It is no secret that the Indian education system faces several challenges, including a lack of infrastructure, quality of teaching staff and the ever-widening gap between academic knowledge and industry readiness. These challenges have led to an increasing demand for online learning, especially among the tech-savvy youth demographic.
Online education is low-cost, convenient and can be tailored to their needs, which benefits both students and working professionals. They use it to supplement their traditional education and to gain new, relevant workplace skills. Self-paced e-learning courses provide flexibility to the users, without the undue pressure of deadlines.
According to a report by KPMG and Google, online learning had 1.6 million users in 2016 with a forecast to increase to 9.6 million by 2021 with a CAGR of 44%. By 2021, the online education market is slated to grow to a value of USD 1.96 billion a CAGR of 52%.
Most of this growth is driven by reskilling and online certifications, which help enable better job prospects and salary packages; and supplemental primary and secondary education, which overcomes the constraints of superficial, rote learning and allows people to gain specialized competencies. Online learning also helps individuals pursue areas of interest that aren’t covered under traditional degree programmes.
E-learning holds great potential for Indians. However, the following trends will determine its impact in the future:
Who says learning can’t be fun? Gamification is applying concepts and mechanics from actual games in a non-game situation. Gamification in education uses the concepts of fun, collaboration, competition, and rewards. To ensure high levels of awareness, user retention and continual engagement, courses will have to be made more interesting and rewarding. Currently, almost 95% of users drop out from open online courses. Gamification—such as peer comparison and quizzes—can help reduce that rate. Companies have already started incorporating video game design features as rewards, e.g. badges, leader-boards and discounts as rewards. Gamification also builds interactivity through simulations, videos, unlocking of new features and creating elite user groups based on performance. The global market for gamification in education is predicted to reach USD 10 billion this year.
- Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence has always been at the cutting edge of technology. As online education systems become more sophisticated, the role of AI in their deployment is set to become an integral part of the e-learning platforms and ecosystem. Experts believe that AI can help fill the gaps in learning and teaching. Online learning platforms will use AI to provide customized course suggestions based on user profiles. Using AI, learning platforms will be able to provide mass personalization at scale to suit the requirements and abilities of the users. AI will enable education to shift out of the ‘one size fits all’ limitation. AI will help students make more informed choices on course content, duration and form of delivery. Sophisticated recommendation engines can identify behaviour patterns through the learner’s decisions, peer groups, and persona.
We have already seen the capabilities of AI in answering simple queries, but this role will be enhanced to tutoring in the online learning space. The future of online learning includes AI-driven chatbots that can interact and motivate learners to finish coursework, track their progress, and use semantic analysis to gauge the learner’s sentiment. The chatbot market has grown from USD 700 million to USD 3 billion from 2014 to 2019.
- AR and VR
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have very much become a part of our routine lives. With affordable, portable gear developed by a variety of companies, AR and VR can now be integrated into online learning. Augmented reality in the e-learning space functions across a spectrum from instruction overlays while working on devices to full-blown immersive environments in which the learner can engage and interact. AR and VR can provide minute, detailed, and real-time visual guidance for complex tasks. Virtual labs can help students perform experiments and allow them to study courses that rely heavily on practical exposure and training. VR can be used to take students on trips across nations and cultures, without the need to leave their classrooms. Thus, the technology has great cost-saving implications for educations institutions.
In an attention-deficit world, where everyone’s playing catchup, it is no surprise that learning must be delivered in small, short bursts to remain ingestible. We know that the average attention span has shrunk significantly. Today’s students are unable to palate lengthy and dense sessions, they are unwilling to spare hours on un-interactive text-based content.
Microlearning addresses this unique challenge. Also called bite-learning, such lessons are generally three to five minutes long. They package learning into bite-sized morsels, delivered in rich media formats and designed with specific outcomes. The brevity and multi-device accessibility of these sessions aids retention and makes them perfect for commute time, quick breaks between meetings and lunch hour sessions. It suits the modern employee and the distracted student. Online learning providers understand that today’s world requires an on-time, on-demand and on-the-go educational experience. Nobody has the time for more.
- Hybrid Channel and Business Models
While most Indians believe in the benefits of online education, nearly one-third of them believe that it is not a substitute for traditional learning. Meanwhile, traditional schools and colleges are waking up to the cost-saving and quality enhancement opportunities that e-learning offers. These factors lead to hybrid business and delivery models. In India, private schools are increasingly adopting multimedia education technologies for their classrooms; online learning providers are setting up offline touchpoints to enable peer-to-peer learning through labs and group discussions. Market expansion by traditional institutions in the future will happen through virtual classrooms, which will offer both theoretical and practical knowledge. Companies and knowledge providers have started engaging in partnerships. Many vocational training companies now use online channels to offer a national reach. DTH providers, such as Dish TV, are adding educational channels to their offerings. The combinatorial possibilities are endless.
The rate at which technological advances become affordable will significantly enrich the offerings in the online education space. While online learning has already modelled itself to suit the needs and whims of the present generation, its success in the future will depend on its ability to adapt as those needs evolve. Innovative cross-sector partnerships and diverse exposure channels will help education providers gain an edge over their competition.
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