Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for digital education and online learning: Vikas Gupta, MD, Wiley

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Updated: July 23, 2021 5:52 PM

'The Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the global economy, and this has directly impacted the job scenarios across sectors and industries.'

EdTech, online education, digital education, online learning, global pandemic Covid-19, Wiley, WileyNXT, mthree'There is a worldwide technology skills gap crisis, with jobs on the rise and not enough qualified candidates to fill them, resulting in unemployability. '

An industry report claims that India’s EdTech industry current market size is about $700-800 million, and it is expected to reach $30 billion in size in a decade or so. This accounts for India’s critical and significant position in the global education industry. The evolution of technology, coupled with the increasing penetration of smartphones and digital devices has led to an increasing acceptance of alternative learning modes such as online learning in India. The Covid-19 pandemic has further brought with itself a great momentum for the accelerated adoption of digital learning and education. With this, the EdTech sector today is estimated to grow to $10.4 billion by 2025. It has been observed that online certifications validating specific skill sets are largely preferred by learners. Amidst the pandemic, there has been an unprecedented focus on skilling, upskilling and professional learning. It has been realized that skill advancement is essential in today’s world, especially when it comes to STEM domains. The increasing success of the Edtech sector can also be attributed to the government’s impetus on online education and training. The National Education Policy (NEP 2020) is a welcome step in this direction. It is also heartening to see that the top 100 NIRF institutions are being allowed to offer fully online programs. This will further bolster the development of the sector. EdTech entities such as WileyNXT and others are geared towards catering to the needs of the market and helping build an ‘Atmanirbhar’ talent and ‘workforce of the future’ ready to take on modern-day business challenges. Given the positive market trends, we are hopeful of a sustained momentum and growth for the overall EdTech industry. In an exclusive interview with Financial Express Online Vikas Gupta, Managing Director, Wiley, WileyNXT and mthree in India shared his views on the EdTech industry in India, bridge learning solution WileyNXT and more. Excerpts:

Pandemic has created a void for the organization to get the right talent during these challenging times. Do you believe EdTech platforms play a key role in fulfilling that gap through their offerings?

Skill gap is a complex challenge that organisations and companies across geographies have been facing. The global pandemic Covid-19 has further highlighted the hotspot issue and the need for skilling, upskilling and reskilling amongst employees across all levels, especially in the post-pandemic era where niche digital skills are an absolute necessity.

IT industry’s apex body, the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) recently reported that the Indian IT sector is facing a talent crunch for new-age digital skills including emerging technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, cybersecurity, internet of things (IoT) and robotics. This has resulted in a war for talent among firms.

Edtech platforms have a critical role to play in addressing the two central issues- in educating and encouraging people to embrace the concept of lifelong learning and skilling or upskilling and in bridging and closing the talent deficit that exists around the world.

We are at the cusp of industry 4.1 innovation and as newer technologies are coming to the fore, it is becoming more important than ever to adapt to the digital transformation and learning. To keep up with the innovation and market demand, an individual today is expected to upskill almost six times in his or her career span.

With Wiley’s innovative bridge learning solution WileyNXT, we are focusing on nurturing and creating an ‘Atmanirbhar’ talent and workforce, trained in industry-relevant and industry 4.1 skills, and ready to take on the modern-day business challenges.

Tell us more about the industry and the existing competition in the EdTech segment.

There is a worldwide technology skills gap crisis, with jobs on the rise and not enough qualified candidates to fill them, resulting in unemployability. At present, digitally skilled workers represent only 12% of India’s workforce. The number of employees requiring digital skills is expected to increase nine-fold by 2025.

Additionally, there is a high concentration of tech companies, global capability centers (GCCs) and international corporations in India that increasingly demand skills of the future, but India’s university and institutional system is struggling to prepare students for these jobs.

EdTech, online education, digital education, online learning, global pandemic Covid-19, Wiley, WileyNXT, mthreeVikas Gupta, Managing Director, Wiley, WileyNXT & mthree in India

Catering to the needs of the industry, WileyNXT has been built to bridge the skill gap in new and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cyber security, data analytics, and robotics and so on. Under WileyNXT, we offer a host of programs, courses and trainings for our learners to get specialized and trained in industry-relevant digital skills and hence, all our programs deliver the promise of Day 1 job readiness.

Since over 62% of India is aged between 15 and 59 years and of this, the younger population represents the potential for economic growth of the country, most of the edtech players and our competitors are focusing on the skill-gap market. Considering the demographic dividend, bridging and closing the skills gap will have a major impact on the country’s economy over the next few years.

EdTech platforms courses can be opted by metros and non-metros students. What is Wiley’s doing to cater both to the urban and rural students & professionals to make them industry ready?

For over 200 years, the global brand Wiley has been at the forefront of helping people and organisations develop the skill and knowledge that they need to succeed, wherever they are in their education and professional careers. With WileyNXT, we are continuing the legacy by enabling equal opportunities for students and professionals across ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’, the urban and the rural belts of the country.

India graduates 1 million engineers each year, with 94% being not employable and only 4.6% of them possessing good coding skills. To mitigate this, Wiley takes a unique approach. We have two set of programs- one which caters college-to-career transition and the other one, which enables job-to-job career advancement.

Under college-to-career programs, Wiley prioritizes tier II/III colleges and universities of India where students do not typically receive industry exposure or access to jobs from top technology companies. With an aim to “discover those diamonds who deserve to shine,” and enable a larger group of students to achieve their aspirations, we partner with tier 2 and tier 3 institutions to provide industry-relevant skills and certifications to the students from engineering and IT backgrounds. At the undergraduate level itself, we help them hone themselves for day 1 job readiness.

Under job-to-job programs, we help existing tech professionals advance their careers in digital skills. For this, WileyNXT has built a strong relationship with reputed Indian business schools like the IITs and IIMs and foreign universities like NUS. This is to create high-value professional credentials for industry 4.1 skills relating to business and data analytics, analytics for finance professionals, AI marketing, data-driven product management and people and performance analytics. Learners can study emerging technologies like, Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security, Blockchain, etc.

Which sectors are highly impacted during the pandemic and how can they hire the right talent not just from metros but also from tier 2 & 3 cities?

It is true to an extent that the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have not been uniform across industries and organisations. In the wake of the pandemic, the infrastructure, construction, retail, hospitality and real estate sector have witnessed a slowdown, especially after the virulent second wave of Covid-19 in India. However, one cannot deny the fact that the pandemic has also encouraged digital adoption and innovation across these industries, and this is where opportunities are being created for digitally skilled talent across rural and urban areas.

For instance, the manufacturing and supply chain ecosystem are increasingly applying the industry 4.0 applications such as IoT, robotics, analytics and so on. Travel and hospitality industry are reinventing customer processes, interface and experience in view of the evolving customer behavior and preferences. Retail is increasingly moving towards an online and hybrid business model. Big companies and corporations are working towards establishing cloud-based applications for seamless business. The application of AI & machine learning across organizations and industries is another rising trend.

At WileyNXT, we are providing similar courses and curriculum which cater to such niche skill sets and industry requirements. For example, we provide Certifications in Customer Experience Management (CXM) in association with IIM Kozhikode, Data-Driven Product Management in association with IIM Lucknow, Cloud Computing & DevOps program with IIT-Roorkee, Full Stack Developer Program with IIT Mandi. Not just this, we are soon going to introduce Certification in Supply Chain Transformation as well, in partnership with IIM Kozhikode. All these courses have been designed to impart relevant skill sets in learners and develop a skilled workforce for the future.

With the rise in skilling and upskilling, both rural and urban talent are equally working towards building and expanding capabilities. In the post-pandemic milieu, where organisations are very much focused on skills and expertise, we are expecting an uptick in talent demand from the various parts of the country.

Tell us more about your offered programs / courses with IITs and IIMs of the country. 

Under WileyNXT’s job-to-job programs, we have associated with renowned technology and business schools like the IITs and IIMs and foreign universities like NUS to create high-value professional credentials for skills relating to business and data analytics, analytics for finance professionals, AI marketing, data-driven product management and people and performance analytics. At present, partners include IIT Roorkee, IIT Mandi, IIM Lucknow, IIM Kozhikode in India and NUS, Singapore. We have more significant partnership announcements in the pipeline to cater to the growing demand for specialized 4.1 courses.

All our professional learning and upskilling courses are available in the range between one to two lacs. However, we do provide scholarships and financial assistance to students, based on merit. We also have exclusive scholarships for women techies, students and professionals, known as #TechitLikeHer scholarships. Under this, 50% waiver on program fee is offered to women candidate basis for an assessment test

What kind of learning experience students expect from WileyNXT programmes. And does your program guarantee career success and job readiness? 

WileyNXT’s certifications are approved by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), national-level apex advisory body, in India and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), a statutory board of the Singapore government, under the Ministry of Communications and Information.

A council of 70+ top industry and academia leaders in digital technology and business (the Wiley Innovation Advisory Council including members from companies like Wells Fargo, Cognizant, Microsoft and eBay) provide deep insights to develop industry-employable curriculum based in demand job skills and also provide mentorship and training to students, support in development of Wiley’s learning resources and refine training methodologies.

WileyNXT also uses 3500+ business case studies from these leaders to develop labs, projects, case studies alongside digital courseware to drill in contextual skills while building concepts. Additionally, business problem-solvers today are required to look beyond what first feels like a limitation and approach challenges with inquiry, wonder, and innovation.

WileyNXT’s pedagogy integrates design thinking and leadership lessons in the courses to develop the triad of Behavioral, Functional and Technical skills in its learners to address this vision of honing T-shaped individuals.

The design and delivery of Wiley’s unique conceptual and contextual learning model enables the learners to map the taught skills directly to the business environment and be employable from Day 1, thereby “bridging” the massive talent-employability gap for Industry 4.1.

Not just this, part of Wiley, mthree has emerging IT talent programs which works towards delivering trained technology talent to organisations across the globe. mthree sources, trains and hires diverse outstanding people with the skills that are most in demand and embed them seamlessly into some of the world’s largest banks, tech giants, and government agencies. It arms organisations with the skills that they need to thrive in a complex and competitive technology landscape.

Thus, WileyNXT and mthree programs together cater to the needs of the future.

Tell us about WileyNXT performance and success till now. Are we looking for more associations with other Indian and International institutions ahead in future.

Amidst the pandemic, WileyNXT has been able to deliver over 20 specialized programs across 8 skill sets to over 20,000 professionals across the APAC region.  We have certified over 10,000 students and trained more than 20,000 professionals. WileyNXT courses are ‘Made in India for the world’. We have more significant partnership announcements in pipeline to cater to the growing demand for specialized 4.1 courses. Additionally, based on the widespread adoption and success of WileyNXT in India, Wiley is also in action to expand WileyNXT globally, with a strong focus on the APAC region such as China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia amongst others.

Which all courses have seen upsurge during pandemic. And what is your opinion around the reason behind that?  

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the global economy, and this has directly impacted the job scenarios across sectors and industries. Up to 40 per cent of the estimated 5 million-strong Indian workforce needs re-skilling over the next five years to keep pace with automation and changing skill needs in various industries. Organisations need a strategic plan to provide the right skills to their existing employees and acquire new people with the right skill set to fill the gap. All these factors have contributed to the surge in demand for niche digital skills amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

The world is evolving at a very fast pace. From industry 4.0, we have now moved on to industry 4.1.

With this, there has been a growing need and demand for curriculum and courses focused on emerging technologies such as AI, ML, Analytics, Cloud computing etc. At WileyNXT, although all our courses and programs have performed remarkably, the most in-demand courses have been the ones focused on the applications of AI and ML. WileyNXT’s ‘Digital Transformation’ & ‘Data-Driven Product Management’ program has also been observing an encouraging market response for its unique and specialized curriculum.

What is WileyNXT future roadmap (2021-22) by keeping an eye on expected third wave as a result of another lockdown in the country?

Digital juggernaut is the future of the world. Harping on the digital transformation, skilling and upskilling and the evolved talent demand trends across organisation, WileyNXT is eyeing on strategic growth and sustained business momentum.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Wiley’s digital products and services have performed remarkably and witnessed an unprecedented growth. Despite the global pandemic, Wiley India has observed an overall 22 percent growth against the preceding year.

Given positive market trends and Wiley’s favorable momentum, we anticipate revenue growth to continue to accelerate in fiscal 2022.

Your take on any new or foreseen trend in the EdTech industry will witness in 2021-2022.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for digital education and online learning. Universities, students and professionals are pivoting hard to both digital learning and online degrees. With this, we are already witnessing a revolution in the education and the EdTech space. As online and digital learning continues to grow, we can expect more unprecedented developments in the sector.

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