With COVID 19 Providing a Major Disruption, The Future of EdTech Platforms Looks Promising
Authored By: Dr Vivek Bindra, Founder & CEO, Bada Business
Increasing Internet penetration and ownership of smartphones as well as innovation in content has enabled a rapid surge in India’s EdTech sector. Over 4,000 edtech startups were launched in India in the past six years indicating the growth has been robust for the sector. According to estimates, Indian online learning market is expected to be worth USD 1.96 billion by 2021.
However, tech adoption in education has been relatively slower than in other sectors. A bulk of edtech startups have been limited to school education and online certification segments leaving a huge scope for technology to capitalize on different educational areas, particularly higher education. Notably, India’s edtech sector boasts of just a single unicorn in BYJU’s which is largely a school learning app. The COVID 19 crisis has suddenly changed the course of this sector by creating a major disruption in the traditional education mode. With physical classrooms closed, school students and those preparing for major competitive examinations have been quick to shift to online classes. BYJU’s has witnessed a 200% increase in students using its ‘Think and Learn app’ which launched free live classes recently. The large Indian populace which was slow to convert to online learning has suddenly been pushed to adopt the change to virtual learning. This has also led to a surge in demand for massive open online course platforms which offer a valuable tech addition to the landscape of distance learning.
The future of edtech therefore looks promising but it depends on the sector’s ability to quickly adapt to the changing times and offer new viable solutions in diverse categories for the new normal. Education is a field where interpersonal skills and high-involvement of teachers is a critical element of success. The sector needs to capitalize on the void created by closure of traditional classrooms to offer solutions that are more engaging for students by adapting to their individual needs. Most importantly, this sector in India needs to diversify and create new platforms that offer a comprehensive classroom experience through advanced use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
Giving a Boost to the EdTech platforms for higher education
The turn to remote learning is leading to a rise in demand for edtech platforms in higher education as well. Apart from schools, universities and colleges across India have been closed since mid-March and teachers have effectively shifted their pedagogy to online teaching. Currently, teachers are actively using platforms such as Zoom video conferencing apps, Google classrooms etc to deliver lectures and continue the momentum of learning. This has created increased space for edtech platforms outside the routinely popular school learning and K 12 segments. Several edtech startups are already offering technology support to colleges and universities. For instance, upGrad Live is offering free services to all colleges and educational institutions to conduct their classes. Similarly, Coursera, a MOOC platform is also building its capacity on enhancing higher education. This startup has tied up with a series of educational institutions to provide their students access to over 3,800 courses and 400 specializations. Bada Business, an entrepreneurship learning platform, has itself seen a surge in numbers with entrepreneurs wanting to learn the mantra of growing their business. Along with them students with a background in business management want to take the plunge into entrepreneurship and have subscribed to the app to learn the nuances of starting a business.
As more and more people seek an all encompassing education experience from home, demand for MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platforms is bound to increase. This will also help a large number of students who are unable to find an immersive learning experience in colleges to grab a share of quality higher education. This is also expected to help improve employability of Indian graduates by giving them practical knowledge and a more interactive learning experience.
Online upskilling courses get a boost
The economic fallout of the prolonged lockdown has resulted in threats of job losses. A large number of jittery professionals are actively looking to upskill themselves to make their resumes more attractive and job-worthy. The lockdown and the work-from-home setting have also allowed people time on their hands. This has led to a surge in demand for online skilling courses. From web designing, programming languages to data analytics, a series of futuristic online courses have gained much steam in recent times. The demand for online courses on remote work management has also seen a surge. In fact, online learning platform Udacity quickly responded to this demand by partnering with Upwork to develop a course on ‘Managing Remote Teams’. Entrepreneurs and management students on the other hand are seeking to polish their business management skills through online courses.
Need to democratize online education
The sector might be bullish, yet a major criticism of online education has been that it furthers the already wide socio economic divide among students. Come to think of it, how many students in India have a personal computer and access to uninterrupted Internet connection? While India has over 500 million Internet users, accessibility to an ecosystem that enables optimum use of online education remains limited. Similarly, there remains a major gap in availability of educational tools in vernacular content. According to a report by Google India and KPMG, around 73% of Indian internet users will prefer interacting in a regional language by 2021 due to increasing Internet penetration in rural areas.
The EdTech sector must now work towards creating tools and services that are easily accessible to a lot more people. A need to shift to mobile-first solutions and products (because smartphones are more accessible than computers) and create more democratic content is the way forward. In the edtech space in India, the mobile-first approach to developing tools and solutions is likely to become a key tenet in the coming years. Similarly creating content in more regional languages will also be a key driver of growth.
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