eLearning: Changing The Way We Learn
The growing reach of broadband and the easy availability of smart devices has created a vibrant environment in which numerous start-ups can flourish by creating innovative platforms for e-learning
By Ankush Kumar
The education infrastructure in India is one of the largest in the world—it comprises of 1.4 million schools, 35,500 colleges and 600 universities. Yet this infrastructure is not sufficient to meet the education related needs of our geographically diverse and populous country. e-learning is now being looked at as one of the thrust areas for enabling learners to access high quality educational material even if they lack access to traditional classroom based teaching. “The total e-learning industry size in India is $700 million. It has witnessed a growth of 25% in the last five years,” says Gaurav Kumar, Associate Director, KPMG India. Many e-learning players have been catering to the overseas market, leveraging on cost arbitrage/ lesser development cost. “The domestic share in e-learning industry is around 20% and the rest is led by the overseas market. With higher internet penetration, we believe the industry has the potential to grow at more than 40-50% over the next five years,” Kumar adds.
R K Prasad, CEO and Co-founder, CommLab India, believes that the nature of e-learning being pursued by the corporate sector is markedly different from what the institutions of education are using. “In USA, the latter leads the former. In India it is the former that will lead, because the educational institutions are too staid and monolithic to take advantage of e-learning,” says Prasad. He was of the view that today, in India, there is much greater awareness about e-learning in the student community.
“The fact that out of the 2.8 million learners who have registered for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on the USA-based education platform Coursera, 8.8% of learners are from India, is a testimony to the growing popularity of e-learning. Many of those who have registered are professionals who are looking for an opportunity to upgrade their knowledge,” adds Prasad. CommLab India is offering a Learning Management System (LCMS), a software technology platform on which e-learning courseware is hosted and served to the learners. The company designs and develops custom (bespoke) e-learning courseware for different devices.
Corporate Training Through e-learning
Tata Interactive Systems (TIS) is in the business of providing technology-enabled learning solutions to corporations, universities, schools, publishers, and government institutions. The company has created immersive learning formats such as virtual 3D worlds, multiplayer simulations, gamification, learning nuggets and story-based learning. Saurabh Mittal, Chief Operating Officer, Tata Interactive Systems, is of the view that the Indian e-learning market is full of promise. He says, “Corporates in India are driving the usage of e-learning through various learning and development programmes. High attrition coupled with expensive recruiting is leading to e-learning becoming the de facto standard in the industry.”
According to Saurabh Mittal, many corporations are inclined to have engagements, which span across the entire learning value chain. This has led to a hike in the demand for offerings such as Training Needs Assessment, Performance Support Solutions, Learning Effectiveness Measurement, and few others. He is of the view that the rapid adoption of personal learning devices represents significant growth opportunities.
In partnership with the Hasso Plattner Institute, SAP has developed its own e-learning solution called openSAP, which is free and is regarded as a thought leader for Enterprise MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). The courses offered under this platform range from application development on the SAP HANA platform to cloud to other user experience (UX) topics. According to SAP, the platform has garnered 730,000 course enrolments and 225,000 unique learners, out of which about 30% are from India.
“All you need to sign up is a valid email address. The courses are free of charge (except for optional system access) and are offered in English,” informs Ravi Kiran, Director – Knowledge Management, SAP Labs India. The platform consists of videos, self-tests, discussion forum, weekly assignments, gamification, and final exam. Recently openSAP started offering the facility for peer assessment to some of its courses. This is an effective system for enabling learners to receive feedback on their hands-on work from both peers and SAP experts.
Ravi Kiran believes that technology enabled learning is important for improving skill development in the country. He says, “eLearning has a crucial role to play in providing the required skill-sets to future job market entrants in a country like India which is expected to face a potential shortage of 250 million skilled workers across sectors by 2022. Technological advances are also affecting the way we learn and work and this is disrupting the education sector globally.”
The Digital Highway to Learning
Under the Digital India programme, the Government of India is planning to connect 600,000 villages through high-speed broadband. “Today many universities, corporates and government bodies are trying to make a mark in the online education space. Due to lack of proper connectivity they are currently facing problems, but once the entire country becomes connected through broadband, the providers of e-learning will find it much easier to connect with learners,” says Professor Sarika Lidoria, Director, ITM University Online. The ITM University Online, which is a part of the ITM Group of Institutions, has taken many initiatives in e-learning.
e-learning is now being deployed by the institutions at all levels. Splash Math, a start-up, has over ten million users. Targeted at children in the age range of 4 to 10 years, Splash Math has been downloaded 400,000 times on devices like iPad, laptops, desktops, etc. Arpit Jain, Co-founder & CEO, Splash Math, says, “Currently we are offering this in the US market, where over 12 million children have already benefited from it. Our solution supports sync across multiple platforms and we have added five million users in last one year, largely driven by elementary school adoption. In the domain we operate, the US Market is pretty mature and in North America e-learning market is going to be $27 billion by 2016. Canada, UK, Australia are also catching up. Latin America, India are our next big bets.”
Vamsi Krishna, CEO, Vedantu, believes that a normal classroom teaching in which we tend to take up a ‘One Size Fits All’ approach is not so effective and should be changed. A live online tutoring platform, Vedantu currently caters to the students between 6th to 12th grades in CBSE and ICSE curriculum. It is possible for any student to opt for live online session/course with the teacher of their choice. Each teacher is listed with an hourly rate and the payment by the student is on a pro-rata basis. Vamsi Krishna informs that Vedantu has an adaptive and intelligent in-house WAVE technology (Whiteboard, Audio and Video Environment) that has completely revamped 1-to-1 teaching and learning experience.
“WAVE makes learning online a pleasure—it enables very low-bandwidth teaching sessions. We use data analytics and algorithms to connect the most relevant teachers to the students as per their requirements. We also have a click-to-call feature integrated to our system that facilitates quick and seamless connection between tutors and students. Our technology additionally allows session monitoring and calculates the student-teacher engagement level of each session. It allows students to also take objective-type tests online and submit subjective-type assignments that can be later evaluated by the teachers,” says Krishna.
Extramarks is a well-known provider of digital education solution for K-12 schools in India, South Africa, and Middle Eastern Countries. More than 5000 schools and about a million students use Extramarks products. “The new concept of ‘Bagless Environment’ in schools is being enthusiastically received by various stakeholders in the education system,” says Atul Kulshrestha, Founder, Chairman and Managing Director, Extramarks Education Pvt. Ltd. He gives the example of Muslim Education Society, which has now adopted the system of bagless classroom. Close to 700 students of the society are getting their education through electronic means.
The Mobile Classroom
According to the latest telecom subscriber data released by TRAI, the country’s telephone subscriber base is now 100.93 crore. Out of this the total wireless or mobile subscriber base is 98.08 crore. Many mobile subscribers in the country, even those in the smaller towns, are now using smartphones. A new report from IDC says that India continues to maintain a double digit growth in the uptake of smartphones and by 2017, India will overtake USA as the world’s second largest smartphone market.
Mobcast, a mobile app for employee engagement and training, enables a company to broadcast its content like product presentations, management videos, event invites, news and announcements to employees at the click of a button. Its platform is being used to impart training to over 500,000 users across 30+ organisations. Ashwin Roy Choudhary, Founder and CEO, Mobcast Innovations says, “Large organisations like retail, FMCG, BFSI, Pharma have more than 60% of their people on the move. Given the frequency of new product releases, imparting on premise training is an expensive and logistically difficult task. Even e-learning requires them to be present in office and take modules at a stretch leading to lower retention and a day of lost productivity. We see a major trend shift in companies wanting to go mobile to promote; byte sized training or capsule training.”
Edureka is offering more than 75 courses on technologies like Big Data, Analytics, Mobile Programming. “With growing mobile penetration we can reach many more Indians than ever before. India’s app usage is growing at a rate of 13% year-on-year outpacing global growth. We have already launched apps, which have given us immense boost in terms of connecting with a larger mass and in increasing user engagement. The inbuilt facility of video conversation in mobile phones and availability of 2G/ 3G /4G, has increased interactivity and accessibility, which is taking e-learning to newer levels of effectiveness,” says Lovleen Bhatia, CEO & Co-Founder, Edureka.
For a long time, hand-held devices had been provided to sales personnel to carry documents or literature needed to make a successful sale. Now mobile-enabled solutions are becoming very useful for employees on the move – such as sales personnel. “The trend now is to utilise the mobile device to provide on-the-job training as well – through short videos or audio bits, which can be consumed quickly and applied instantly. To deliver a more lifelike experience, motion-sensing technology of Kinect in Xbox 360, Leap Motion, Tobii etc., can be harnessed. By making learning ‘motion-based’ physical skills can be taught in a virtual environment with ample room for mistakes, re-tries and practice,” concludes Manish Gupta, CEO & Co- Founder, G-Cube.
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