India undoubtedly has some remarkable educational institutes. However, despite being one of the largest economies in the world, many in our country our still slave to a hundred of taboos, and about a fifty of them are around education. Gender-stereotyping courses, the age of studying, are just a few off the top of the list. Many would argue exemplifying the visible creamy layer, that got the resource and/or opportunity to learn, but that can not let you deny the big bunch that still remains denied of learning. Also Read - Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk to enter India's broadband market with satellite internet servicesAlso Read - India's CCI must introduce anti-competitive practices for global tech giants, allow Indian businesses to flourish
For instance, according to World Economic Forum s Future of Jobs report, artificial intelligence and robotics will take over more than 5 million jobs by 2020. In such a competitive job market, a college degree is not enough to get a job anymore, as most colleges in India are still not focusing on job-ready skills. Also Read - Internet to stop working for select users from today: Why, who will be affected, what to do?
In simpler words, just like any other business, education is also built on the criteria of demand and supply, however, in India especially, there is a huge gap between the two. However, lately a new way of education has been on a rise, and that will hopefully change things. Online learning is becoming a major force in democratizing access to the best possible higher education, that not just the country, but the world has to offer.
Why online education?
With financial constraints and other issues, that a large number of Indians face, online learning has enormous potential for helping professionals upskill and reskill throughout their careers. According to a recent Google-KPMG report, with the growing smartphones penetration and increasing data speed in the country, the Indian online education sector is likely to grow eightfold to become a $1.96 billion industry by 2021. ALSO READ: Google Project Bloks: An open hardware platform to make coding easier for kids
We also spoke with Coursera s India Country Director Raghav Gupta, he says that within just two years, India has become a the fastest-growing markets and second-largest both in terms of learners and revenue (only after the US). The Coursera platform has over 2.1 million registered learners in India out of a total of 26 million globally. Over 60,000 new learners in India join Coursera every month, and most of them are focused on building tech and business skills.
For that matter, India-grown Byju s is another education tech startup, which has been backed by Mark Zuckerberg and China s Tencent holdings. Last month, Byju s also acquired two US-based education startups from global education services firm Pearson. Byju s offers audio-visual lessons in maths and science for K-12 students. Its learning app has 9 million users and 450,000 annual paid subscriptions. In May, Byju s became a Harvard case study only the fourth Indian startup to make it there and said that users were spending an average of 40 minutes on its platform. ALSO READ: Edu-tech startup Byju s raises funds from China s Tencent
Another example is Google s Digital Unlocked program. In January this year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai launched the Digital Unlocked initiative. In collaboration with the IT Ministry of India and FICCI, the initiative aimed at bringing small and medium businesses of the country online. The initiative essentially offered training in form of opportunities for SMEs in India to attend courses, which were being offered by FICCI and certified from Google and the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. ALSO READ: Google CEO Sundar Pichai launches Digital Unlocked initiative for startups, SMEs in India
Online education vs traditional education
However, for anyone who would consider e-learning, the first question would be about the relevance and the acceptability of that degree. More often than not, a traditional degree would be preferred over a degree you received online. To be fair, such practices have been formed to avoid fraudulent degrees and trickery. But times are changing, and so is acceptability.
Coursera s Raghav Gupta says, given the current scenario, employers are increasingly evaluating online courses more formally for hiring. The level of acceptance can also be calculated by fact that multiple number of companies now turning to online platforms to upskill their workforce as well.
What online education provides is not necessarily a substitute for college education, it is a powerful complement and a way for individuals to continue learning throughout their career, keeping them updated in the face of change both in technology and in a dynamic job market.
How expensive are these online courses?
Now to the most basic question you would have at this point – how affordable is e-learning? If you compare it with what you actually pay for a course in a college, or to study abroad, it is marginal. Coursera for instance offers access to career-centric specializations (series of courses that result in a certificate), which are available on subscription and typically take 3-5 months to complete.
How good is e-learning when we are still coping with internet issues?
Now, here s a final, yet pertinent question. How good is the idea of e-learning in areas internet barely reached. Now, despite the government s Digital India initiative, and promises to provide internet in every nook and corner, internet is an issue in big urban cities as well. And if we talk about, Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, network speeds are often slow, and data is expensive.
But, with models like Facebook, Google and YouTube offering Lite versions of their services, e-learning platform are too heterogeneous data-fetching framework. For instance, Coursera allows learners to download the lectures and assignments, and then upload them for a grade when bandwidth returns. The platform also offers other options like controlling offline settings, and choosing to listen to the content in audio mode, to save internet and smartphone s battery.
This means, training workers, upskilling employees, and just learning to know more can now be done in more ways than we already know. However, having said that, it remains the learners responsibility to make sure you sign up with legitimate platforms. Get in touch with them for every query you have, clear your doubts, and then be on board. The online education space is very young, but totally worth exploring, perhaps encouraging!