An ancestor from the previous century if happens to time travel would literally scratch his head on seeing everyone busy with their smartphones. These smartphones have also become a conduit for learning dissemination of late by integrating technology-driven trends of many fields.
Sweeping Changes Propelled by Technology
Current technological developments are completely revolutionizing the world we live in. In the past 20-30 years, India has witnessed an unprecedented series of changes, mainly fuelled by technology. We are living in an era where it has become as simple as a blink of an eye to either buy a product, or book a train/air ticket, or order food. With myriads of apps and software supported round the clock by cloud-based platforms have made it abundantly easy for us to locate a place exactly in real-time and fetch information and new updates about people, places and things.
Every aspect of life, from education and communication to entertainment and travel, has been impacted visibly by networked, portable devices like smartphones. Today, these new communication channels have provided us the freedom to create our own expression outlets through blogs, vlogs, online video channels on social media platforms like Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram. And, all of it is available to us via a smart phone, a small device which is a smart integration of three most revolutionizing fields, viz. computing, telecommunication, and broadcasting.
Let’s take a short reverse journey in the timeline of technological innovations and developments, particularly in the context of India. Once we examine the chronology of technologies affecting communication, we can undergo a cursory inquiry side by side into the question how these technologies influenced the field of education and learning.
Print: The Mainstay of All Ages Since Discovery
The introduction of print technology in the 18th century helped students in having their own textbooks and study material with the modern education brought by the British, unlike the earlier times when oral transmission of knowledge happened through guru-shishya tradition emphasizing learning through rote memorization. It was further supplemented by blackboards which assisted teachers in delivering their lessons in a classroom. The photocopier and hand-held calculator came in the early 20th century which gave students some relief in terms of taking notes and doing mathematical calculations.
Beginning of Broadcasting Technology
All India Radio came in 1937 which was available to the masses as ‘Akashvani’ from 1957. Subscriber trunk dialling or telephone became available in 1960s followed by television also in the same year. Colour television came to India only in ‘80s. All these means of communication and mass media were under the control of government till 1991 when liberal economic reforms were introduced relaxing the curb on the market. The broadcasting technology in form of dedicated educational satellite like EDUSAT was utilized for transmission of educational programmes for students through radio and television channels like Gyanvaani, Gyandarshan, UGC’s countrywide classroom, programs by CIET-NCERT etc. The latest step in this direction by the Government of India is Swayamprabha which offers a group of 32 D2H channels for telecasting of high quality educational content.
Multimedia in Education
Telecommunication facility was utilized for interaction between learner and teacher during the live transmission of educational programs on radio or television. This was facilitated by the introduction of mobile phones in 1995.
Computers were introduced in India in 1980s. However, the then computers were not the same as we find today. They were comparatively slower and had limited storage capacity. Floppy disks were in vogue those days. They were completely replaced by CDs and DVDs later after Microsoft’s Windows OS was introduced to India in 1990.
The greatest transformation of the 20th century, however, was brought about by the advent of Internet and World Wide Web in India in 1998. This was the time when impetus on education was becoming potent via initiatives like District Primary Education Programme and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan.In the hindsight, many private companies came up with technology-driven educational solutions, like EduComp in 1994 and Edurite in 2000 which offered educational CDs and DVDs. Interactive white boards and projectors started getting place in increasing number of urban schools. The potential of computers and internet in achieving educational goals started being realized by everyone by then and the programme ICT in Schools was launched by the Ministry of HRD, GOI in 2004.
Online Learning, a Disruption in Conventional Education
With the arrival of Google to India in 2004, things started changing drastically. The Google search engine (called Google Search or Google Web Search), Wikipedia, and innumerable online repository gave access to information like never before in history. Myriads of possibilities furnished by the Internet started being crystallized in all walks of life be it business, finance, health, communication and mass media.
Simultaneous but slower developments were seen in education industry too. The concept of smart classrooms came into existence and many private companies provided the solutions for the same. However, one-to-one solution to students was still not very successful due to low penetration of internet in most parts of the country. At this time, in 2004, Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, started using the power of the Internet to teach concepts of unit conversion to his cousin remotely. This marked the beginning of online learning by individuals and private companies. Many universities overseas had already started their online programmes. Few online and virtual universities came up too.
Prolific Growth of Edupreneurs
In India too, computer-assisted instructions, digital content, ebooks, and online learning platform as that of NPTEL started being delivered. Many global companies ventured into Indian education market, namely Macmillan, Pearsons, Intel, and Chegg Inc. Many Indian companies started working in e-learning too like Next Education, Edufic, MeritNation, TutorVista, Toppr, Eupheus learning, etc. Online learning tools, applications and software like video editor, audio editor, movie maker, blogs, wikis, flickr, etc made it easy to create graphics and multimedia animations for educational purposes.
Smartphones Ushering Mobile Learning
Emergence of smartphones from around 2002 and further developments in generations of mobile phones from 2G to 4G, boosted internet penetration to 42.87% in 2018 in the country. Online learning became easier with increased internet penetration and cheaper smartphones available in almost 60% of the Indian households. This was further stimulated by coming of Learning Management systems (LMS) and massive online open courses (MOOCS). Edukart, WizIQ, Byju’s, Unacademy, Simplilearn, CultureAlley are some of the Indian companies who ventured into online learning.
The educational institutions at the same time adopted blended learning and flipped classrooms to provide quality education to its students. Mobile app based learning solutions provided by Indian companies like Vedantu, Toprankers, Simplilearn, Prozo, Byju’s, etc. are creating their mark on learners through their ease and convenience. This has initiated another form of learning called mobile learning. Recetly, WhatsApp groups are also being used for educational purposes.
New Model of Social Collaborative Learning
Social networking sites are being increasingly acknowledged as a potential contributor in effective learning suited for the modern times. Launching of YouTube and Facebook in 2005 and 2006 respectively opened up doors for individuals to start their own YouTube channels or facebook page. Today, these two online platforms have garnered more than 200 million users in India alone.
YouTube live video is used by many educational institutions like CIET-NCERT, IGNOU, private companies like Unacademy, and individuals like Shomu’s Biology to name a few. Facebook pages have become vital in promoting businesses and pursuing common interest through groups. Whereas computer-aided learning (CAL) provided some autonomy and interactivity to the learners, the Internet and social networking sites provides full autonomy, flexibility and collaborative way of learning. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that from teacher-centric learning, technology is steering the education towards learner-centric and eventually to self-directed, learner-driven education.
Virtual and Automated Personalized Learning Is Future
Virtual learning with the help of simulations have made easier for learners to grasp abstract concepts. Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham has developed Amrita Olabs, online platform for lab practicals which can be better understood with the help of videos. Digital libraries today abound where a student can get access to thousands of books. Embibe provides individualized learning solutions through AI-powered personalized recommendations.
Having discussed so many parallel developments in the field of technology and education, it is apparent that the world is not yet getting settled anytime soon. Instead, it’s getting geared up for more futuristic technologies like augmented reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics to be adapted to for the sake of learning innovations. Learning is coming out from the brick-and-mortar classroom into more flexible digital spaces.
E-Learning Trend in India: Future Ahead
The e-learning market in India can be basically classified into five types — first, those providing supplementary digital education solutions from K-12; second one catering to needs of higher education; third are those helping students prepare for various competitions; fourth are those which help professionals to reskill and upgrade their knowledge and gain certification; the fifth are dedicated towards language and casual learning.
mGuru provides mobile based application for English and mathematics learning to school and pre-school learners. Companies like MeritNation, NextEducation, Vedantu fall under the first category, whereas CeLT, ChalkStreet, Unacademy etc. belongs to the second category. While the third category companies are Embibe, Examify, Prepathon, etc. helping students in preparing for competitive exams, SimpliLearn, upGrad, Edureka etc. which help in updating professional skills fall under the fourth category. Websites like CultureAlley offers language learning courses.
Besides, there are many companies providing technical support and digital solutions to the companies having direct interface with the learners. These solutions range from authoring tools to LMSs, animation to augmented reality, mobile applications and online tools, etc. Apart from giant software companies like Adobe, TIS, and NIIT, some of the Indian companies providing software solutions are Commlab India, ExcelSoft, G-Cube, Liqvid solutions, Paradiso LMs, Zeus Learning etc. eiDesign, eNyota, Upside Learning are some companies which provide one-stop solution for all e-learning needs.
With more than 560 million Internet users in India which is projected to double by 2020 and 829 million Smartphone users by 2022, the ground is perfectly ripe for the Indian e-learning market to flourish and expand. Current size of E-learning market in India is USD 247 million and forecasted to grow about 8 times, i.e. USD 1.96 billion by 2021. The prospects are brighter keeping in view the Indian demographics which comprises more than 50 percent of the population to be under 25 years of age and more than 65 percent to be under 35 years. This is an indication of a huge market size of students and working professional ready to grab the e-learning opportunities.