Video projectors and large screens in classrooms helped leverage a large repository of digital content
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We are in an era where unprecedented ideas are unfolding in education, driven by technology. Digitising learning content has been imperative, keeping in mind affordability, accessibility and inclusiveness of the large trainable youth population. The internet is being used to reach this diverse population in the remotest corners, and advanced tech is being used to create new learning experiences.
If we look at the new technology accessible to teachers and students today, then we would agree that the accepted way to teach and learn has changed. It is undeniable that education has evolved so much, and technology has opened up the world a lot for both students and teachers. In this article, we explore the journey of edtech through this decade that saw it evolve from smart classes to personalised learning apps on smartphones.
EDTECH SOLUTIONS WERE DESIGNED AROUND IMPROVING THE CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE AND HELPING TEACHERS
Integration of technology in the learning and education system is evidently the greatest change in education in the past decade. The earliest technology innovations for schools were created around providing software and hardware to make the classroom experience better. More emphasis was put on the use of rich multimedia content as a teaching tool inside classrooms.
We saw more and more teachers making use of overhead projectors and videos during their lessons. This was then considered to be a revolutionary in-classroom technology, leveraging a large repository of digital content across virtually all subjects from kindergarten to Class 12.
This new technology helped schools with better educational resource planning and helped teachers with better lecture delivery. Performance management and tracking systems enabled teachers to measure the progress of students systematically. Such classrooms were called “smart classes”. Progress in technology, however, has led to much more.
INTERNET SHIFTED FOCUS FROM CLASSROOMS TO VIRTUAL CLASSROOMS WITH DIGITISED CONTENT
Smart class solutions faced challenges like high set-up cost, hardware maintenance and non-payments by institutions. As a result, edtech companies started moving to asset-light models. Digitisation of learning material and availability on platforms, including YouTube, followed the wave of smart classes.
Internet penetration made everything easier and faster, enabling students to access digital study material that was informational and interactive and could be accessed anytime, anywhere. The gap in the ability to access high quality learning material was shrinking.
This boom in digitisation of content helped scale the concept of pre-recorded online classes in India. The availability of fast internet connections and easy access allowed students to be more informed and open to new avenues.
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Students were able to take on-demand classes without having to attend any physical classes. For students, this improved affordability, while reduced travel time allowed them to study at their own pace and time.
EDTECH STARTED GROWING EXPONENTIALLY WITH LEARNING APPS
As students started accessing learning material over the internet, it gave rise to a new opportunity. Newly introduced learning apps started providing content at one place, which was otherwise scattered. The content was now organised and designed around a teacher’s pedagogy. Online courses developed by proficient tutors gave students the experience of real-time learning while sitting in the comfort of their homes.
Edtech saw growth in many disciplines, including primary and supplementary education, test preparation, reskilling and online certifications, and language learning. Global institutions started running online certification courses powered by edtech that helped in course delivery, examinations and assessments.
Indian entrepreneurs made an impressive effort in following and customising the global trend of digitisation of the education system. Increasing awareness and higher disposable income boosted the edtech market and it attracted significant investments from Indian and global investors.
PERSONALISED LEARNING MARKED THE NEW AGE OF EDTECH
The second half of the last decade saw the use of advanced technology. Cutting edge tech, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), gave rise to education platforms that addressed the basic problem of the education system of India—the one-size-fits-all-approach. With a typical classroom having a teacher-to-student ratio of 1:50, the quality is often compromised and that’s where technology is useful. Adaptive learning platforms using AI and ML create personalised learning paths helping students study in the way they best understand, thus enabling them to learn as per their needs. Gamification in learning has helped engage students in a meaningful way, making them genuinely interested in their subject matter.
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Cloud-based learning is fast emerging as the medium to make personalised and high quality learning available to all students. Live classes with teachers can be conducted on such platforms, along with pre-recorded video classes, where the students can access the material on their own time. Students can now reach out for academic help 24x7. This is quickly changing the possibilities of delivery mediums when it comes to affordable access to high-quality learning.
CUSTOMER ACQUISITION AND RETENTION WOULD BE KEY CHALLENGES TO FURTHER GROWTH
Availability and access to the internet are important for all of these technologies to become relevant to end-users, i.e. students and teachers. The number of people accessing the internet has grown manifold over the last decade. However, for a society like India where the culture of coaching classes is deep-rooted, it is challenging to drive the adoption of edtech platforms as an alternative. Students, parents and teachers need to be better informed of the benefits of edtech. Startups are trying various business models, including free, freemium and premium subscriptions to drive usage and trial. However, there is a lot of ground to be covered.
As this decade ends, we recognise that the Indian education system has evolved fast, along with global trends. Technology has also enabled streamlining of the learning experience, improved accessibility and offered new resources to students. And there is only more to come. With one of the largest populations in the world, stronger implementation of AI and ML will help bring truly adaptive and personalised platforms addressing the real learning needs of students and professionals. Edtech is all set to give more accessible, high-quality and personalised learning and prepare the leaders of tomorrow.
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(This story appears in the 17 January, 2020 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)