Online Education is Gaining Growing Acceptance in the ‘New’ Normal

COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a new normal, wherein online education takes precedence and is becoming the preferred mode of learning at every level, be it primary or higher education.

September 30, 2020

According to a KPMG report, online education in India will grow from 1.6 million users to 9.6 million in 2021

By 2025, the global online education market is expected to reach US$ 350 billion

Government has allocated US$ 8.5 billion to the Department of School Education and Literacy

Increased penetration of mobile usage in rural areas is facilitating the adoption of online education

Over the years, Indian society has been evolving steadily and rapidly, adapting to global changes and advances in science and technology. As we move forward, inclusivity and quality education are extremely vital for its future prosperity. With 500 million people under the age of 25 in the country, the right education and training will play an important role in driving economic growth and development. 

Globally, reports predict that the overall market for online education will reach US$350 billion by 2025

Advances in technology and the evolving pedagogy, has brought about an increase in the uptake of online education. This has especially been advantageous for those who earlier had limited access to quality education, whether due to geographical distance or other factors. Especially those who for various reasons can’t access on-the-ground education. According to a report by KPMG, the Indian online education industry will grow from 1.6 million users in 2016 to 9.6 million users by 2021. Globally, reports predict that the overall market for online education will reach US$350 billion by 2025.

With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing in widespread disruption and creating a new normal, the pace of adoption has gone up drastically. Students and professionals alike are increasingly opting for online education and training as the preferred mode for learning.

Unique Advantages of Online Education 

There are a plethora of online learning platforms available such as Upgrad, Simplilearn, Udemy, Coursera, Skillshare, Udacity that serve millions of learners both in India and across the globe. With social distancing norms in the face of the persistent threat of COVID-19 infections, a majority of schools and colleges are embracing the online medium to train their students. Top-tier universities are also democratising learning by making courses accessible via online. Even premium institutes such as the IITs and IIMs are now offering access to online courses under categories such as computer science, engineering, mathematics, business, and data science.

What makes online learning even more interesting is the potential to enhance the learning experience through the use of AI and machine learning algorithms. These tools allow for personalisation at scale, which means that each student can learn at a pace that suits them best. 

For example, if a student has difficulty understanding a certain concept, the platform adjusts the content accordingly, thus providing information that is tailored to help the student. 

The technical aspects of online education aside, the online medium offers several distinct advantages such as the liberty to schedule classes as per the student’s convenience, the option to record classes for future use, and the ability to learn at a preferred pace rather than following the standard format. Cost is another factor that contributes to the rapid growth of the market.

On a variety of parameters, many students who have taken both face-to-face and online courses now rate online experiences as being equal to or better than their traditional classroom courses. 

Adoption by Rural India and Unaddressed Populations

With the growing proliferation of the Internet, online education has found favour not just in cities but also in rural areas. This is important considering that more than 68% of India still lives in rural areas (per the 2011 census). Access to technology and the internet in particular, can help People with Disabilities (PWDs) and the rural population access information and educational services, and take due advantage of digital platforms.  The growing penetration of mobile phones in rural areas is also helping drive up adoption. 

Government Initiatives aiding Online Education

The Government of India has undertaken several measures and key initiatives to make online education accessible to every rural house even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government had allocated US$8.56 bn to the Department of School Education and Literacy in the Union Budget 2020-2021. Additionally, it allocated more than US$111 million to promote online learning in order to minimise the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on education. It also launched PM eVIDYA, a programme for multi-mode access to digital/online education. Various other initiatives include the Diksha Platform, Manodarpan, and e-textbooks. The Bharat Net Scheme has been made available to government institutions to improve internet connectivity in rural areas. The Government’s vision is to combine training methods that involve online learning and games. 

The future of online education looks promising and if India manages to modernise and expand its education system, raise educational attainment levels, and provide skills to its youth, it could gain a competitive edge over swiftly developing countries. The move to online learning will prove to be the catalyst to create a new and more effective method of educating students.

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