The online education industry in India has come a long way. There was a time when people couldn't make up their minds to subscribe to an online class for their kids. Things, however, have changed a lot, credit to the Covid-induced lockdown. The restrictions caused the shutting down of schools and educational institutions across the country. Even exams were cancelled and the current academic session is yet to begin. To cope up with the need, educational institutions are reaching out to kids via online platforms, thus making the concept of virtual classes a reality.
According to a report by data firm Research and Markets -- the world’s largest market research store, increasing adoption of the internet and rise in awareness about e-learning, the online education industry in India is expected to witness promising growth in the coming years. It said that back in 2018, the online education market in the country valued at Rs 39 billion. It is expected to reach Rs 360 billion by 2024 -- expanding at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of nearly 44% between 2019 and 2014.
Lack of formal recognition
However, the lack of formal recognition and the abundance of free content poses a serious threat to the growth of the sector. Gurudev Somani, director of Mastersoft ERP Solutions for schools and higher education, said that the online education industry though has reported significant growth, faces multiple challenges at different levels. He said that online learning can become a vital tool in reshaping rural education strategy if a proper framework is brought in the place as it brings in the quality of the content and the study material. He said that it can improve the learning experience and thus transform the education sector.
During the lockdown, he said, online learning platforms emerged as the most vital elements in facilitating education. He admitted that there was a time when people questioned the future of online learning and doubted whether online classes are worth it. But the lockdown has changed the scenario. According to Somani, virtual classroom practice if channelised properly can give the best outcomes.
Focus on deploying technology
"Even if the phase of Covid-19 gets over, the new trend of virtual education would continue. So, at this point, educators just need to focus on deploying technology with the best features such as online examinations and assessments, fees management, online admissions, etc that can add value to their entire process and offer quality education to students," he said.
He said that the lockdown has accelerated the adoption of e-learning and acceptance. "The positives are widely acknowledged and we are moving towards a blended learning model," he said, adding that the concept of fully-fledged online education is fairly new in India and that educators are facing some challenges.
The major challenges include low productivity, unset processes, and the need for a more efficient learning model. "We need to work on how to engage the poor student. They are unable to connect due to lack of innovative teaching methodologies. We need to try and work on effective teaching models that can make learning interesting, and highly effective for students," he said.
He said that if the government, NGOs, and other agencies along with the leading players in the market work together on a strategy to reach out to the marginalised sections, online education could help in improving the state of education in rural segments.
"Even the students residing in rural areas do have access to mobile phones these days. I agree that it may not be as good as in urban cities, but it certainly is. Today, even the remotest villages are not deprived of technology. However, the problem that most students from rural areas face is internet connectivity. They need a good internet connection and someone to guide them on utilizing e-content and e-learning tools to develop skills and learn from the best of their abilities," he said.
"We have to rethink upon how quality education can be made accessible for the students through the most widely used mediums. An innovative approach is all we need," Somani added.
According to an assessment, there are around 430 million children in the age group of 0-18 years in India. This includes a large portion who live in rural areas where the status of education is not up to the mark. They are even deprived of education.
Akash Aggarwal, founder and CEO of eduTinker, said that the major challenge is to make students adapt to this new normal of 'digitisation of education' wherein you have to convince their parents for virtual sessions, assessments, etc. "In rural areas, the challenges are quite different because students in some rural areas are not tech-savvy and had little or no knowledge about internet connectivity and choosing the right platform," he said.
"Another factor is that it helps the students to be more aware of career choices and have additional information about the various available courses, which previously was unavailable. Even schools, colleges, coaching institutes present in rural areas should be in-line with the New Education Policy 2020," he said.
The government, he said, should ensure a proper framework in place to allow the students to connect the devices with the internet connection to attend the online classes seamlessly.
According to Research and Markets, the online education market is highly fragmented in India with over 3,500 edtech start-ups. Many foreign players are also seeing big scope and entering the online education industry to cater to the needs of students.