The unprecedented situation due to COVID 19 has resulted in large scale disruptions in life as we know it, not only in India but globally. While the Prime Minister declared the 21 day nationwide lockdown only on 23 March, 2020, most educational institutions across the country had already been closed prior to that as per the directives of state or central governments.
This unplanned closure has severely impacted the scheduled plans for completing courses within the academic year, especially for student who are to appear in forthcoming public/board examinations.
With the prolonged duration of closure, schools as well as higher education institutions are exploring mechanisms for engaging with students and completing their courses. Many educational institutions have started leveraging meeting platforms and applications having video conferencing facilities to run online classes.
Teachers are connecting with their classes at a pre-determined time to conduct classes. However, it is observed that this mechanism is largely being adopted in urban areas and limited to institutions catering to affluent sections of society. For students to access these online classes they need to have devices like laptops/desktops, smart phones or tablets as well as internet connectivity at home, this again is something which cannot be expected across all sections of society in urban or rural India.
There are currently many education technology companies having on-line learning platforms and specialising in developing on-line content. This market has been growing in India over the last couple of years. In schools these solutions have been largely leveraged as supplementing classroom learning in terms of understanding concepts, encouraging critical thinking and inquisitiveness in children, interactive involvement through gaming techniques.
However, in most cases the students’ family have subscribed for online courses from such companies to supplement the teaching at schools, as they perceive these courses helps in preparing for tests/examination and gives their wards a competitive edge over others. Schools or higher education institutions which have subscribed, are largely in urban areas catering to affluent sections of society as additional fees are being charged to cover the subscription and set up expenses.
These solution sets can help education institutions as well as students only if accessibility challenges across all sections of society can be addressed in terms of devices in hands of the students and connectivity at their homes. For wider acceptance of such online courses across the country, content has to be developed in vernacular languages.
Given the current situation, these solutions can play a large role in equipping education institutions with remoting learning capabilities, but only if it is integrated as part of the institution’s course curriculum and teachers are trained to leverage these as part of their lesson plans.
In the short term, It may be difficult for most education institutions to leverage the offerings of education technology companies and implement in the current disruptive situation given that students may have accessibility challenges in terms of devices, connectivity, etc. However, going forward it is expected that online content will be integrated into the regular course curriculum as part of the education sector transformation initiatives with the introduction of new age pedagogy like flipped classrooms. Education Institutions’ initiatives to set up smart classrooms either under Government programs or by institutions themselves are likely to give adoption of technological innovation in platforms and content a further boost.
However, in the current situation, given the free time that students have now, many edutech organisations are offering their products for free trials during this period, which is expected to lead to familiarisation of students with such solutions sets. This will possibly result in increased adoption of such product/ solution by education institutions, if such demand comes from students. Information for the editor for reference purposes only.
Views are personal.
Anindya Mallick is partner, Deloitte India