Naveed Anjum, IDA
Technology has become an integral part of our education system with the introduction of new-age digital platforms enhancing the academic landscape in India. Students at every level of education, from pre-K to graduate and professional levels, use one or the other means of edtech to enrich their learning abilities. Among these technology advancements, the online education has gain momentum with the availability of a number of edtech companies and various government initiatives making inroads into our education system. The pedagogical evolution and the use of technology in the education sector have turned all focus on Indian education market, making the country second largest market for e-learning after the US. The e-learning sector is expected to reach $1.96 billion by 2021 with around 9.5 million users.
Making online courses more relevant
Technology must be accessible to all the students, regardless of special needs, different learning styles, or demographics. The most successful strategy for creating an equitable tech experience is to use a platform that employs an accessible design in the earliest content development stages. To make the online education in India more impactful, UGC has permitted higher educational institutions in the country to offer Certificate, Diploma, and Degree Programmes in online mode to the students under the University Grants Commission (Online Courses) Regulations, 2018. With such a reform, it is evident that the benefits served by online learning have convinced even the government to take relevant actions for its betterment.
In critical times of pandemic such as the Covid-19 that has brought world to an almost complete lockdown, online education is turning out to be the saviour in these trying times. Besides, hampering the global economy, the outbreak has disrupted the educational institutions leaving education sector among the worst hit sectors. In my earlier article (How Coronavirus is affecting International Education), I have already written about how adversely this pandemic has affected the global education. The pandemic has led to the indefinite closure of schools, colleges, universities and all extracurricular activities suspended, tens of millions of students have been told to go online to study across the globe. This sudden closure of educational institutions across the globe has forced the virtual delivery of vast number of courses. This also makes us wonder whether the future might just have become the present.
Online learning in India
The online learning has gained prominence as the world fights Covid-19 pandemic. As most of the nations have adopted for online learning, many Indian edtech companies are also offering free online classes while some are doing it on subsidized rates.
Online tutoring platform Vedantu is providing free live classes which are usually paid for all its courses, including IIT preparation modules. It is also in talks with schools to offer platform support so that teachers can teach live for free. Others Educational Initiatives like (EI), Byjus, Unacademy and Gradeup are also increasing their free access for a limited period of time. Indian HRD Ministry has also decided to launch e-classes on its Swayam Prabha DTH channels for schools making online learning a new trend setter in the education sector.
Why online education matters
E-learning tools provide a plethora of educational resources for both educators and students which they couldn’t have access to, no matter what their location or status is. A student can learn from the top professor a continent away and that too in their own preferred time. In a classroom full of 30-50 students, it’s impossible to get the attention of all of them. They won’t cooperate because they’re bored, zoned out, or too focused on the sun outside rather than paying attention to math. Let’s focus on some of the points that make online education relevant:
Easy Access: Online learning helps to eliminate both social and physical barriers, meaning if a student misses his class, he can access the lectures online if made available. Same is the case with skill-based online certificates and degrees, which have been made accessible through online modes for better learning.
Variety of programmes and courses: From traditional university courses to completely online career colleges, higher education today offers a variety of options for students. This means that no matter what students study, from nursing to neuroscience, they can find the courses or programmes they need online. Students can also earn every academic degree online, from a career certificate to a doctorate.
Comfort and flexibility: Online courses give students/learners freedom of choosing time of their own. Students can study and work at their convenience. Course material is always accessible online, and it is unnecessary to make special library trips. All of these benefits help students balance work and family commitments with their education.
Career advancement: Students can take online courses and even complete entire degrees while working, while in-between jobs, or while taking time to raise a family. This academic work will explain any discontinuity or gaps in a resume as well. Also, earning a degree can show ambitiousness to prospective employers and a desire to remain informed and prepared for new challenges.
Teacher Development: E-learning is not only beneficial for students but also for the teachers as good teachers love to teach, but the best educators enjoy the opportunity to learn on a consistent basis. Teaching with e-learning resources as a means of updating and honing one’s approach to teaching forces teachers to constantly up their game, in turn making professional development a daily activity.