By Persainjit Singh, CEO, Extraclass.com
It was always going to happen. Art of learning, as we have seen has always been a dynamic phenomenon. What started as a fiefdom of few in the age of gurukuls became a fraternity of educators and educated at the advent of the 21st century. But what has remained constant is the movement towards a system that grants more autonomy to the learners, more avenues and tools to educators and an overall impetus to the knowledge economy. The rise of e-learning should be viewed in that neon light.
Over the years, numerous articles, blogs, and testimonials have been written eulogizing, admonishing or elucidating the e-learning fad. All of them capture one or the other facet of this emerging avenue. But never have they been so (ir) relevant than now. India, at the moment, is going through; perhaps its biggest development phase in the education sector, particularly the one which deals the way knowledge is disseminated and consumed. Byju, Toppr, Extraclass, you name it. The probability will be that there are millions who have heard their name or have used it once. The e-learning market, valued at over USD 0.25 billion in 2016 is expected to grow to almost USD 1.96 billion by the end of 2021. But this begs the question, why is e-learning on the rise?
Flexibility of e-learning on platforms
There are certain benefits to being on an e-learning platform. From some obvious ones like the flexibility to learn anytime and anywhere to personalized learning level matching your learning curve, the new way of teaching offers something that was never possible before. E-learning platforms offer you with not just a plethora of disciplines to choose from but also come hard packed with methods that are easy to grasp and easier to understand. The application of audio-visual tools, fun animations and colorful subject material makes it much easier for both the students and tutors to understand and convey the concepts the books so desperately try to achieve. The dearth of physical infrastructure, a reality in many government run schools, is something that can be easily overcome by adopting neo-learning tools. All that one need is a working internet connection, if the course is online or enough electricity hours to charge the tablets that come in hand. And these are far cheaper to provide than the usual infrastructures needed to run a school.
Motivation to learn
Another major advantage that these platforms offer, particularly extraclass.com is the motivation to learn. It might sound far-fetched but one of the primary reasons students hate schools or even colleges is due to lack of motivation to sit in the class the whole day and still learn nothing by the end of it. The problem is not with teachers, though they too could use a bit of brushing, but in the mode of education. Not everyone is blessed with a capability to sit out 8 hours at a stretch. And faculties, burdened by their already heavy course structure have little proclivity to make any changes or spare a word or two of motivation to the students, since there’s syllabus to be completed, assignments to be checked and administrative work to be done. What we instead do is assign every child a mentor, a sort of guiding person who helps them out not just with their course module but also with helping them chalk out their career opportunities.
Starting from the grassroots
But behind this rosy picture lies a disconcerting reality, one which still needs a lot of work to get affixed. While it is no surprise that most of the EdTech startups begin by focusing mostly on Tier I and Tier II cities, the trend is beginning to change. extraclass.com, for instance, has made it an objective to start from the grassroots and then make its way upward. While it’s true that part of it is largely shaped by relative saturation of the sector in the select cities, the fact remains that focus on rural areas makes more sense, economically. With competitive pricing, localized user interface and relevant product placements, companies can tap into areas that have largely remained untouched.
The size and demand of the education sector in the country is too large to be manageable by government or few private players alone. The time has come to engage players that have solutions that are more in line with the changing trend of education. And that doesn’t demand complete replacement of school systems with e-learning. Both are needed. There is enough space to co-exist. A child is the greatest asset of a nation and all of us have a role to play in shaping him/her for the future of their nation, for their society and for themselves.
About the Author: He is B.Tech from IIT Bombay, 2006. Worked at Schlumberger Oil Services, MarketRx, and AT Kearney. From May 2017 he is the CEO of extraclass.com