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From preference to necessity

Ranging from short-term courses to full-time college degrees, digital education has adjusted to the trends in the sector to cater to the various needs of its consumers.

Vinit Patawari | New Delhi |

While the world is reeling from the effects of a crisis caused by the corona virus pandemic, our economy is suffering greatly as well. With most industries stopping productions under lockdowns, almost all economic activity has come to a standstill.

As most of us sit in the safety of our homes, with more time on our hands than we could ever ask for, many sectors with an online presence are operating unaffectedly, and are even making profits. One of these sectors includes the online education sector. Digital learning, due to the flexibility and the ease of learning it provides, had already gained a lot of traction in India over the years. From short-term courses to full-time college degrees, the sector has adjusted to the trends in the education sector to cater to the various needs of its consumers.

However, with the lockdown, the status of online learning has shifted from that of a mere preference to a necessity. The sector has gained immense popularity mainly for two reasons – offline educators need a way to teach their students; and people have so much time on their hands that they are looking to expand on their knowledge base. Lockdown across India because of the Covid 19 outbreak will bring in a paradigm shift in the way we learn, work and collaborate. In this age of accelerations, lifetime learning will become the only strategy for survival. Online education will make life time learning possible. Let us look into how the e-learning sector is growing in these difficult times. With no one getting out of their homes, all offline education has come to an abrupt stop.

With the lockdown in place, schools and colleges have realised the need for using the tools and technology of e-learning to continue the education of their students in this difficult situation. This has led to a great boost to the popularity of online teaching sites like Google Classroom, and supplementary tools like the video-conferencing service, Zoom. On the other hand, this spike in demand for e-learning tools has led many such platforms to offer their content at reduced or negligible prices. With lower prices, many potential learners who might be facing a shortage of money due to the economic down turn can still continue their learning at reduced expenses.

Further, many colleges and educators are choosing to host their popular courses on these sites, thus increasing their traffic as well. A notable example is from the Yale University. It now offers its most popular course, the Science of Well-being, for free on Coursera. The lockdown also comes as a great opportunity for people of the working class, who have been meaning to expand their skillset through online certificate courses, but haven’t been able to do so because of their time constraints. While the sector is currently enjoying this growth of consumers, there is an important question we must answer – will the sector be able to retain their base of consumers once the lockdown is over and life goes back to normal? The answer to this is a yes.

As more and more people pick up online education, they are welcomed to the various benefits it offers – flexibility, a unique way of learning, etc. These benefits can make e-learning the most preferred way of learning for us. Online education gives us the access to the best trainers at the minimum cost from the comfort of our home or workplace. This was anyway growing but this lockdown will change mindsets and will work as a strong catalyst for pushing this growth on an exponential curve. Majority of professional education and skill training will quickly move online. We have started seeing a sudden spike in demand at online finance education portals. It can be safely said that even primary education will shift to online and learnfrom-home mode, if not completely at least partially.

All of this will happen faster than we ever imagined. Therefore, it is clear at this point that the pandemic will give a substantial boost to the online learning sector and due to the benefits that digital learning offers, this boost will set the sector on a path of long-term growth and expansion.

(The writer is co-founder, Elearnmarkets)