The pandemic has, among a plethora of other things, disrupted learning and teaching practices and procedures at all levels across the world. Such disruption, however, significantly boosted the online education market, which showed an exceptional growth rate.
Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown have forced schools, colleges and universities to halt all regular face-to-face educational interactions between teachers and students. They had to literally switch overnight to the online-only learning and teaching model. This involved not only mastering teachers and students in unfamiliar skill sets, but also targeted mitigation of infrastructural limitations such as poor connectivity and low-end devices, revealing several inherent inadequacies of the existing education system.
Beneficial developments for the field of information and communication technology (ICT) – such as increased internet penetration, emphasis on the appropriate skills of the national workforce and the strengthening of the country’s digital infrastructure for education – had already sparked some growth in India’s educational technology (edtech) sector. The COVID-induced home confinement has dramatically increased the demand for online education as educational institutions as well as affluent families have been forced to plan for the use of information technology and multimedia education to facilitate quality learning experiences for students.
In India, edtech start-ups emerged in 2020 as the segment with the highest amount of funding that received – in the first nine months of the year alone – venture capital (VC) investments from a worth $1.5 billion, up from $409. million across all of 2019. According to authentic research, the ongoing pandemic has triggered a 3-5% increase in free audiences and a 50-100% growth in monthly revenue for several edtech companies. Such growth shows that for global and domestic venture capital and private equity firms, the most preferred segment is undoubtedly edtech.
According to reliable reports, Indian online K-12 education is expected to become a US$1.7 billion market by 2022 with a growth of 6.3 times. Initially, the edtech sphere was primarily focused on the K-12 segment. Now, however, the post-K12 market as well – which primarily consists of digital media for college and university courses, competitive exam prep, and corporate training in addition to a few other components – is expected to grow 3.7x to be worth $1.8 billion. The entire Indian edtech market looks set to reach $3.5 billion by 2022.
India’s digital education industry is opening up to new, innovative ways of learning and teaching and is experiencing massive growth in users. However, the very sudden closure of educational institutions and the rather hasty compulsion to move from face-to-face offline teaching to a generally unknown and untested form of online digital education has posed some significant challenges for teachers. and students.
Some of the challenges facing teachers
Lack of technical knowledge: Most teachers are neither aware nor trained in the successful use of online digital teaching tools, processes and methodologies. Teachers, especially in Tier II and Tier III cities, face significant challenges adapting to the imperatives of online teaching and conducting meaningful virtual classrooms. In fact, the majority of teachers lack the basic knowledge of computer use and exposure to effective online teaching techniques. More often than not, conscientious teachers attempt to overcome these problems through their own trial and error approaches and with the help of some of the relevant and free teacher training resources available on the net.
Limited access to relevant study material: Untrained teachers are limited not only by their inadequate technical skills, but also by their insufficient skills and exposure to procedures for accessing relevant digital course materials. Not only that, they have no choice but to acquire, entirely on their own, the know-how of curating course content, breaking that content down into appropriate lessons, converting lessons in electronic formats – using applications like PPTs, Excel sheets, relevant video recordings as well as graphics and animations – and present them to students as stimulating study material. It is commendable that many teachers are training in the use of open resources to put material online.
Insufficient monitoring of discipline: The main objective of the teacher is to facilitate quality learning between students by focusing on the discipline necessary to learn with and among others. Classroom instruction is undoubtedly best suited to maintaining good discipline and implementing commonly accepted rules for a safe and secure learning environment. In virtual classrooms, however, with teachers not having real eye contact with students and students not having to respect the notions of learning with and between peers, it becomes difficult for teachers to maintain discipline and monitor distraction-free learning. For effective home-based online learning, it is imperative that parents or other family members take responsibility for providing students with a suitable learning environment.
The problem with keeping students engaged: Making online courses truly interesting and engaging for students is surely challenging enough for teachers. The effective use of multimedia digital tools to attract the attention of generally inattentive students is the only solution that could transform students into independent learners. However, for this transformation to occur, teachers must undergo rigorous professional training, which is not the case at the moment.
Difficulty tracking student progress: When students are learning remotely, it is very difficult for teachers to have the kind of personal interactions with their students that, in regular face-to-face classes, have helped them identify students who were falling behind or who lacked interest in or were simply slacking off. their subjects and initiate corrective actions. While teachers carry out a variety of assessments to verify the levels achieved by students through online learning, there are sometimes reasons to suspect that the student concerned has not actually passed the relevant test. In fact, there are many ways to layer online classes while making the teacher understand that class attendance is 100%. Since teachers have to spend a lot of time creating their lessons and study materials, they have virtually no opportunity to engage with students beyond the scheduled class time and give them feedback. appropriate information. Teachers often worry about the very credibility of processes for monitoring their students’ progress.
Some challenges faced by students
Numeric fraction: Despite the continuous increase in internet penetration and the exceptional growth of the information technology field in India, the unfortunate divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ remains intact. Disadvantaged families cannot afford virtual schooling for their children who constitute the vast majority of the student population not having access to even the basic necessities of digital education. They don’t own or know anything about computers or cell phones or even internet connections. At the same time, there are children from wealthy families who are well exposed and beneficiaries of the so-called digital revolution. This divide is known as the “digital divide” between the “have-nots” and the “haves” of the new era. However, it is good that the state governments and trade unions of India have realized that there can be no social betterment without providing online education to the economically weaker sections. Several government agencies, as well as NGOs, are doing a remarkable job of achieving this.
Lack of digital literacy: While kids from affluent families are getting really tech savvy, many students on the other side of the divide are not tech savvy at all. These underprivileged children are not exposed to or aware of such things as how to log in or participate in live online classes or submit assignments online. Even using the basic programs of Word and Excel seems difficult to these students. They must be empowered with the fundamental knowledge and exposure to computer use. Fortunately, governments and other organizations are doing a good job of achieving this goal.
Sudden transition difficulties: The sudden shift from offline face-to-face learning to online digital learning has affected students in several negative ways. Face-to-face learning in school was primarily a social experience involving teachers, peers and other people. Adjusting to online learning needs in isolation, without meaningful interaction with any of the learning partners – classmates, teachers and other members of the school community – proves challenging for students. Man is too social an animal to lead a solitary life. Students, accustomed to learning in the company of others, are often unable to make the necessary adjustments to the isolated online schooling model.
The education system in this country is increasingly moving towards the blended learning model in the post COVID world. Blended learning integrates the best of offline and online education to provide learners with the best kind of learning experience possible. We must also overcome the constraints of the digital divide. Government and edtech companies need to work together to find better optimized solutions that address these challenges.