How pandemic changed method of teaching for Kota institutes

Online players like Unacademy and Physics Wallah (PW) set up shop in Kota a month back, but they have retained their DNA of online teaching.

How pandemic changed method of teaching for Kota institutes
Both online and offline modes will now operate in hybrid mode.

By Shubhangi Shah

If there is one important lesson that coaching institutes in Kota, Rajasthan, learnt during the pandemic is that offline and online methods of teaching will have to go hand-in-hand.

Offline players are back to classrooms, but they have not abandoned the digital tools they deployed during the pandemic. In fact, those skills are actually being sharpened as they face increasing competition from edtech companies.

Echoing the sentiment, Govid Maheshwari, director of Allen Institute, a Kota-based institute which prepares lakhs of students for engineering and medical entrance exams, said, “For reaching maximum number of students, hybrid learning can be the way forward.”

Online players like Unacademy and Physics Wallah (PW) set up shop in Kota a month back, but they have retained their DNA of online teaching. For students, the flexibility that online classes provides is a big draw. “If I am sick or travelling, I don’t miss classes on account of the availability of digital tools,” an Allen Institute student told FE.

Digital to aid physical

Nitin Vijay, founder and CEO of Motion Classes, believes the role of technology should be to aid classroom learning, pointing out that hybrid does not mean half classes offline and the other half online. “The role of lecture delivery is just 20-25%, which must happen physically. The tech support should be in the back-end. And this is what hybrid is,” he said. But, according to him, one thing cannot be contested: “The innovation in digital education that might have happened in 15 years, Covid made it possible in two.”

At the start of the pandemic, Motion Classes tied up with edtech major Byju’s to provide test papers and video lectures. Similarly, Kota’s oldest player, Bansal Classes, tied up with Unacademy to bring its courses online. Sameer Bansal, managing director at Bansal Classes, said, “This is what Covid has shown. Both online and offline modes will now operate in hybrid mode.”

Is hybrid the future?

Mohit Bhargava, a physics teacher formerly with Allen, who recently joined Unacademy’s offline centre, said his biggest realisation during the pandemic was that the future of learning rests with hybrid. “Whatever I teach in the classroom, the student must be provided those in an online mode as well,” he said, adding that the personal connection of physical classes and flexibility of online gives you the best of both worlds.

Unacademy’s physical classrooms follow a hybrid model. Students study offline for certain days in a week and get a one-year subscription of its online Plus course, “where you can take lessons from teachers across India”, as Bhargava explained. For this, a student has to pay `1 lakh per year or `1.8 lakh for a two-year course. On the other hand, the standalone Unacademy Plus, which includes live lectures, tests and quizzes, costs approximately `65,000.

Interestingly, Bhargava’s former recruiter recently launched its digital arm, Allen Digital. The announcement came amid its ongoing spat with edtech players over poaching of teachers. Offering a blend of offline and online learning, the digital tools allow students to customise learning modules as per their academic goals, the company had said in a statement then. The coaching major also received a $600-million funding from James Murdoch and Uday Shankar-backed Bodhi Tree Systems recently.

The institute has both offline as well as online courses, charging around `90,000 for online and `1.52 lakh for similar courses in the offline mode. The recorded lectures are available on its app too. An Allen spokesperson told FE that they were seeing record number of admissions for offline classes, with a healthy response to online courses as well.

PW, in fact, has a different vertical, called PW Pathshala, catering to hybrid learning alone. “Here, teachers teach from studios and classes go live pan India. There is a two-way communication too, as students can turn on their mics to clear doubts,” said Swapnil Sharma, the company’s faculty acquisition officer. “We have also launched PW Vidyapeeth, our offline centre with digital add-ons. Here, classes are taught on smart boards, recordings of which are made available to students on our app,” he explained.

While PW’s hybrid learning costs around `35,000, its physical courses come for around `50,000. Despite opening just last month, 16,000 students have already enrolled at its Kota centre and its Pathshala is getting far more candidates than the approximately 18,000 seats available.

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