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.
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.
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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