With over half of the Indian internet population in the age bracket of 18-35, India has raced to the number two spot globally in terms of absolute volume of education related search queries on Google. This was recently revealed in a study titled ‘Students on the web’ compiled by Google India. The study was compiled by combining Google search query patterns and an offline research conducted by TNS Australia on behalf of Google India. The study revealed that over 60% Indian students, who have access to internet, use it as their first source to research for information related to educational courses and institutes.
Student behavior for education research is changing in a digitally powered world. Talking about the offline and online drivers of change, Rajan Anandan, vice president and managing director of Google India, says, “Students are increasingly using the internet as the first source of information to begin any academic research. This is largely because the web offers easy access to high quality and relevant information that often combines with user reviews and forums. While our study took only the top seven cities in the country into account, we take cognisance of the fact that in general over 35% of the internet traffic comes from smaller towns which have population less than 10 lakh. Students in those cities do not have access to high quality counsellors or institutes and hence resort to the internet for authentic information.”
India comes second only to the US in terms of web-based education inquiries and research. So is it because of the sheer numbers of our population? “With just 10% of internet penetration, India already commands the third largest internet user base in the world after China and the US. This coupled with the fact that over 50% of our population is in the age group of 18-35 and is looking to study further - education queries have been continuously exploding on Google. It won’t be surprising if we overtake the US in the near future. So yes, a huge base of young Indians on the internet is definitely a big factor,” answers Anandan. While making decisions in terms of course of study one cannot afford to go wrong. Information available on Google needs to be validated by offline sources of authority. Google, has to play a significant role in this critical aspect. Agreeing to this fact Anandan says, “As an organisation Google does endorse this view and this is precisely why during the survey we asked students if they trust the information available on the internet. We found that over 69% students do trust the information as they can read the user’s reviews.” He continues, “However, as a search engine we only play a role in helping people find the information they’re looking for. When it comes to Google search we don’t curate the content on the internet. We have another initiative on YouTube - called YouTube EDU - which provides access to high quality content from universities across the globe - infact the NPTEL channel which hosts videos of lectures from all IITs is one of the most watched channels on YouTube - and we are actively working with educational content creators in India to bring more of education content on board.”
Talking about future trends in the domain of web-enabled education research, Anandan says, “What will be interesting to see is how quickly the institutes realize this growing trend and become more digitally savvy. The mobile space shall be a big driver of this research process as students are increasingly using their mobile phones to get online. However, none of the institutes have mobile friendly websites.”