Article Authored By Rustom Kerawalla, Chairman, Ampersand Group
In the past few years, digitisation and increased mobile and Internet penetration had already been instrumental in making education technologies (EdTech) a mainstream part of learning in India. With this, a substantial rise in popularity of open-source educational material and the promotion of video-based content had been responsible for opening the market for various EdTech entities. The Covid-19-induced lockdown and social distancing norms resulted in furthering the cause of eLearning adoption as educational institutions began to heavily rely for ensuring continuity of education. Today, a considerable number of learners learn through various emerging tech-enabled devices from the comfort of their homes as educational institutions deploy student tablets and mobile learning apps. Digital learning has been responsible for providing students round-the-clock access to learning resources, tutorials, and sustained guidance from expert educators. All it requires is a smartphone and an efficient Internet connection for a student to develop newer skills, and hone existing ones.
THE NORTHWARD MOVING GRAPH
A KPMG report states that India's online education market is set to surge to US$1.96 billion with over 9.6 million users in 2021. In a similar vein, the number of mobile phone users is estimated to reach over 760 million in India. The numbers are likely to reach up to 820 million smartphone users by 2022.
The EdTech sector is also receiving a boost due to the steady penetration of the Internet in India. Total number of Internet subscribers surged from 718.74 million at the end of December 2019 to 743.19 million at the end of March 2020, registering a quarterly growth rate of 3.4 per cent, as per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
These numbers point to the fact that the high level of Internet reach and penetration has translated into making things relatively easier for EdTech players to significantly cover a large part of every nook and corner of the country.
This growth is also the result of the EdTech startups innovating and launching new products and services. In fact, a few EdTech companies are also working on replicating the best aspects of offline learning in the online context through group study sessions, peer-to-peer learning, healthy competition, challenges and leaderboards, among others.
In addition, EdTech service providers are also in a position to fulfill a prime aspect of the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020: access to providing parallel vocational training to allow students to augment their capabilities while simultaneously pursuing their under-graduation or post-graduation degrees. Ed-Tech platforms are leveraging technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to offer various educational courses.
THE SCOPE FOR MORE
In the EdTech domain, however, there is scope for more. A report revealed that the country’s online education system comprised a mere 0.56% of the overall education sector and a large chunk of the total online education space will be captured by K-12 startups, which are growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 60% currently.
Further, EdTech has the potential to improve access to learning and careers for students from marginal socio-economic background or residing in remote areas. In the initial phase of the pandemic, their reach has extended to tier-II and III regions thereby giving students access to learning opportunities that would not have been possible without physical relocation. In this regard, further growth can be ensured by distributing standardised student tablets, which can help socially-distanced students connect with instructors and peers from home on distraction-proof mobile devices that are locked to eLearning websites, apps, and content. Considering that the current pandemic scare is not going to be a one-off situation, student tablets can dramatically improve the safety and accessibility of education during any such crisis in the future, deploying student devices should be done carefully to protect learning communities from security, privacy, and productivity risks.
Adopting a student device management strategy and technologies can prevent excessive support costs and complexity. By locking down student tablets to EdTech apps and content, educational institutions can design productive digital learning experiences and support communication between learners, instructors, and peers.
Moreover, the rise of Ed-Tech has also increased the importance of infrastructure at the learner’s end. In the traditional format of learning, educational institutions had to ensure all facilities, however, in the case of online learning, a learner needs to ensure basic technology infrastructure is on the learner. Despite the widespread penetration of smartphones and other digital devices, there is still a need for better Internet connectivity, especially in remote areas. This presents an operational challenge for education providers who need to enable learning accessibility for students in such remote regions.
However, the EdTech industry is also riddled with quite a few challenges. While it witnesses an unprecedented growth in the number of users and the adoption, the sector is struggling with managing and retaining this adoption and growth.
Android is the obvious platform of choice for innovators to develop apps, considering over 94% of India’s connected consumers use Android phones. On the innovation front, EdTech providers could look into exploring how to efficiently develop and deploy Android app.
It is expected that by 2024, upwards of 47% of learning management tools will be enabled by Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities. The learning management tools offered by EdTech companies, including classroom stimulation, blended learning, 3D, DIY kits, AI, experiential and immersive learning ensure the next level of experience.
EdTech innovators who can deploy new eLearning products to India’s growing user base will build a substantial loyalty among educators and learners.
Moreover, there is high likelihood that education will encompass an amalgam of online and in-class pedagogy. The post-Covid-19 world will witness these tech-enabled platforms becoming a supporting feature in the curriculum in various educational institutions. In fact, it is assumed that online teaching would continue to remain a significant part of education in the form of blending learning along with traditional classroom sessions.