Himanshu Periwal is a graduate of IIM Calcutta and comes with an experience of over 10 years having worked with big names like Amazon, Bain & Company, and Ixigo. He was the VP of Growth at Ixigo, helping their transactions grow by a massive 23x in just over 3 years. At Amazon, he was part of the team that launched it in India and was their first Product Marketing Manager. Prior to that, he worked with Bain & Company on various Private Equity, Fin-tech, Retail sector mandates. Himanshu is also a Product Management Faculty at UpGrad and is a Start-up Advisor/Mentor at NASSCOM, GSV Labs, and TechStars.
The importance of education in a person’s life cannot be overstated. As something that is experienced by everyone in one way or another, the field of education is constantly changing and developing to suit individual needs.
Over the last decade, the world has undergone a rapid digital transformation, and the education sector is no exception to that. It was common for private (CBSE and ICSE) schools to have “Smart Boards” from as early as 2013. These smart boards had interactive tools and audio-visual lesson plans for even practical subjects like science.
This positive adoption of digital learning directly led to a phenomenon called “Digital Education”. This has progressed over the years and embedded itself into the lives of teachers and students as an indispensable tool.
India’s embrace of digital education
Since the 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic, schools have equipped themselves and their students with laptops, phones, and tabs to enable regular classes. This has also happened in rural areas of the country thanks to the digital revolution of education. It is estimated that the internet penetration rate will reach above 55 percent by the end of 2025. A high percentage of this is proposed as initiatives by the government to provide high-speed internet and fibernet connectivity to a number of schools and gram panchayats in India. Apart from this, the Vidya Daan initiative also provides rural parts of India with content developed by teachers and educators from the metro and tier-II cities.
It is noteworthy that the central and various state governments are allocating substantial budgets for the advancements of digital education.
From a Student Perspective
Today’s students, irrespective of their social situation, are extremely comfortable with all aspects of technology. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for this, but this level of comfort makes it incredibly easy for them to quickly take up devices as tools of learning. Moreover, new trends in digital education emerge every day. For example, social media has now stepped into the educational field as a means of learning. Youtube channels and pages on various platforms are dedicated to teaching subjects like English, Math,s and sometimes even other languages.
The concept of “Master Classes” has been introduced and seen a spike. Many platforms, such as Unluclass, are offering the opportunity for learners to attend a class taught by an expert in their field. As they are mostly taught by celebrities like actors, sportspersons, writers, etc., these classes are not limited to the basic subjects taught at school. Aspirants are able to get first-hand information about the ins and outs of their specialized fields.
E-learning platforms have also had a positive reception in the country. These platforms are available in regional languages, explain concepts using easy-to-understand methods, and have self-learning aids. Features like these make them a popular choice for parents to purchase for their children. This is also used by learners outside of schools and colleges for picking up extra-curricular activities like writing, acting, sports, etc.
Furthermore, methods like game-based learning open courses provide an opportunity for learners of all ages to have a taste of a subject before deciding if they want to pursue them further.
The Good and the Bad
To a casual observer, digital learning is the best thing to happen to students and teachers. They are not wrong.
Digital learning breaks down language barriers, enables personalized lesson modules, and is better for the environment due to the paper being used less. But most importantly, as lessons are accessible from anywhere and on any device with a stable internet connection, it gives a lot of room for mobility and flexibility of the students and teachers – a feature greatly appreciated during covid times.
But as with any new phenomenon, digital education also has a flip side. As mentioned above, lessons are available online readily, but this is of no use when students or teachers do not have a stable internet connection. As commendable as the efforts of the government and the schools are to make students and teachers more digitally accessible and literate, there is still a long way to go before a full switch can be made from the blackboard to a smartboard.
The older generation of teachers who are more comfortable with traditional means of teaching are facing technical issues, for example, while trying to operate a top-of-the-line tab or present on a video call.
All of this is notwithstanding the issues faced by students themselves. Being in school, students were able to see/ interact with other students in real life. Attending online classes and e-classes all day causes social isolation. A shortened attention span, lack of concentration, and distraction are also on the list of blocks of digital education.
Looking at digital learning for higher levels, such as college and university, subjects that need practical knowledge are facing major challenges. Practical learning is essential for especially medical and scientific streams. The discourse today is about how students who graduated from “online classes” would hold up to other generations who have had a more “hands-on” approach to learning.
Digitally Enabled Future
An increasing number of positive reviews and reception to trends in the field of digital education has made way for quick adoption and improvement. There is no doubt that this will mold a generation that is comfortable with everything digital as everything they learned was digital. Digital education is here to stay, and the digitally savvy population that will emerge as a by-product of this will place India in a whole new sphere in the coming years.