Published: 01st November 2020
The EdTech story: Their COVID-induced growth and the course of action after colleges reopen
With all stakeholders turning to EdTech platforms to tide over these testing times, how much growth have these platforms seen and how will the relationship change after colleges reopen?
Routines were the first thing that went out the window when the pandemic descended and the lockdown was called for. From the way we step out, armed with masks, sanitisers and other weapons, to the way we interact, no shaking-hands business anymore, the humble namaste is indeed #trending again. But what has changed most of all is the way we learn. So, the get up-get ready-travel to college-get to class routine of students has been cut down to just two steps, get up-log into class and the credit solely goes to EdTech platforms and Zoom, of course. But focusing only on the former, sample this: according to data from Venture Intelligence, the investment in India's education technology start-ups was $409 million in 2019. Guess what the figure is this year? It's a whopping $1.5 billion and this is just from the last nine months. India's current cricket captain, Virat Kohli himself is endorsing one of these start-ups during this year's IPL!
Bottom line, no matter which report we quote or which advertisement we highlight, the fact of the matter is that the EdTech industry has been on an upswing. So we got in touch with the who's who of EdTech like Coursera, Udemy, upGrad, Great Learning, Skill Lync and Scaler Academy to know how fruitful the turn towards e-learning has been and how they reckon their relationship with educational institutions will change once they reopen, just like they might in Telangana, COVID notwithstanding.
Over to the EdTechs
While all agree that they have seen massive growth in terms (of what?), Raghav Gupta, Managing Director, India and APAC, Coursera, feels that what started as a short-term response to a crisis will result in the long-term digital transformation of higher education. From five million registered users from India at the beginning of 2020, the numbers of the US-based platform have grown to 9.9 million now. They even launched ten COVID-related courses and they seem to be doing tremendously well. Coursera even partnered with Telangana Academy for Skill and Knowledge (TASK) to train 50,000 unemployed graduates during the COVID-19 crisis.
Another US-based MOOC, Udemy, saw a surge of 200 per cent in enrollment rate from India and a 77 per cent increase in the number of IT and Software courses alone! And as far as the shift to digital education goes, Irwin Anand, MD, Udemy India, feels that this "fundamental shift" will be "sustained over time". He adds, "With a greater number of people being exposed to online learning for the first time, we anticipate that many may continue to rely on learning this way in the future." When we quiz him about their latest Global Skills Gap Report, in which one of the findings reflects that 92 per cent feel they need to constantly upskill due to existing competition, and the role EdTechs will play in this, he avers that, "These trends illustrate not only a need for learning but a need for learning that’s accessible and flexible. It’s also clear that in order to be effective, education must be dynamic and meet individuals where they are, in their specific moment of need."
When it comes to Made in India upGrad's numbers, their Software Development vertical, in terms of learner-base, has grown by 66 per cent in the current quarter as compared to Q1, along with Blockchain which grew by almost 20 per cent. Last quarter, 77 per cent of their learners achieved meaningful outcomes with upGrad and have been placed in renowned companies, informs Arjun Mohan, CEO - India, upGrad. "Engineers have always been employers' preferred choice until we technology started taking over our ecosystem. Employers of today are looking for engineers who have both a traditional degree and a strong foundation of new-age skills like Data Processing, Cloud Infrastructure, Data Analytics, Natural Learning Processing, Interactive Web UI and so on," he says, pointing out that though upGrad doesn't offer a regular engineering course, they offer advanced programmes across various areas.
Going online | (Pic: Internet)
To blend or not to blend
Out of the two lakh students who have come on to Gurugram-based Great Learning's platform in the past three months alone, 1.7 lakh of them are Engineering students. Arjun Nair, Founder and CEO, Great Learning, predicts that because nobody is clear as to when classes will start in full swing, blended learning might be the way forward. "Currently, credits can be earned only through Swayam. We hope that at some point in the future, not too far away, it would be great if students can earn credits from our courses too."
A platform that focuses only on courses for Mechanical, Electrical and Civil Engineering, Skill-Lync has seen a 20 per cent uptick with respect to student interests. "Blended learning will increase dramatically — residential courses will be better for the practice that professors have received in moving content online, as precious classroom time will be more productively utilised for discussion, debate and guided practice," opines SuryaNarayanan PaneerSelvam, Co-founder and Director of Sales.
Bengaluru-based Scaler Academy shares even more detailed numbers. "We have seen a 127 per cent increase in the average session duration on the Scaler platform in the last six months alone. The number of sessions held per user has also witnessed a 200 per cent increase with students now spending more time engaging with platform content," informs Abhimanyu Saxena, Co-Founder, InterviewBit & Scaler Academy, who believes that "the lockdown and remote working environment" have "accelerating the demand for upskilling".
So, the jury might still be out on what kind of relationship educational institutions and EdTech platforms will share in a post-COVID world, but this much is for sure that the course of education, as we know it, has changed.
Those direct quotes
As per the new National Education Policy, institutions may soon feel the need to integrate online learning into their curriculum to provide students access to high-quality, multidisciplinary learning
Raghav Gupta, Coursera
We’re confident that continuous learning — for learning new skills or upskilling to find new employment — is table stakes for the modern world
Irwin Anand, Udemy
We have seen a high demand for our Software Development, Machine Learning and AI, Blockchain programmes that offer relevant skillsets to learners hailing from an Engineering background
Arjun Mohan, upGrad
Online education will be recognised as core to every engineering school’s plan for institutional resilience and academic continuity
SuryaNarayanan PaneerSelvam, Skill-Lync
There is a lot more openness to the idea of e-learning now. No way will it replace traditional education but there will certainly be a collaboration that will significantly impact the education gap that exists
Arjun Nair and Mohan Lakhamraju, Great Learning
Both students and working professionals are now turning towards EdTech platforms to either acquire new skills or re-skill to be 'future-ready'
Abhimanyu Saxena, InterviewBit and Scaler Academy
Coursera: Python, Machine Learning, AI
Udemy: Neural Networks, TensorFlow, Chatbots
upGrad: Software Development, Machine Learning, AI
Great Learning: Python, Data Science, Computer Science
Skill-Lync: Full Stack Development, EV Development, High Rise Building Design
Will I or won't I send my child to college?
My daughter has many health issues like asthma, hence, she is more vulnerable than others. Only if a vaccine is available can we consider it. As far as the job market is concerned, we were not very confident, but she got placed so we have some faith now
Goduguluri Jayanti, Guntur
Even if the college reopens, I will not send my son. I am not confident about the college's ability to adhere to COVID norms. But with online classes, there are too many disturbances and students get easily sidetracked
A Saritha, Hyderabad
My child was in a hostel preparing for JEE Advanced and he came back home. I feel that children are mature enough to follow all the safety precautions themselves. Also, online classes are better until there is a vaccination. They also cause less stress
Seema Jain, Hyderabad
As far as online classes are concerned, the faculty members are not prepared for them. And even students are shy to ask doubts. I feel that physical classes are better because online, practical aspects are tough to teach. So children must learn to take care of themselves in college
V Srinivas Rao