How e-learning is evolving to meet the Digital India challenge

  • Gauri Kohli, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 07, 2015 20:51 IST
A recent UK-India business Council report titled meeting India’s Educational Challenges Through E-Learning states that India is the second biggest e-learning market globally after the US. (Shutterstock)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision and efforts for Digital India are being well-received by the Silicon Valley in the US. While it means a lot for Indians the way they live and work, it would also give a new meaning to the country’s education sector. A recent UK-India business Council report titled Meeting India’s Educational Challenges Through E-Learning states that India is the second biggest e-learning market globally after the US.

What’s in store?

The country’s education sector is undergoing a revolution, thanks to rapid internet penetration and the availability of low-cost mobile and hand-held devices. With technology playing a major role in multiplying reach and providing access to learning tools and material, this opportunity is being seen as a huge potential for many foreign and domestic training providers offering online education opportunities in the country. “Yet efforts are still fragmented and many of the more advanced innovations in online education technology remain the remit of private enterprises. In an effort to bring rural India in to the digital age, the Centre has launched the Digital India campaign. Some of this campaign’s targets include providing broadband connectivity to a quarter of a million rural villages by 2019 and making Wi-Fi connections available in schools,” says the report.

Reaching out to learners

So how is this impacting e-learning and digital education providers? According to Atul Kulshrestha, chairman and managing director, Extramarks, “Digital education today is no longer limited to the four walls of a classroom. It has paved way for virtual classrooms, making learning attainable and providing easy access everywhere and every time. This has allowed students to use digital learning as a ‘flipped classroom’ adding considerable value to the manner in which education is imparted. The latest trends in digital education space also include adaptive and collaborative learning where a student is engaged by practising, experiencing, sharing things and gaining knowledge in a collaborative environment. The fourth generation of communication technology is speculated to revolutionise the digital education space by providing cutting-edge user experience.”

Another digital learning provider McGraw Hill Education India is also making efforts to provide access to learning material and tools to learners. “Our aim is to use educational technology to help students and teachers learn and teach better. Studies have shown that technologies enable personalised learning yield better outcomes. Through online learning and multimedia tools, students of all ages, teachers and professionals are engaged, stimulated and empowered to succeed with tools like SmartBooks, Learnsmart, Access Science and Access Engineering,” says Kaushik Bellani, MD McGraw Hill Education India.

Giving examples on the ways digital learning is reaching students, Kulshrestha says, “A talk-n-chalk classroom is being replaced by interactive whiteboard with projectors and speakers, which is student centric that breeds immersive learning environment. Reports show that a number of institutions are taking steps to adopt the digital approach to learning. The changed perspective is evident from the fact that all good schools have now switched to Smart Learn Classes as per the current trend. They are no longer rigid in their teaching methodologies. To support e-learning, students require easy availability of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, to make the flipped class a reality. We need to spread more awareness amongst the teaching fraternity, students and most importantly parents about the marvels of the digital education space. We have recently launched a pay per use app aimed at making learning engaging through digital learning solutions which include rich multimedia and animations to make learning easy and effective. These learning solutions cover entire CBSE and ICSE board and offer various study options to students like Quick Study and Just a Minute which present a synopsis of the entire lesson in a single view. It also offers high order thinking skills questions, virtual lab experiments, solved Board papers, formative discussions, chapter-wise Q&A to substantiate learning with practice. It also contains MCQs and quizzes to let students assess themselves at each level for strong understanding about the subject matter. The real time progress can be tracked and a performance report is instantly generated.”

Maximising impact

For digital learning to make an impact till the last mile there has to be a larger vision of integrating technology into our complex education system. To achieve this, it is imperative that we put our stakes on digital infrastructure, ready access, quality e-content and affordability. Learning should be made interactive and fun for the learners to exponentially enhance retention and application, adds Bellani.

The government’s focus is to integrate technology in digital learning for both urban and rural India. It is also looking at public-private-partnerships to enhance reach to rural and remote areas.

To have a positive impact on learning and solve the big educational problems in India, technology is not the only solution that we are looking at. There is need to have a bigger vision of enabling technology to help students learn better and teachers teach better. Therefore, solutions to hurdles like affordability, accessibility, mode of delivery and content are indispensable.

Technology has made it possible to implement digital classrooms. “Through technology, efficiencies and transparency can be brought into schools by helping stakeholders such as students, teachers, parents and administrators streamline routine tasks, improve assessments and learner/teacher data collection. However, the greatest advantage of using technology in classrooms remains the uniformity of the educational process which ensures that the same quality of education is delivered in all domains and regions, and also improves the efficiency of the teachers’ manifolds,” says Kulshrestha.

Experts also believe that for inputs to be translated into learning, it is important that the learning is interactive besides being digital. “The digital education space is at a nascent stage in India. The industry is fragmented and there is no player currently who is offering a suite of courses to cater to the varied needs of learners. Since, e-learning is at a buoyant stage, live interactivity that empowers high engagement and social collaborative learning has rendered the conventional format of e-learning led by recorded lectures and course slightly inadequate. Digital learning as a format can work better across levels, courses and streams than conventional format,” says Aditya Malik, CEO and MD, Talentedge.

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