Gaurav Perti is the Founder & CEO of PurpleTutor. With more than 16 years of industry experience, including 5 years as an entrepreneur, he is passionate about entrepreneurship and making a meaningful change. His experience spans consumer businesses including, banking, fintech, & edtech companies. He specializes in general management given his experience across sales, product management, marketing, human resources, and operations. Gaurav has an experience in delivering business growth across multiple roles in banking and financial services including managing large teams.
Online education in India has gained momentum over the last 2 years, especially with the Covid-19 situation. This phenomenon has been the similar world over. If one sees the impact of Covid-19 globally, at its peak 95%+ learners were affected with over 1 billion learners affected in absolute terms (as per UNESCO). Over the years many factors have changed which have brought online education to the forefront. Earlier India had coaching institutes in large numbers for every topic from K12 to test preparation to professional upskilling, while they exist today too, online education has taken a front seat. Penetration of electronic devices such as computers/smartphones has increased tremendously over the years. In terms of internet bandwidth, 20 years ago, dial-up lines were the thing. And, about 10 years ago, 3G networks were the order with bandwidth for streaming, and now live classes are possible. Thus, with increasing bandwidth, modes of delivery can change. Technology advancement overall has made a huge impact on the emergence of “online” education.
Specifically, since 2020, learners around the world have been forced to sit at home, and this has pushed the boundaries of evolution in education even further. Institutions along with learners have been forced to move online. Most schools have adopted this method by buying licences of video conferencing tools/zoom. However, one question that is worth considering is-have they really moved online? Shifting to online mode is not just about buying a zoom license but changing the delivery methods to ensure both engagement & learning. There are various issues that come in when moving offline to online learning. Examples may be cited of how does one provide informal social interactions, how to ensure student attention, or even how to ensure active participation? Most schools or other institutions struggle with these since neither their teaching material addresses this nor have they received prior formal training on this.
There are various delivery methods in edtech, one can just buy content and learn, more so-called “E-learning”. This is essentially content in the form of text, audio, and video, it may have access to discussion forums and some assessments. This type of quality content can be accessed by smartphones/computers, and downloaded. Learners can go back and forth, be flexible with time, & costs are reasonable too. There are many companies in India doing this in K12, test preparation, and even professional upskilling. Research does show that learners can retain 25-50% more and even learn in 40-60% less time compared to classrooms. Given all this, there are drawbacks too. Engagement and completion rates are a challenge since it requires a fairly motivated and self-driven learner.
In addition, there is pre-recorded content or streaming of video lectures. This is now a popular method of online learning. Due to bandwidth availability, one can stream lectures via smartphones over mobile networks. YouTube today has a plethora of videos on any given topic. Sitting in the comfort of home one can take this. Coupled with assessments one can learn, go back and forth, accelerate when required, and be flexible on timings too. The drawback of pre-recorded content is again maintaining engagement levels and ensuring users are motivated enough to complete.
Another delivery method that has gained traction over the last 3-4 years is live learning. This is where students and teachers interact with one another over a video conference. Classes can be one-on-one or in groups. This is becoming very popular because of human-to-human interaction & high engagement levels. Challenges here are finding the right set of teachers to be able to impart the knowledge to students and curriculum standardization. Also, keeping learners engaged in group classes does become a challenge.
While there are various delivery methods, there are many companies even solving problems for schools and other educational institutions. Whether it’s providing content, technology tools for effective learning, edtech companies are doing this. From managing attendance to VC tools, to dashboards where students can login, keep track of lessons, content and take tests, these are the kinds of problems being addressed. Schools are getting better at managing the situation, though there is a long way to go.
The pandemic has changed the education sector; while it has pushed adoption & optimization in delivery methods, challenges remain. For example, what is the right age to teach online? While cognitive development starts as early as 2 years, it is very difficult to teach children below the age of 5 years. They need to have the attention span and ability to follow instructions to be able to learn. In India, there are still challenges around internet penetration in rural areas and similar places. A survey recently stated nearly 50% of students in India don’t have access to appropriate internet bandwidth. Given India’s income distribution in the population, many learners do not even have access to electronic devices to be able to learn online, in fact 56% of students don’t have access to smartphones according to a 2020 study.
Household infrastructure (internet/smartphone) problems will continue to be a challenge, but one hopes this will change rapidly in the near future. Another issue is that schools and educational institutions have been forced to move online, however, their learning methods have not changed. Buying a zoom license does not move one online, teaching methods, delivery etc, need to change. An offline environment is such where a teacher is able to see students together, in an online multi-student class one has its own set of challenges. A teacher simply can’t pay attention to 40 students (for example) at one go.
A flipped classroom is used by colleges for this purpose, where pre-recorded content is handed out and teachers are there for doubt clearing in special sessions in a live format. Maintaining the right teacher-student ratio is very important in this environment to maintain class control. Another issue is of “social learning”, while group classes do address this to a certain extent, real face-to-face interaction can’t be compared. Screen time fatigue in young learners has been another issue with parents complaining about the time their children are spending in front of devices.
Over the last year and a half, a new normal has been created and it is learning online. Users have built a habit around using video conferencing tools (zoom etc), even buying courses or streaming content sitting at the comfort of their home. There has been a paradigm shift that has taken place and it is here to stay.