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Why is the Indian e-learning sector basking in a bright future?

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

― Nelson Mandela

If we bring in concepts like technology and e-learning into the realm of education, then Mandela’s belief holds true to the current scenario in India. Needless to say, technology has changed the way we lead our lives, interact with others, seek information, and learn new things.

Though relatively new, e-learning has pushed the education sector into a whole new level of digitization. The growing popularity of online learning in India in the past decade has not only paved the way for its bright future in the country but also proved beneficial to students in remote areas as well.

Added to that are the support and push received from the Department of Electronics & Information Technology (DeitY). With a broader objective “to develop tools and technologies to promote e-learning”, DeitY has been supporting various R&D projects across educational institutions with a single-minded focus on imparting good quality education using multimedia tools, besides developing new tools and solutions to create a positive impact.

In the early Nineties, when unconventional concepts like computer-based training, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in computer applications had made their first appearance in India, there were a few curious-yet-apprehensive takers. However, as the information technology made quick inroads into the Indian education sector, by the late Nineties we have started taking giant steps towards smart classes and internet-based training sessions, which gave an impetus to not just e-learning but also to the literacy rate in India. Today, e-learning has crossed the boundaries of educational institutions to permeate different domains of the education sector including web-based coaching centers and tutorials.

So, how is this new-age learning changing the way the teachers teach and the students learn?

In a lot of ways, we would say! The Indian education sector is changing, and changing for the better. While information technology was the catalyst that helped India to adopt innovative and interactive learning, e-learning bridged the gaps in learning by understanding issues and offering needy students content that is best suited to their needs.

Greek philosopher Plato once said: “Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” The facilities being offered by today’s online learning resources are a true reflection of Plato’s ingenious philosophy.

Before analyzing the huge scope, promise and potential that the e-learning sector holds in India, let’s first look at some advantages of e-learning.

  • Audio-visual tools, video content and 3D visual effects help not only in teaching difficult concepts or subjects like Math, Physics and Chemistry but also in making the sessions interesting to young children.
  • E-learning enables customized and guided learning, an advantage unavailable to teachers handling around 40-50 students in a classroom. Students have different needs when it comes to learning, and they can now learn at their own pace.
  • Live classes broadcast by specialized teachers are highly useful in increasing student-teacher interaction while giving scope to free-flowing discussions. With a fixed timetable, live sessions ensure that students can connect with teachers seamlessly, ask questions, clarify doubts and get instant feedback, while the session is in progress.
  • E-learning provides excellent teaching aids to teachers and amazing self-learning opportunities to kids – both of which help in shaping a consistent, coherent, and comprehensive approach to teaching-learning.
  • Smartphones and tablets with inbuilt curriculum and free e-learning websites like LearnNext, Eklavya, e-learningforkids and Funbrain are gaining popularity among students with their innovative learning options and utility value.
  • Though the basic concepts of a subject and the fundamentals of learning don’t change, the textbooks need regular updation to keep up with the latest trends, events and technology. If textbooks can be digitized, then upgradation becomes easy. The availability of tablets and e-readers can help tackle the issue at the most basic level.
  • Besides connecting teachers with students in remote locations, technology also presents better, richer and varied content, including animation and video.
  • All that a student needs to do is create a user account and s/he can have access to unlimited resources online – lessons, notes, answers to doubts/questions, everything in one place!
  • The current tech-savvy generation prefers “instant, accessible, self-driven and on the go” content. Today’s students expect seamless availability of constantly upgraded content, and an easy solution that depends on minimal infrastructure requirement.
  • A highly literate nation is bound to witness rapid economic growth and development, thanks to the transformation of its students which is made possible by e-learning.

A recent report on the growth and potential of e-learning in India believes that

  • Online education market in India is likely to double by 2017 to reach the $40 billion (Rs. 4000 crore) mark.
  • Beyond 35 crore enrolments in schools are expected by 2018.
  • India has one of the largest education systems in the world with a network of more than 1 million schools and 18,000 higher education institutions.
  • More than half of the country’s 1.2 billion population falls in the target market for education and related services.

When we look at the figures projected in the report, we realize that the opportunities they provide to e-learning providers in India is huge. The face of Indian education is changing and transforming the way teachers teach and students learn. If we go by the number of schools in India – both government and private – which is constantly on the rise, we realize that the potential of smartclasses is far greater than it is today.

What are some of the challenges that a country like ours might face while adapting to this new trend?

Though a few challenges keep cropping up in the e-learning space every now and then, the good news is they get solved almost immediately. The efficiency with which all stakeholders including Government agencies, private providers and teachers tackle these issues is praiseworthy. The intervention of Government with its various schemes also helped to promote e-learning in India.

In the initial stages, a lot of concerns were raised by various parties involved: will students prefer studying with teachers in a traditional classroom to guided learning online; will parents be okay with new-age learning methods; and will they pay for online courses; besides these were teachers’ apprehensions about getting replaced – all of which needed to be assuaged. Thankfully, smartclasses have become “a teacher’s best friend” now as educators understand that rather than harming the traditional modes of teaching, smartclasses supplement it.

When we take into account certain factors like cost, accessibility and internet penetration, we know that while the cost of devices and internet is going down, internet penetration and accessibility are on the rise. So, in order to transform learning in India, a collaborative effort between all stakeholders – from policy-makers and educators to students and e-learning providers – is essential to unleash the enormous potential offered by the field and provide everyone with the training required to reap the benefits of e-learning.

Only by working together we can arrive at effective solutions to the challenges posed and be at the forefront of the digital revolution.

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