This guest column is by Tyagarajan S, Former CEO, ChalkStreet
The fact that India’s current educational infrastructure cannot meet the current and future needs of the country is well known. Despite having more than half the population under 25 years of age, India is expected to face a shortage of 250 million skilled workers by 2022. Additionally, traditional education has failed to metamorphose in order to be relevant for today’s rapidly changing requirements. The rate of advancement of technologies and resulting opportunities is much too rapid for traditional programs and curriculum to keep up. Besides, there is a whole world of skills that are not even in the purview of the traditional education system (Arts, hobbies, soft skills, etc). eLearning will play a big role in helping bringing a step change to our education problem.
What is eLearning Exactly?
Broadly, eLearning involves the use of digital media and technology to deliver learning experiences. A learning experience attempts to simulate the real-word classroom learning process. It involves assembling great content, distributing it to facilitate learning, managing the learning process and providing validations (E.g. tests, certifications). eLearning typically reaches learners through one of 4 channels: Traditional Education, Corporates, Government or Direct Consumer. In the past few years, direct consumer learning has emerged as one of the fastest growing channels. On the supply side, the industry has content providers (Authors, Institutions, etc.), service providers (Content creation, Publishing, Marketing, etc.) and technology providers (Authoring tools, Platforms, Learning Management Systems, etc.). Businesses in the eLearning space often straddle more than one bucket to deliver a seamless experience.
Digital India and the Role of eLearning
As of 2015, India is already the second largest market for eLearning after the United States. The sector is expected to reach $1.29 billion ($40 billion by some uber-optimistic estimates) by 2018, growing at 17% CAGR. This is expected to be faster than the global growth by a factor of 2x. Yet, the e-learning industry is still in its infancy in this country. We are just at the beginning of sweeping changes in the education sector to dramatically increase reach, especially in smaller towns and cities, through online learning.
This opportunity is more real than ever before with the ‘Digital India’ initiative. According to a recent McKinsey report, the incremental impact of this initiative (if executed well) is 20-30% increase in GDP by the next 10 years. With a robust infrastructure for digital access, eLearning will play a vital role in shaping the skills and education needs of
But Relevance and Innovation is Key
Several global eLearning players have seen a surge in adoption of their platforms from India in the last few years. In most cases, the number of learners from India is second only to US. However, this is a minuscule percentage of potential learners across the country. The existing global technologies, content and services will just not suffice. Like in other industries, eLearning would need to adapt and innovate to be relevant for India.
In order for this to happen, both the model of disseminating learning as well as content needs to get relevant. Relevance will be determined based on the type of content, teaching methods used and features around the delivery of the content to the learners. The sheer diversity of learning needs across India would necessitate having a broad range of content yet providing the necessary depth.
In order to make the content and teaching methods appeal to learners across the country, e-learning providers should look to source content locally while ensuring the highest quality. One of the key challenges to solve here would be to help local content providers (institutions and individuals) across India make the jump into the e-learning space. This would require both education as well as innovation in terms of tools and platforms. From a delivery point of view, product innovations around customization of content for regions will go a long way in improving adoption and increasing relevance (E.g. support for regional languages). eLearning solutions which fail to be relevant will quickly fade away.
Focused Learning Experiences
MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) have been the poster boys of eLearning revolution globally. While the model has seen success, it is nowhere close to being accepted as the only right model for eLearning especially in developing countries like India and China. One of the problems that MOOCs face is the high drop-out rates (ranges anywhere from 80 – 90%). Instead of being replicas of traditional, full-semester experience, people are experimenting with formats and lengths of courses.
In India, we will see a lot more experimentation in terms of delivering eLearning content to suit the decreasing attention spans and yet being able to provide clear stand-alone value. Shorter, bite-sized courses will become more relevant as learning needs tend to get very specific and on-demand. Modularizing courses also helps learners identify the right dish off the menu to suit their needs without compromising the ability to package it into a larger program. There is enormous potential to innovate and explore more contextual eLearning methods including embedding digital learning in real-world scenarios.
More Engagement of Learners
One of the key challenges that eLearning currently faces is maintaining learner engagement with the content and the platform on a sustained basis. In traditional classrooms this is achieved by the physical constraints, the teacher and social behavior. This will become more critical in India as the content reaches varied segments with different needs and motivations. Reaching a large learner base and sustaining interest levels will require integrating social engagement aspects along with learning. eLearning companies in India will increasingly adopt features (like study groups and discussions) to simulate a classroom study environment.
Gamification will also play a key role in making learning platforms more engaging and bringing it to a larger audience.
India internet users expected to touch 500 million by 2017 of which nearly 2/3rd is expected to be on mobile.
During this time several improvements are also expected to happen in the network infrastructure and backbone for content delivery. Aided by these and the critical need, eLearning in India will see tremendous growth. It will be driven through corporates and direct consumer adoption followed by government led initiatives. Much like in e-commerce, we will see India-specific innovations to increase relevance of content, delivery and access across the country. This will shape the global eLearning industry as well. Exciting times ahead!
Image Source – INT