Is the edtech surge here to stay?

The market for edtech products will likely expand.

edtech, coronavirus, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus impact on edtech, e-learning in schools, Byju's Coursera, Oxford Advantage, Oxford University Press, online education
Coursera India added 363,000 learners in March (173% jump in registrations).

According to a study by edtech platform Schoolguru, pre-Covid-19 about 800 colleges were using e-learning (1.5% of the 50,000-odd colleges in India), but now about 10% have started exploring online options and many more are planning to.

Edtech company Byju’s saw 150% rise in the number of new students learning on its app after it announced free access in March, and 6 million new students started learning on the app in March alone.

Coursera India added 363,000 learners in March (173% jump in registrations).

Oxford Advantage, Oxford University Press (OUP) India’s learning solution, saw a sharp rise in usage during this period.

Covid-19, it appears, is a blessing in disguise for edtech, but is this online education surge temporary, or is it here to stay?

Raghav Gupta, MD, India and APAC, Coursera, says the enrolment upsurge will settle down in a few months, but people’s learning behaviour will change forever. “Online learning was already changing higher education, but now it will happen at a rapid speed and scale,” he says.

As higher education institutes develop digital competencies, a significant part of teaching and learning will move online; even on-campus programmes will have a substantial online education component.

It’s no different at schools; with edtech companies offering free trials for the duration of the lockdown, an increasing number of kids are learning online. Anindya Mallick, partner, Deloitte India, expects that through these free trials, students and their families will understand the benefits of edtech products and subscribe to them. “Edtech solutions that can blend into the Board-prescribed syllabus can be part of the content for online classes,” he says.

Sivaramakrishnan V, MD, OUP India, says blended learning is the future. “Covid-19 has accelerated our journey towards blended learning and teaching,” he says. OUP India is also upskilling teachers and has run over a dozen training sessions to help them deliver via online resources.

According to Amitabh Jhingan, partner, EY-Parthenon International Education Practise and EY India Education Sector leader, while a large portion of classroom-based delivery is expected to resume over the next few months, the increased adoption of edtech is changing the mindset of parents and learners around the role of technology in learning. “We can see tech playing a much more meaningful role in supplementing formal education,” he says.

The lockdown has given professionals time to hone up their skills and get certified. Krishna Kumar, CEO & founder, Simplilearn, says: “We cannot pinpoint the extent of the edtech surge till the economy stabilises, but we expect strong growth.” The Simplilearn platform, he adds, is seeing high demand from learners to upskill.

Manit Jain, chairman, FICCI Alliance for Re-Imagining School Education, adds that online learning is one of the most pronounced silver-linings of the Covid-19 crisis. “Just like most people in workplaces are likely to move to online meetings, teaching habits would also change irreversibly,” he says. But he adds that learning is a social process and no one can replace the teacher.

Even traditional offline players are taking to online. Vishnu Dutt Sharma, CEO, Vidyamandir Classes, says the lockdown has led to a lot of interest towards alternate options to classroom study. On the edtech surge, he adds: “It will start to decline and settle at a lower level once things get normal, but by then it would have created a good user base.” He, however, cautions students that not all online options are good. Vidyamandir Classes has developed online learning platform called VMC GURU.

Harappa Education, which opened up access to its Embracing Change course for free, saw more than 500 people enrol in a week. Shreyasi Singh, founder & CEO, says we are at the cusp of long-term change. “Many of us have been in lockdown for a month; it’s going to be several months till events, conferences and institutions open up. A 3-6 month period is enough time to shape the habit for online learning.”

Some universities have already taken to online in a big way. At Dehradun-based UPES, more than 10,000 hours of online classes have happened so far. UPES has had a head start—five years ago, it started using Blackboard Collaborate, an LMS. “While 20% of curriculum was being delivered using Blackboard Collaborate pre-Covid-19, it has been scaled up to almost 100%,” says Dr Sunil Rai, vice-chancellor, UPES.

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