With the strike of COVID-19 on the world, a lot of industries have been severely affected. Most schools across the country still remain closed since the lockdown announcement in March. Globally, there has been a huge impact on students. As per the data released by UNESCO, around 1.38 billion students worldwide have been affected by the closure of schools and colleges.
While the pandemic has brought down the hammer on most businesses, it has given a huge impetus to online education or e-learning. Schools, colleges and even tuition centres had to cope up with the changing environment and shift to online classes.
With travel restrictions and seized borders, universities all around the globe have started their shift to online education. The University of Cambridge has moved its entire course online for the 2020-21 academic year. In an impressive move, Zhejiang University managed to move more than 5000 courses online just two weeks into the transition using “DingTalk ZJU”. The Imperial College London started offering a course on the science of coronavirus, which is now the most enrolled class launched in 2020 on Coursera
Some research shows that students retain 25-60% more content when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom. Students can save up to 40-60% of their time while enjoying the freedom to learn at their own pace, going back and re-reading, skipping, or accelerating through concepts as they choose.
Online education also allows the teachers to get creative and use audio-visuals, games, activities, etc. in their teachings. Making learning fun and effective through digital technology enhances the experience and makes learning more effective as several studies indicate that children are dependent upon all their senses to learn.
The perks of online education come at a price and not everyone can afford it. A lot of students in many developing countries including India, do not have access to proper resources to study online. Many students are not able to afford devices to access online educations.
The access to the internet and proper bandwidth required for uninterrupted learning sessions is unavailable mostly out of the major cities. Interrupted Zoom sessions due to unstable network connections are something I think most of us can relate to.
Traditional vs Digital:
Many have already been arguing that our education system has been loosing its relevance. Focusing on traditional academic skills such as solving equations or learning computer code is not enough to survive and thrive. Yuval Noah Harari outlines in his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, how schools should focus on critical thinking and adaptability, which will play a more important role for success in the future, rather than traditional academic skills and rote learning.
Although it may not be fair to put the onus of bringing a tectonic shift in the traditional ways of imparting knowledge from something that we had to transition into so hastily. There are certain areas where digital technology might never be able to compete with the physical campus education.
Harish Bijoor, a Visiting Faculty at the Indian School of Business, classifies learning two kinds, subject-immersive and peer-immersive. “While subject-immersive learning happens in classrooms, labs and the many breakout groups professors create for their students, peer-immersive learning is what happens in the dorms, the student-villages, the canteens and the many ‘addas’ students create for themselves. The chats seem informal, but the learning outcomes from these chats are as formal and real as ever. Peer-immersive learning, to that extent, is really the most under-rated reality of them all.”
While the shift to online education might enhance the subject-immersive experience, it will miss out on peer-immersive learning which may be understated but is very important in the education experience.
With all its challenges, does online education still has the potential to be the future of learning?
The Venture Capitalists (VC) seem to have already made up their mind. EdTech businesses were already seeing a massive influx of capital even before the pandemic hit. An astounding $16.34 billion and $18.66 billion flowed to EdTech companies around the world in 2018 and 2019 respectively. With the lockdown struck globe, the focus has naturally increased heavily on online education.
Indian EdTech businesses have also blossomed with fresh investments — increasing 4x from $409 million in entire 2019 to $1.5 billion in the first nine months of 2020. Byju’s has now entered the club of Decacorn startups with valuation at $10.5 billion making it the second-most valued startup in the country after Paytm.
The above graph shows that VCs are betting high on the future of education to be online. What are your views? Share with us in the comments below.