The COVID lockdown period has witnessed an unprecedented rise in online learning! Schools, colleges, coaching institutes, and other educational organizations are briskly restructuring themselves for the new normal.

COVID-19 and Online Education in India: Trends and Emerging issues

A healthy trend for the growth of the online learning industry is on the cards, along with some issues. Courseware World did an intensive analysis of the latest trends and issues in education and has brought some fascinating interpretations for its readers.

COVID-19 is a once-in-a-century pandemic phenomenon. Naturally, it will have some far-reaching consequences, questioning almost everything we have developed as a society and culture. So far, it has got our socio-economic structure quaking under pressure including healthcare and education.

At the same time, the pandemic has underlined before world’s governments the significance of proportionate investments in education and healthcare. These sectors though crucial for creating and sustaining other sectors lag far behind in terms of investment. But, that’s whole another level of discussion altogether better left aside for the moment!

What has attracted our attention during the grim state of affairs is the soaring popularity of online education. The sector has steadily emerged as a potential solution to the educational needs of about 1.6 billion children in 186 countries. And, the statement is hardly a hyperbole. It’s not untrue. Not at all!

Online learning has lapped up the challenge Covid-19 has thrown in the form of socio-cultural isolation that marred the education to a standstill for a while globally. E-learning, so far waiting in the wings to prove its utility and efficacy, is now addressing the challenges of distance education one by one when it has given a ‘compelled’ opportunity.

The world’s educational infrastructure is waking up to accommodate this not-fully-realized process. They are now giving a whirlwind recognition to this potential educational tool. Alas, they’d done so before. But, no point in lamenting, is it? Better late than never! And, by the way, great results are crisis-borne!

However, no popularity comes without vilifications. Online learning will be branded as ‘undemocratic’, ‘infeasible’, ‘discriminatory’, and so on. But, don’t listen to them! Those are simply the outcry against the change. That happens every time. We need to simply look at what we are now doing and what we’d have done in the absence of online learning today. You will get your answer straight.

The COVID lockdown period has witnessed an unprecedented rise in online learning! Schools, colleges, coaching institutes, and other educational organizations are briskly restructuring themselves for the new normal. It is just an indicator of learning transformation the new world desperately needed.

Trends: Mostly Good, To Become Better

1. Online Education Industry in India Set to See a Threefold Increase in CAGR

The current trends have bolstered the growth of the online learning industry which is now expected to grow at thrice the previously forecasted CAGR of 20% over a period of five years from 2018-22.

As per reports by KPMG & Google, an estimated worth of the online learning industry in India was projected to be 18 billion USD.

According to another report on ‘Online Education Market in India 2019’ published by Research and Markets in Dec. 2019, CAGR of 43.85% was projected for the period from 2019-24.

The actual growth might supersede the above projection to reach about USD 50 billion industry by 2022, or even before.

2. K-12 Segment Will Now Lead

K-12 segment has always been mooted as a potential highest contributor to the overall growth of online learning in the country owing to its large size. In normal circumstances, it was a bit lagging in progressively adopting online learning tools.

But, COVID-19 situation has coaxed, or compelled, or inspired (choose whatever you like) them to explore e-learning. From what it appears, its serious inclusion has become an essential condition for the proliferation of schools and colleges, at least for now.

As a result, this segment is now in the driver’s seat and will witness maximum growth in the coming days.

3. Unprecedented Demand of Online Teaching-Learning Tools

A tremendous rise in the use of teaching-learning tools by teachers has already created a massive demand for these online tools in the coming times. Video group conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Google Meet, CISCO Webex, Jitsi, etc. have witnessed a manifold rise in the download of their app during the lockdown period.

As per the reports, nine-year-old Zoom’s user-base increased from 10 million to more than 200 million in the month of March itself! Google Classroom, Tencent classroom, Edmodo, etc. have also seen a huge surge in its usage.

Those wondering whether these trends will continue post COVID need to realize that the world will no longer be the same and the new society in all likelihood will be structured on a digital framework. Most probably, these developments are here to stay and not to revert.

4. Online Tutoring Will Surge

Online test preparation segment has attracted huge funding in the past and the current obligation to go online will encourage many of the offline coaching and tutoring institutes to also venture into online learning. This will not only increase their share in the online education industry but will also provide more choices and flexibility to the learners and aspirants.

However, this trend is also a warning to all individual-based tutoring classes, which are old-school and won’t be able to reinvent themselves in sync with online learning needs.

5. Online Reskilling Segment Will Not Limit to IT Sector

The one thing which everybody realizes in the COVID period is the utility of digital skills and the necessity to reskill oneself as nothing is certain. Updating, upgrading, and reskilling is going to become a norm not only in the IT sector but in all other fields.

One may get a glimpse just by looking at the increase in numbers of webinars and online skilling programs on offer these days. Even the enrollments in various MOOCs like Coursera, Udemy, SWAYAM, etc. have catapulted like never before.

This might be a beginning to the creation of a ‘learning society’. How relevant Donald Schon’s ideas on lifelong learning seems today! According to him, change is constant in a modern state, and in order to adapt, there must be a constant state of learning within the society of that state.

6. Positive Governmental Support and Initiatives for Online Education  

On 10th April 2020, Union Minister for HRD, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ launched a week-long ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign for crowdsourcing of ideas for improving online education ecosystem in India.

This is a positive indicator for the online learning industry as the Govt. may ease the norms for new EdTech start-ups, initiate private-public partnerships, and may expand its own base of online learning initiatives like National Digital Library (NDL), SWAYAM, NPTEL, SAKSHAT, ePaathshaala, etc.

7. Conspicuous Perception Change Towards M-Learning

Pre-COVID, there was much inclination towards the use of smartphones for entertainment, social media and networking, and video gaming. Often, it was hard to convince parents of the utility of mobile or online learning due to the apparent ill effects of mobile phones on their children. Things have now changed though.

In light of COVID, the true potential of mobile learning and online learning has been showcased to them. Most of the parents and learners have expressed their desire to continue with online learning even post COVID owing to its many advantages.

8. HEIs to Lead the Capacity Building for Online Education in India

The modern, online-based learning will need teachers with new and contemporary skills. Higher education institutes and the academicians will have to play their part in capacity building for online learning initiatives and training of the teachers. They will be expected to create digital learning resources, online courses, virtual learning environments, develop online pedagogies, and methodologies, etc. to skill and upskill teachers.

9. Edupreneurs and EdTech Companies to See Better Days

The global economy will be abysmally low due to COVID-19 repercussions. However, the online learning industry gives us a ray of hope in this gloomy environment. Restructuring of a new world post COVID will require new abilities, new knowledge, and skills which could be reflected by the emergence of more edupreneurs, online learning start-ups, and EdTech companies.

In the current phase, a vast number of classroom teachers and educators have been reported to start their YouTube channels, creating video lessons, and courses. A few of them might be expected to turn into an Edupreneur like Raveendran Byju of The BYJU’s!

10. More Research in Online Course Creation

The COVID induced lockdown has acted as an activator in setting up of climate for implementation of online learning in the country. However, when the understanding of a particular discipline widens among academia, it gets subjected to more rigorous research and development.

Ahead, we might see quality issues concerning online courses, development of a structured online learning methodology based on online pedagogy, use of AI and ML to further enhance the scope of online learning, regulation and accreditation issues for online courses, etc. Work on most of them has already initiated and we might see further deepening of such concerns and their remedies.

Emerging Issues: A Closer Look

So, above are some of the positive trends, of which the majority were set before the pandemic. The situation now has only accentuated and invigorated those trends.

Besides these trends are some of the chronic questions which always resurface when we talk about a wider application of online education, like: Are we prepared or equipped for this sudden transition from the classroom to online learning in terms of access to the internet and digital devices?

Questioning persists: If access is not provided to a large section of the society, aren’t we marginalizing them and widening the digital divide? What about teacher competency to teach online? Has online learning become just a way to resume a physical face-to-face classroom transaction remotely? Are learners finding it comfortable to switch to this new way of learning? And, so on. Some are pertinent, others not so.

A process, or technology, can’t be labeled as discriminatory per se. It’s the application or the system we put in place, or the agency, which is discriminatory. Moreover, we never should compare two different tools even when they are meant to accomplish the same task. We should rather use them complementarily and try to perfect the goal.

We know that not even 1 percent of the nation’s faculty is being utilized in the undergoing current of online learning. Moreover, teachers have just got a medium to teach students remotely, their ways and transaction continue to be the same. These are the few concerns that will be remedied in the coming days in the post-technology-introduction phase. The professional development programs in the future will take care of these.

The online learning environment and teaching-learning pedagogy will surely improve for better in the coming days once the spotlight is now on online learning.

Digital literacy and technological skills of both teachers and learners will also see improvement in order to avoid any misuse or abuse of technology.

Besides, seeing the usage of online learning during COVID times, few health concerns (both physical and psychological) associated with increased screen time have been raised. Those concerns are valid.

However, if we closely look, these concerns have arisen only because we have tried to replicate the offline classroom-based learning online, with the same rigidity and routine. This in fact is not online learning, at least not in spirit, where flexibility and student-centeredness are cores with independent, well-structured learning material at student’s disposal.

The ‘live session’ component, which is having lion’s share currently, is just a small part of the whole online learning edifice. But things will improve in the future with a focus on new online pedagogies and fashioning of true online instructional material.   

Online learning holds immense possibilities for making learning interactive, engaging, meaningful, and relevant. But, in order to reap the best out of it, there are barriers to overcome.

The picture as depicted above might seem rosy on the surface but needs a lot of groundwork before we bring online learning into mainstream education. COVID has given us a jolt of irrelevancy and the future will be determined by the steps we take forward.

( Featured Image: ESL online learning by Angelqiu122 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

Rikisha Bhaumik

    Rikisha Bhaumik is Honorary Associate Editor at Courseware World and has over 5 years of active association with the field of e-learning along with 10 years of active and continued association with school education. She is adept at experimenting with innovative tools and technologies in school education and her direct involvement with learners and pedagogy has given her an augmented insight into the scope of e-learning in school education. Her writing repertoire mainly consists of detailed and research-based articles on various e-learning concepts and trends.

    Rikisha Bhaumik has 18 posts and counting. See all posts by Rikisha Bhaumik

    Rikisha Bhaumik