Published: 21st July 2020
Taking teaching online: Is pre-recorded content the way to initiate e-learning in rural India?
Can the e-learning process work in rural areas as well? Shveta Raina, the Founder and CEO of Talerang tells us how they are helping bridge that gap
Our lives have gone virtual and so has our work. In this day and age, it is extremely important to update our skills and do it as fast as we can. We spoke to Shveta Raina, the Founder and CEO of Talerang. Her organisation provides career training to students and professionals to make them job-ready from the day you land a job. But has the shift to online changed things for them? Is there a paradigm shift around the corner in the Indian job market? Can the e-learning process work in rural areas as well? Shveta answers all these questions and much more in this candid conversation. Excerpts:
We have seen an obvious spike in online courses in the past four months. How has that affected your student intake?
Our courses are focused on employability and lead to placement opportunities. This is becoming increasingly important given the current competitive job market and scarcity of campus placements. We have seen our applications and interest double over the last few months in our different online training courses and programs. The courses bridge the gap across different competencies and skill areas ranging from communication to leadership skills and marketing to finance. While there is active interest from corporates and colleges, we also see a surge in applications from young professionals looking for placement opportunities.
Many Indian institutes have had trouble shifting online. How was your experience of the shift? Did you face problems or were you already accustomed to the online system fairly?
From a training standpoint, we have been running online programs for a while so it was a smooth transition. Our training satisfaction ratings from customers remained at more than 95 per cent despite moving all aspects of the program online and this was reassuring. One challenge was that initially, we felt that not interacting with our corporate partners, students and college partners would make it difficult to create awareness about our programs. However, through the digital tools we have been able to create awareness and attract students and organisations. Our audiences are very active on social media and are digitally savvy. Additionally, word of mouth is very strong right now and we are finding that close to 50% of our enrollments come from this channel so not physically visiting and meeting with our potential customers wasn’t having a major impact. Now, we are in touch with our alumni and existing student base virtually through WhatsApp, webinars and Instagram live sessions which have actually led to more engagement than when we were doing it offline.
The Internet is vital to online education and a majority of our country suffers from less-than-decent connectivity. How can we make the e-learning process work even in Tier II or III cities and rural areas?
Using a platform which has a mix of pre-recorded training videos, articles, assessments, bite-sized content makes a big difference. This can be the supplements of live webinars (which require more bandwidth). WhatsApp, SMS and phone mentorship can also increase access to students from rural areas. Apps and web apps that are mobile-friendly are the way to go, along with platforms that are translated into multiple languages.
Experts have said that entrepreneurship is something the government should promote to help the economy back up. Is it happening?
The government is definitely promoting entrepreneurship in spirit. However, entrepreneurs need to also be willing to collaborate with the government machinery and work within their frameworks and schemes which are often complex to understand.
What can the government do to help boost the ecosystem?
There are existing schemes in place but more collaboration and clarity is required. What would also be helpful is an awareness campaign to enlighten entrepreneurs about the help that is offered to them and also on the procedure to access the available programmes. More recognition of start-ups from the government also would help boost the morale of founders and teams as well as increasing the adoption of their products. This is easy to do without much investment and could hold a lot of value. Perhaps also some simple incentives such as lower GST in the Education space and some grants to social enterprises would boost companies and encourage more to take the leap into entrepreneurship!
Industry experts have time and again spoken about how we need to be work-ready on Day Zero. Is that happening? How can we enhance that?
Currently, students are not work-ready. We believe that the solution is multipronged. Firstly, effective training in 21st-century skills is important. The training needs to be in three stages- knowing yourself, preparing yourself and then proving yourself. Secondly, access to structured and relevant internships is key for students and young professionals to apply their domain knowledge and become more professional. Third, mentorship and guidance is critical to hone each individual as per their aspirations and strengths. This combination, right from the high school level (grade 8 onwards) is critical. We have 350 corporate partners who we collaborate with for the industry opportunities. With a high quality and intensive approach and strong coordination between academia and industry, we can enhance the employability of our future graduates.
Is there a crisis when it comes to being work-ready? What are you doing to fill the gap?
Based on research with thousands of students and 350 corporates across sectors we have found six key competencies (or soft skill) gaps among students while hiring — self-awareness, life vision, business communication, first impressions, ability to work smart, resume/Interviewing skills. In addition, there are 14 hard skill areas such as marketing, finance, coding, design, research and which are relevant today and graduates should choose between if they want to get placed. We also work directly with colleges and corporates to train large numbers of students and professionals and bridge the gap. We have prepared over one lakh students offline through various programmes and reached over 2 million students through digital and other partnerships. For example, we have trained students graduating from the IITs, partnered with banks for their onboarding training, and also done large scale sponsored training for students from low-income backgrounds. We have leveraged technology in all our programmes to reach more people and that greatly helps to solve this massive crisis. With millions graduating every year, online training followed by virtual projects and internships is a great way to get our country work-ready at scale. For those who have less time on their hands and limited resources, we have developed a pocket-friendly self-paced online career connect programme that enhances academic degrees with real-world, practical knowledge demanded by the top organisations of today. It is an end to end the programme with assessments, training, mentorship and placement opportunities and will allow us to create a meaningful change at scale.