The second search result on Google as soon as one types ‘Impact of COVID-19’ is Impact of COVID-19 on online education. That alone in a single line highlights the sort of impact that COVID-19 has had on the online education industry.
Online education has been traditionally defined as an education opportunity supported by the internet which facilitates student-teacher interaction and access to class materials online. This definition has undergone a massive change in recent times with online education leveraging the internet in more ways than one. Online education is no longer just interaction and learning material platform, it is a platform of opportunities for not just teachers and academics but also for students and industry professionals to contribute learning material in the form of research work, articles, webinars, presentations, etc. It is no longer just a one way learning platform from teacher to student but an interactive cycle that can begin with anyone with relevant content from a teacher, industry professional, student, practitioners, home makers etc. Anyone with a skill that has demand can go and provide education online. This expansion of online education ofcourse has largely been facilitated by the dynamic integration of information technology with education over the years.
The Indian Context
Around 1.38 billion students have been moved out of classrooms given the extensive lockdown across the world and Indian students account for 300 Million of that global figure (Livemint, 2020). This is the reason why online education in India has seen a tremendous boom not only in number of users but also online education platform revenues. There were 1.6 million users of online education platforms providing different courses in the year 2016 in India. Propelling this number to an estimated 9.6 million by the end of 2021 is none other than the novel Covid-19 (EduXpert, 2019).
The virus has changed the learning consumption pattern of Indian students over the last three months. Around 100,000 students of the 300 million affected by the lockdown in India are studying in private universities or highly renowned government educational institutions. These schools and universities have successfully shifted to online platforms like Zoom, MOOC platforms and other online video platforms without much disruption in the learning process of the students.
However, what is a growing concern for many schools and the government now is the education of the 200 million students who are enrolled in a rural school or university without technological capabilities that facilitate online learning. How do they continue their education? This is how online education has enabled few but restricted many in their access to education during this time in many developing nations across the globe.
The future of Online Education post COVID-19 in India
In an attempt to bridge this gap between E-learning and face to face learning and to provide access to all students, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has recently announced the launch of ‘Pradhan Mantri e-Vidya’ initiative for digital education. This is aimed to leverage the already booming online education sector.
By 30th May 2020, the top 100 universities of the country will be allowed to provide online courses. This initiative will have a two fold benefit. Monetization of online content for ed-tech companies and access to remote learning for a wide majority of students.
For students at the school level, CBSE’s learning platform; Diksha would be provided to all states and Union territories with e-content. Along with that QR coded textbooks being provided to students to continue their learning without any significant discomfort. Now, as discussed earlier in this article, access to remote learning requires proper internet connectivity and a major portion of the country does not have such facilities to enable learning for students from rural areas. To accommodate these students into the national wave of e-learning, the FM announced that there would be one TV channel for all school level classes from grade 1 to grade 12. There would also be an extensive usage of community radios, podcasts etc. for providing course related content to those in the farthest parts of the country without access to the internet. Specialized content for students with visual and hearing impairments is also being developed as we speak so as to provide educational access to them as well.
Many ed-tech companies have welcomed these announcements by the FM with Zishaan Hayath; CEO and Co-Founder, Toppr saying that
The focus of many platforms such as theirs is to provide high-quality education and keep students engaged through highly adaptive learning techniques.Zishaan Hayath; CEO and Co-Founder, Toppr
With this announcement paving the path for a positive business future for the ed-tech sector, it is indeed a sight to soar eyes to see that today after all these years, despite all disparities between the different stratas of society, students across the country will be given access to similar if not the same educational content across different platforms. This truly brings out the idea behind, ‘Padhega India, tabhi toh badhega India.’