The metamorphosis of education technologies is leading to the creation of many new avenues for knowledge economy, writes Ruhi Ahuja Dhingra
Too busy to take up an MBA, or do not want to travel to far flung cities to pursue the course of your choice? Switch on your computer, connect to the web and experience online education refine the way you learn. Welcome to the digital age!
Whether it is communication, work or shopping, people across the world are becoming increasingly dependent on the Internet. Thanks to the digital revolution. In today’s world, people can easily learn and teach too, right from elementary education to the university level, sitting at home. Reports say that the market of online education stands at $20 million today and is expected to get twice as large by 2017.
Universities in India and the world over are offering online courses that help students learn from the best of faculty and mentors from across the globe. The Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have formed a nonprofit partnership, edX, to offer interactive online courses for free to students. Other universities are also partnering with online education companies to provide eLearning courses along similar lines. This eliminates the need to go to a university’s campus and pay huge money to take at least a course that does not demand hands-on training.
“Online education can prove to be very effective for any course that does not require lab work or is not too technical like engineering and medicine. Therefore, the objective of access to education can be achieved through online education, and it will also create an equitable order, whether you can afford it or not,” says Prof (Dr) Ranbir Singh, Vice Chancellor, National Law University, Delhi.
The upsurge in the demand for online education can be attributed to various factors like flexibility, ease of learning, low cost, interactivity, and multiple choices of subjects and courses. eLearning courses are also used by corporate to keep their employees abreast of the latest technology.
How effective is online learning?
“There are three important points in education: access, equity, quality. Every student in the country does not have the access or the means to come to a college. There is a huge gap between Education those who can afford education and those who can’t. Online education will fill up that gap,” believes Dr Singh.
Even in the US, the eLearning market is one of the fastest growing segments. With a lot of more K-12 schools and higher education institutions (HEIs) adopting online education, the demand has risen rapidly in the past five years. Not just this, the high penetration of devices like smartphones, laptops and tablets, has also made a significant contribution in the development of online learning across the globe. A few innovative mobile learning solutions too, have been piloted. They have very little success in pockets and still need to go a far way before they become an established solution.
One of the leading online education providers, Hughes Global Education, has tied up with a lot of renowned institutions like the IITs and IIMs in India to provide online education and training programmes to students and professionals. It offers degree, diploma and certificate programmes and connects the students and teachers through a professional studio.
Universities too, have realised the immense potential that eLearning holds and have thus begun to offer online programmes that help the students in learning themselves and at their own pace.
The winning proposition
Online learning is the best way to learn important courses like Management, Engineering, Finance, Economics, English Literature from professionals from across the world even if you are working. There is a wide array of courses you can choose from and learn them from wherever you are. You can also choose which method of study you want to opt for and the time when you want to study: a different world of learning with convenience and ease. Once a student receives the course material, he can learn by interacting with mentors via chats, emails and discussion forums.
Virtual classrooms also provide instant scale of delivery. They can be very effective if used appropriately in an eLearning programme. In today’s market, there are cost effective solutions which reduce the cost drastically.
Indians reap the benefits
A lot of Indians, who never had access to high quality education, and also the students in prestigious institutions in the country, can now learn a wide array of subjects from professors from universities like the MIT and Stanford. The videos are extraordinary and different from those in the physical classrooms in India. Students can watch these videos at any time, participate in discussions and take the tests and exercises. Onlin education is sure to have a lot of impact on India as a huge number of students in our country, especially those in rural areas, yearn to get access to good quality education that paves the way for a brighter tomorrow.
There are so many parts of India that do not have schools. Moreover, a lot of schools in the country face shortage of faculty. Online education can fill that gap too. You can prepare good lectures and material and put them up online. Therefore, for a country like India, online education definitely has a lot of relevance, says Dr Singh.
A joint initiative of seven Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institute of Science, National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), aims at enhancing the reach and the quality of engineering education in the country through free video and web courses on YouTube. It had about 260 courses in its first phase and has proposed more than 1,000 for the second phase. The courses can also be downloaded for viewing offline.
The online education market stands at $20 million today and is expected to get twice as large by 2017
A huge market
According to a report by the Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology (MAIT), the sale of personal computers went up by 16 percent in 2011-12, spurring the growth of eLearning in the country. Since online education is embracing all distance education and virtual universities, there certainly is a huge market with tremendous potential. “Considering the huge expansion that is happening in India, online education can be really effective,” adds Dr Singh.
In one of its studies, the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) said that the education sector will attract an investment of a whopping $1 billion from private equity and venture capital firms. The report also said that a majority of this investment will be in technology-enabled education initiatives.
Online education providers too, predict that the online education market in India will continue to expand in the years to come. Over the next few years there will be a push to consolidate among subscale players. New entrants will continue to look at micro markets. The larger players will look at expanding beyond their current strong holds into adjacent areas.
Online education: The future
Let’s think about the bigger picture. Online education cannot replace a teacher in a physical classroom, but can certainly supplement the formal education system. Since all the course content: lectures, research papers, notes and case studies; is just a click away, education is sure to revolutionise. Knowledge can be gained at any anytime and from anywhere and is not confined to the four walls of a classroom.
Most of the academic leaders believe that online learning is a critical part of their institutions’ long-term academic strategy. Online education providers are also constantly exploring new ways to enhance the way education is being imparted to the masses across the world.
With one in three students opting for at least one online course, online education is growing at a tremendous pace and is here to stay.
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