The epidemic, among other things, has disrupted learning and teaching practices and methods at all levels around the world. Such disruptions, however, have significantly increased the online education market which has shown an exceptional growth rate.
Covid-19 and its consequent lockdown have forced schools, colleges and universities to stop all regular face-to-face educational interactions between teachers and students. They literally had to move overnight to the online-learning-teaching model. This not only involves skills in a fairly unfamiliar set of skills for both teacher and student but also alleviates infrastructural limitations such as poor connectivity and low-performance devices, revealing several inherent inadequacies of the existing education system.
Beneficial developments in the field of information and communication technology (ICT) – such as increasing Internet penetration, focusing on the appropriate skills of the country’s workforce and strengthening the country’s digital infrastructure for education – have already initiated some growth in Indian educational technology (edtech) sector. Covid-induced house arrests have significantly increased the demand for online education as educational institutions as well as wealthy families have been forced to provide information and use of multimedia education technology to facilitate a quality learning experience for students.
In India, edtech start-ups emerged as the largest source of funding in 2020 – in just nine months of the year – with venture capital (VC) investments worth US $ 1.5 billion, compared to US $ 409. Millions upon millions in the whole of 2019. According to authentic research, the ongoing epidemic has triggered a 3-5 percent increase in free visitors and a 50-100 percent increase in the monthly revenue of several edtech companies. This kind of growth demonstrates that for global and domestic venture capital and private equity firms, edtech is undoubtedly the most preferred segment.
According to a reliable report, Indian K-12 online education is expected to reach US $ 1.7 billion market by 2022 with a growth of 6.3 times. Initially, edtech’s sphere was mainly focused on the K-12 segment. Now, however, the post-K12 market – which also includes digital support for college and university curricula, competitive exam preparation, and corporate training in addition to a few other components – is expected to grow 3.7 times to US $ 1.8. The entire Indian edtech market looks set to reach US $ 3.5 billion by 2022.
The Indian digital education industry is opening up new and innovative ways of learning and teaching and is witnessing massive user growth. However, the sudden closure of educational institutions and the rush to shift from face-to-face offline education to generally unknown and unnecessary online digital education has created some significant challenges for both teachers and students.
Some of the challenges teachers face
Lack of technical knowledge: Most teachers are not aware or trained in the successful use of online digital teaching tools, processes and methods. Teachers, especially in Tier II and Tier III cities, find it difficult to adapt to the needs of online learning and to conduct meaningful virtual classes. In fact, most teachers do not have basic knowledge of computer use or exposure to effective online learning techniques. More often than not, conscientious teachers try to overcome such problems through their own trial and error method 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 inadequate skills and exposure to accessing relevant digital course materials. Not only that, they have no choice but to curate the course content in their own way, break that content into appropriate texts, convert the text to electronic format – using apps like PPT, Excel Sheet. Relevant video recording and graphics and animation – and presenting it as an element of students’ motivational learning. It is admirable that many teachers are training themselves to use open resources to take material online.
Inadequate monitoring of discipline: The main objective of the teacher is to provide quality learning facilities to the students and to focus on the discipline required for learning with others. Classroom tutoring is undoubtedly more appropriate for proper maintenance of discipline and implementation of generally accepted rules for a safe and secure learning environment. In virtual classrooms, however, because teachers do not have real communication with students and do not adhere to learning concepts with students and peers, it becomes difficult for teachers to maintain discipline and keep an eye on inattentive learning. For effective online learning at home, it is essential that parents or other family members take responsibility for providing students with a suitable learning environment.
Student Employment Problems: It is of course quite difficult for teachers to make online classes really interesting and engaging for students. Effective use of digital multi-media tools to attract the attention of generally inattentive students is the only solution that can transform students into self-directed students. However, for that transformation to take place, teachers must go through rigorous professional training that is not happening at the moment.
Difficulty tracking student progress: When students learn from a distance, it is very difficult for teachers to have such personal interactions with their students that regular face-to-face classes help them identify students who are lagging behind or lack interest or are simply lazy. Initiate their issues and remedial action. Although teachers conduct various assessments to ensure that students achieve the standards achieved through online learning, there is sometimes reason to suspect that the student concerned did not actually write the relevant exam. In fact, there are many ways to bank class online when giving a teacher 100 percent understanding of class attendance. Because teachers have to spend a lot of time creating their lessons and study material, they rarely have the opportunity to engage with students outside of the time allotted for their classes and give them appropriate feedback. Teachers are often concerned about the very reliability of processes that track their students’ progress.
Some of the challenges that students face
Digital Divide: Despite the steady rise in Internet penetration and the exceptional growth of information technology in India, the unfortunate division between ‘Hives’ and ‘Have-Notes’ remains intact. Disadvantaged families cannot afford the cost of virtual schools for their children who make up the vast majority of the student population, even without access to the basic necessities of digital education. They don’t know or don’t know anything about computer or mobile telephone or even internet connection. At the same time, there are children of wealthy families who are enjoying the benefits of the so-called digital revolution. This division is known as the “digital divide” between the “no has” and the “stay” of the new age. However, it is good that the state and central governments of India have realized that there can be no social improvement without providing online education to the economically weaker sections. Several government agencies, as well as NGOs, are doing significant work to make this happen.
Lack of digital literacy: While the children of affluent families are becoming really technology-savvy, on the other side of that divide are many students who are not technically proficient at all. These disadvantaged children have no exposure or awareness of how to log in or attend live online classes or submit online homework. Even using the basic programs of Word and Excel seems difficult for such students. They must be competent with basic knowledge of computer operation and exposure. Fortunately, the government and other agencies are working hard to achieve this goal.
The difficulty of sudden change: The abrupt transition from offline face-to-face learning to online digital learning has affected students in a number of adverse ways. Learning face to face in school was primarily a social experience involving teachers, coworkers and others. It is proving difficult for students to adapt to the need for online learning without any real interaction with any of the learning partners – classmates, teachers and others in the school community. Man is a very social animal for living a lonely life. Students, accustomed to learning with others, are often unable to make the necessary adjustments to the isolated online schooling model.
The education system of this country is moving further towards the model of mixed education in the post-Covid world. Blended learning integrates the best of offline and online learning to provide students with the best possible learning experience. We also need to overcome the limitations of digital division. The government and edtech companies must work together to come up with better solutions to address these challenges.