E-learning portals have seen a tremendous surge in user metrics during the lockdown. The transition to e-learning has had its roadblocks, but activity on various e-learning platforms and online operations in traditional institutions indicate that people are acclimatising themselves to the new normal.
“There has been a visible shift in the perception of students as well as parents. Everyone is looking for alternatives to physical classrooms, as health and safety remain primary concerns,” says Karan Shroff, Vice President - Marketing, Unacademy.
Though e-learning platform KopyKitab made many study material free of cost, Co-founder and CTO Amit Shrivastava mentions that students are not shying away from paying for more premium content which is more suited to their requirements.
Shveta Raina, CEO, Talerang observes that students in the age-group of 13-25, which is their target market, are performing well in online training.
While many schools started online classes after the announcement of the lockdown, teachers and parents were left confused over this new way of learning.
Ryan Pinto, CEO, Ryan International Group of Institutions said, “Teachers had to unlearn old methods and adopt new approaches to engage with students. In addition, parents had to play a more involved role in their child’s learning. While initially, it was difficult to settle in, everyone seems to be getting used to this new method.”
In consequence, Vice-Chancellor of Ansal University DNS Kumar sees more collaborations taking place in the near future.
“Universities were apprehensive to have collaborations because of logistics, time, cost, the safety of students, etc. These barriers became extinct during the lockdown,” said Kumar.
People are also opting for higher education online. Arjun Mohan, India CEO, UpGrad said, “With the remote working model coming into force, we have seen higher intent towards business/management programmes. We came up with an MBA course at an initial a fee of Rs 10,000 as currently, most people would not be able to pay upfront for a university-certified MBA programme.”
But technology comes with its own challenges — experts say e-education mainly faces concerns of teacher-training and infrastructure. The main challenge is also to bridge the class divide.
Randhir Kumar, Chief Mentor of BasicFirst Learning, says that the fear of uncertainty is visible on the platform. “Students are jittery because the dates have been announced for Class 12 Boards, yet schools are still suspended. Many school teachers face connectivity issues and are not trained to teach students online.”
Experts believe that Ed-tech as a sector has the ability to make a difference to the lives of millions by offering cost-effective education to every child in the country.
One such example is the Sampark Foundation, an NGO set up by Anupama Nayar and Vineet Nayar. They launched an e-learning app ‘Baithak’ during the lockdown, particularly targeting the students in rural areas. Within 10 days, the app saw two lakh downloads, with 99% users from rural areas.
“We had quickly signed MoUs with six state governments to connect with the rural children. We are reaching out to them through broadcast and telephone calls. The goal is to get one crore children onboard by the end of the year to ensure uninterrupted learning,” says Vineet Nayar.
“The actual potential of the sector will be unleashed only when we break socioeconomic and geographical barriers to ensure that each child is able to learn from the best of teachers,” Achin Bhattacharyya CEO of Notebook said.