Tue, 15 Oct, 2019

Online: The future of education in India

Advances in technology and our increased reliance on all things digital mean more students than ever are turning to online learning

14th March 2019, 02:45 Hrs

Dr. (Mrs) Manasvi M Kamat

One of the world’s largest online payment companies, PayPal, has now announced integration of its services with online education platform and wished to enter India’s $215 billion education market. Earlier, famous entrepreneur and media veteran Ronnie Screwvala ventured into ed-tech startup, UpGrad, last October by acquiring Gurgaon-based Acadview Software, an online job skilling platform.   

Apart from the above, last couple of years saw several experimentation and innovations flourishing in the online education sector in India transferring the wave to our tier II, III, and IV towns as well. Online education in India is likely to grow exponentially in the coming years. It has revolutionised the way we look at education. Now India is second only to United States in terms of online enrollments, comprising over 15 percent of students worldwide.  

 The US-based PayPal has been active in India since 2008 in the cross-border payments business and among the verticals it has specialised in globally is education. PayPal launched its domestic operations in India from 2017 and in last April went live for consumers of domestic online retail in India. The entry into edu-tech industry was only a matter of time for PayPal, and it got in. The reskilling courses for working professionals already contribute to 40 percent of overall volume on transactions enabled by PayPal. This company now wishes to get on online platform for assisting in preparation for tests like GME, GRE, CAT etc., and also wishes to foray through an online mode in higher education and casual learning for arts like music, dance and yoga.  

Online education in India has seen active growth over the last decade. According to recent research report released by KPMG, by 2021 the market of online education of paid users is expected to grow from 1.6 million to 9.6 million by 2021 in India. According to PayPal, for 218 million students India has only two million teachers; a ratio of 140:1. More than two million students are already paying online for education, and this is expected to reach 10 million by 2021. It must not be surprising for the readers to note that currently 40 percent of online math tutors globally are Indians.  

Online programmes can be paid or free, and famously known as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). They could be offered on a live mode where faculty and students see and interact with each other online at the same time or through pre-recorded versions where the participants can follow at their convenience. Working professionals, those with career-breaks, housewives, educators and students find immense benefit in the autonomy and flexibility through the online mode in pursuing own goals, tracking one’s progress and meeting deadlines in an affordable way.   

Today, India has always been a priority market for top global online education (MOOC) providers like Coursera and edX. From over 10 million global learners at edX, one million are from India. Coursera on the other hand has more than 23 million global learners, of which 1.8 million are from India, overtaking China to become the second-largest market for the company. Similarly, the governmental initiatives like Digital India and Swayam have been trying to enable online education by offering courses free of cost for children as well as adults.   

In the past few years, government launched various projects such as National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) and National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT) on this front. There is increased awareness since many (private) players are entering the space by following different models.  

Today edX offers more than 1,330 courses from over 110 global institutions, whereas Coursera has partnership with 146 of the world’s universities and offers over 1,700 courses and more than 160 specialisations. Along with offerings from tier 1 global institutes, edX also has strong partnerships with Indian institutions like IIT Bombay, IIM Bangalore, and BITS Pilani, and has blended with learning partners like NIIT and Pearson to impart job-ready skills to learners.  

Players like Byju’s, Khan Academy, Unacademy, iTutor and AlmaMapper are the main players in online education. Startups like UpGrad, Edureka, and Unacademy focus on online test preparation. Simplilearn, Imarticus, Internshala, Udacity, and GreatLearning aim to upskill professionals while startups like Vedantu and Toppr target students from 5th-12th grades.   

Needless to say, these platforms offer a huge clientele for PayPal which is already present on some of them. The average ticket size for transactions on PayPal in the Indian education sector is $20-50. PayPal thus already enjoys familiarity among its target audience that will make its entry in education a little simpler.  

The usage of smart phones, better internet bandwidths and an ever-increasing need for education and skill training at the convenience of the students are the supply side enablers of this industry. By 2021 the internet penetration in India will percolate benefits to nearly 735 million users while 180 million new smart-phone users will be added to the existing ones. The disposable income by that time is expected to grow by 55 percent and nearly 45 percent young population will have the advantage of higher acceptability of online channels.  

It can undeniably be said that the online education is the future of education and the one sector that is most open to disruption, if the words of Ronnie Screwvala are to be paraphrased.  

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