going. Insurers too are facing similar issues. Some insurance lines such as motor, travel, home have suffered a business loss due to low demand.

To understand the impact of this crisis, especially in the USA, we interviewed Mr. Alex Jiminez, Strategy Officer at Extractable from California, and learned more about creating better digital customer experiences in these testing times. 

Extractable is a strategic consulting, design, and data analytics agency focused on the future of financial services. His other recent experience includes leading technology strategic planning for the office of the CIO, at Zions Bancorporation, and managing Digital Banking and Payments Strategy and Innovation at Rockland Trust. Alex has been named to several industry influencer lists in the areas of FinTech, RegTech, Blockchain, InsurTech, Innovation, and Digital Marketing. He has been featured in the Irish Tech News and the Independent Community Bankers of America’s (ICBA) Independent Banker.

Connect with Mr. Alex Jimenez – LinkedIn

The excerpt from the interview:

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the financial services industry

What is the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the financial services industry, and how is the industry responding to the ongoing crisis in the US?

In the wake of the current crisis, organizations are more focused on keeping the operation going, trying to set-up work stations for remote working, dealing with customers and working with them over digital platforms. But very few are focusing on the future which is preparing for the after-effects of this pandemic on the economy. 

In-person communication is still an important mode of interaction with customers in the US banking sector. But now the issue is how to provide good services to clients? Some of our customers are going to experience digital models for the first time. 

Organizations that have well-defined Digital Strategies and Customer-First approach will be able to provide good support to their customers. Organizations that are late into this space are more likely to face problems in the future.

[Related: The Impact of Covid-19 on the Global Economy and Insurance]

Changing customer preferences

How can companies reach out to their customers in this New Normal world?

We have already started to move towards a digital-centric world which is just going to accelerate. We will see businesses who have earlier ignored their digital capabilities will now build more on them. 

The first video call was invented in the 60s and was not so appreciated as everybody thought it was expensive and complicated. Today we have FaceTime, Zoom but adoption has not happened on a larger scale. But this will soon accelerate. Customers will be comfortable dialing into a video chat with their Insurance agent. 

I don’t believe there’ll be a New Normal. For example, in the US after 9/11 people thought that life will never get back to normal but except for rigorous security screening at the airports, there hasn’t been much change in the behavior. 

In Israel, amidst all the constant disturbance, people in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are living normal lives. There’ll certainly be some specific changes post the pandemic such as more adoption of digital technologies, more focus on customer needs but I believe there won’t be an entirely new world with a drastic change in consumer behavior.  

The need for personalization

What are some Attention hacking lessons for Insurers operating in ‘the New Normal’?

We are moving towards the personalization of products in general. Generally in Life Insurance, we insure people based on their date of birth or medical history. But what if we insure people based on their behavior? If we did that, would people change their more risky behavior to get a better rate? A non-smoker can be given a better rate as opposed to a smoker. If we get down to individuality, saying that this is your individual (your own) rate; it makes a difference. 

There is a lot of data available and AI is needed to mine that data and derive analytics. Just by building a relationship with customers, we are not doing a great job with personalization. It’s important to apply a human touch to the communication which makes customers feel like you know them. Thus, retaining their attention.

Digital customer experience in Insurance

For the insurance industry, what steps can help in delivering the right digital customer experience in terms of UX and visual design?

A lot of organizations practice Design Thinking but Financial Services don’t. They are of the opinion that they know what is needed as they themselves are customers and they have data from the surveys. But that’s a wrong approach. Design Thinking is about empathy. It is important to get into the shoes of your clients to design better solutions.

To enhance digital customer experience, Insurers need a thorough understanding of users — who are the ultimate clients, their needs, what they expect from this experience, etc. After comprehending how they engage with technology and financial services, start venturing into the solution and test the solutions with actual users.

Innovations in the financial services industry

What technology-based innovations are being explored within the financial services industry? And, do you see AI playing a role in the short term? 

AI has already affected Financial Services in a positive way and will make it better. In insurance, IoT has been very impactful and will continue to be. Some applications have already been applied in reality like sensors in cars to detect speed and ensure that you are under the speed limit. This helps in getting reduced premiums. 

However, some basic processes are still done in the old school way of shuffling papers. Straight though-out processes have not yet happened. Now RPA is being applied to this but it is more like a band-aid. What is more important is how we can build processes through true automation with AI.

[Related: 5 Insurance Front Office Operations AI Can Improve]

Adoption of AI in Insurance

Speaking about more adoption of technologies, do you think there’ll be more investment in AI now?

Absolutely! We have already seen that investment in technologies like AI, cloud computing, quantum computing has been ramping up. Businesses will invest much more in AI than before. It might be for better decision making, underwriting, understanding the behavior of clients, etc. Also, from a marketing standpoint, financial services have never focused much before but will now invest in AI for this area too.

[Related: How is AI extending customer support during COVID-19 pandemic]

In your recent article in Extractable – “Deploying third-party financial service technology to mitigate crisis” you talk about what tech vendors are doing wrong. Please expand on how to encourage resources to be innovative change agents?

There were two points that I made in the article-

First is about what companies are doing incorrectly when it comes to innovation. Risk management is consulted only after developing the product. The product release is stalled until the legal compliances are adhered to. Instead, companies should involve the risk management at the beginning of the process (while defining the problem and solution). Involving risk management at every step of the innovation process will make it much easier to push out innovation.

The second was about vendor management. Many small vendors such as tech vendors, InsurTechs want to sell solutions to financial service companies but are often surprised by the tedious vendor management process. There’s a lot of documentation. Once the first process of selling is done, vendors should package the documentation in a way that when the next prospect asks for it, the due diligence package is ready to offer. 

Read article – Deploying third-party financial service technology to mitigate crisis 

Wrapping up

Alex shared interesting insights on how Design Thinking and Visual Design can create better digital customer experience. The design vertical at Mantra Labs too believes in the same and has designed UX for various applications for its customers. Here’s an article to understand the role of Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX): Creating Amazing Digital Customer Experiences

[Also read: [Interview] Mr. Andrew Warburton | The New Normal in Insurance]

AI is going to be essential for Insurers to gain that competitive edge in the post-pandemic world. Check out Hitee — an Insurance specific chatbot for driving customer engagement. For your specific requirements, please feel free to write to us at hello@mantralabsglobal.com. 

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