New era of blended learning has begun

EducationWorld February 2021 | Teacher-2-teacher
blended learning - Sumesh Nair - Board InfinitySumesh Nair is the Mumbai-based co-founder and CEO of Board Infinity, a career exploration platform

In recent years, larger budgets for digital learning programmes, new tech innovations, enhancement of virtual training tools and rising popularity of social media, have given a huge stimulus to e-learning.

According to a 2016 report by US-based Statista Research Department, the global market size for e-learning was $150 million (Rs.1,095 crore) and is projected to grow by 5 percent per year in the 2017-24 period. Some of the reasons why the e-learning business has witnessed impressive growth is the recent pandemic-driven demand for digital solutions, its learning flexibility and effectiveness, easy availability of virtual training tools, boost in employee productivity and rising interest in distance learning. In addition, the global executive e-learning market is also growing at a fast pace.

According to a 2020 survey by Technavio, a UK-based market research firm, the global market for e-learning will expand by $1,890 million (Rs.1,400 crore) in revenue terms by 2024. Social media, mobile phones and analytics technologies have accelerated the adoption of e-learning which ensures that study programmes can reach massive numbers of students at a fraction of the cost of the traditional education process. Self-driven career advancement and training are other factors spurring global demand for e-learning programmes. In India, several top tier B-schools including IIM-Nagpur, XLRI and IIM-Kashipur are shifting their graduate placement preparation processes online, and have tied up with edtech platforms such as Board Infinity to provide personalised 1:1 professional education. Students connect with experts based on their profiles and interests to receive actionable feedback and insights. These B-schools are saving time and cost while making sure students are prepared for placement interviews.

A 2016 Pew Research Centre survey indicates that 63 percent of working adults classify themselves as professional learners. These are professionals who sign up for online programmes to improve their job and life skills for career advancement. Increasingly, young graduates believe that continuous learning and upskilling is necessary in an increasingly VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world, and are signing up in droves for in-service e-learning programmes after securing employment in industry and business.

These students learn from devices such as tablets, computers, mobiles, etc and want faculty to record content and post it online as course material. For teachers and faculty, the challenge is to create high-quality video, text and animation content that engages students. The great advantage of e-learning and online study programmes is that it traverses geographical barriers, has no time constraints or age limit. Increasingly, edtech platforms are providing courses at nominal prices for everyone as infrastructure costs are falling daily.

The upshot of the new e-learning revolution that’s sweeping the world is that globally top-ranked universities including Harvard and MIT are making their degree programmes available and accessible online. More recently, the Harvard Business Review enabled business management students to access quality content, networking opportunities and case-based learning online. Moreover, several top-ranked American universities are collaborating with ed-tech platforms such as Coursera and Edx to provide education globally.

Unsurprisingly, outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic which has forced the closure of all education institutions in India since mid-March, has provoked an online WFH (work from home) revolution. In India, the middle-class parents’ community is beginning to discern the advantages of online learning. According to a survey conducted by LocalCircles, a social network based in Noida, 64 percent of parents in 204 urban districts countrywide are in favour of e-learning. Although there are limitations in terms of Internet connectivity, the overall experience of online learning during the pandemic era has been good, and parents are waking up to the numerous advantages of tech-enabled learning in terms of costs and flexibility.

With the anti-Covid-19 vaccine set to be rolled out countrywide within the next few months and the world fast returning to normal, there are high chances that an irreversible behavioural shift in favour of digital learning will manifest. Although the general preference for physical classrooms and lecture hall learning will never dissipate, a blended/hybrid online-offline learning model is certain to become entrenched, starting with the country’s top 10 cities and gradually spreading to the hinterland. In sum, e-education is here to stay and Indian and global teaching-learning is certain to be better for it.

Also read: Future of learning in post-pandemic era

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