Edtech firms are helping future-proof students with study now, pay later schemes
Courses on offer include coding, machine learning, AI, blockchain, business analytics, digital marketing and design thinking, for those pursuing mainstream degrees.
Kumar Saurav was in a fix as he was completing his Bachelor of Engineering degree. The 22-year-old Mumbai student knew what while the degree was prestigious, it would not be enough in the job market. “With new technologies coming into play every day, back-end and front-end processes are changing,” he says. “Companies, especially startups, are incorporating new technologies and expect you to be able to work with them from day one.” This motivated Kumar to take up a coding course offered by the education-technology startup, InterviewBit.
Several students like Saurav are taking up courses in coding, machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, business analytics, digital marketing and design thinking in addition to their regular degrees. For ed-tech companies, the aim is to get batches of students ready for a market that needs exactly these skills.
“Given the speed at which technology is evolving, conventional college curriculum changes can’t keep up,” says Mayank Kumar, co-founder and managing director, edu-tech company, upGrad. “They’re a long and tedious process, requiring multi-level approval from government bodies as well. This leads to a significant delay in incorporating industry relevant modules in the curriculum. ”
Market experts have pointed out that as more companies start relying on new technology, a lot of roles are going to be automated and some jobs and career paths will also cease to exist. “But at the same time there will be new jobs, which call for skills in areas like machine learning, business analytics or cloud-computing. There are requirements for cloud associates or information security analysts,” says Hari Krishnan Nair, co-founder of edu-tech company Great Learning.
And the same employees would be doing their work very differently. A management professional will be possibly be expected to know analytics and be comfortable with design thinking, he points out. “Data has become far more relevant than it was even a few years ago and it is going to become increasingly important. So our biggest area of focus is on data,” says Kumar.
But these courses are not just limited to technology. upGrad offers courses in digital marketing in association with Cambridge University and MICA. Great Learning offers a course in design thinking, which is defined as a human-centric approach to problem-solving, in association with Stanford University.
Deferred payment plans
Some companies are also willing to wait till the student gets a job before they collect their course fees. These education technology startups offer niche courses that can be paid for using the income share agreement (ISA) model. Students pay the course fee in interest-free EMIs only after getting a job, and upon receiving their first salary. If a student is not employed within the stipulated time or if it doesn’t offer the minimum CTC promised, the course fee is forfeited.
Saurabh Saxena is the chief operating officer of InterviewBit, whose Scaler platform offers a six-month, online coding program with the ISA payment model. “A student loan provides financial aid, but there is no correlation with the impact the course has on the student’s career,” he says. “With ISA, we get paid only after the student gets placed, which means that it’s in our interest to make the student employable.”
For this, industry professionals are hired as mentors and teachers; lectures are supplemented with assignments, regular tests and mock interviews. “Our curriculum is updated frequently to keep it relevant,” says JK Reddy, founder of 6Benches, which offers ISA courses in data science and machine learning, full stack web development and Java. Plus, tech companies are brought on board as hiring partners.
But all’s not a bed of roses for the student. For one, getting selected for the course can be quite a challenge. Divyam Goel, founder and CEO of AttainU, which offers a software engineering ISA course, says that their most recent batch saw around 20,000 applicants. Only about 150 were shortlisted. There can also be a significant amount of coursework involved.
But on the whole, it’s worth the effort, say students. “When I told my parents that I wanted to do the course offered by InterviewBit, they were a little hesitant because it cost ₹3 lakh. The ISA model helped persuade them,” says Naman Bhalla, 21, who’s currently awaiting his offer letter from a leading tech company. Samarth Keskar, 23, who got placed at DocVita as a software engineer after completing AttainU’s course says, “Deferred fee payment, great access to jobs and hands-on mentorship were the reasons why I chose the course.”