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The Rise of E-Learning: Impact of COVID-19 on Education

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down schools and colleges in 188 countries resulting in online education becoming the primary mode. How is the education sector, as a whole, going to be impacted by this?

By now, we’re well aware of the disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has caused across multiple sectors. While brands and industries have been innovating ways to deal with the unprecedented crisis, education, amongst movie theaters, remains one sector that is yet to reopen. Debates about whether or not to open schools and colleges or conduct exams have caused massive uproar in both the United States and India. As school and college buildings lie desolate, online learning has rapidly caught on across the globe.

According to reports, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in closure of schools in 188 countries. 73 percent of countries reporting to a UNICEF survey said they are delivering education online.

In India, e-learning has been growing steadily for the past few years with Chinese company BYJU’S leading the way. Valued at $10.5 billion, the decacorn is the largest edtech company in the world. Similarly, India’s Vedantu is now valued at $600 million and is ranked 8th on Google Play Store’s list of July’s most downloaded educational apps. Overseas based platforms like Eruditus-which recently raised $113 million in seed funding-have been expanding its footprints in India and other Asian countries. The growth has only escalated amid the pandemic as apps like Skillshare have grown by 300 per cent month-on-month from February to April 2020.

With such high growth in the edtech space, how is the education sector as a whole going to be impacted? Let’s take a look.

Technologically Savvy Teachers

One of the biggest impacts on education is going to be the change in the qualities a teacher is supposed to have. Earlier, it wasn’t pertinent for the teacher to know everything about the internet or computers when, for instance, teaching a language class. But, now, with e-learning becoming the norm, it has become essential for teachers to not only understand the basics of being digital, but be able to use modern video conferencing and file transferring platforms. The students today are extremely well-versed with technology and are always connected to one another with the help of various apps. This would, overtime, bring about an influx of younger teachers who are also knowledgeable about different popular platforms and can connect with the students in ways teachers from earlier generations never did.

Teaching and learning from faraway places will become common. Be it music, coding, mathematics or arts & craft, teachers will spread their networks far and wide finding new students from different parts of the world no longer restricting their knowledge to just one classroom.

Digital Becomes the Norm

Educational institutions around the country have started to adapt to technology all at once. Schools that earlier didn’t rely too much on computers & technology to conduct classes have come around in the wake of the pandemic. While most schools and colleges believe the current situation to be temporary, they also say that the involvement of latest technologies will continue to grow despite schools reopening.

The pandemic has not only caused a shift in the schools’ attitude, but has also made parents rethink the role of the internet and technology in the lives of their kids. Earlier, the same parents who wanted children to reduce screen time are now setting-up faster internet connection so that classes take place seamlessly. E-learning is truly being seen as a viable alternative to traditional learning methods and, under such circumstances, classes across the globe will become digitally savvy.

 E-Learning

Rapid Rise in Internet Penetration

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, work-from-home and online classes became a norm. Those without a speedy, reliable internet connection faced multiple problems adapting to the new world. Similarly, those with no access to the internet have, by all means, been cut off from the modern, heavily intertwined world. Keeping this in mind, the increased penetration of the internet in India, and around the globe, has become more important than ever. 

In India, out of a total population of 1.3 billion, there are currently 574 million people, or 41 per cent, with access to the internet. In the coming time, as the internet becomes cheaper and more widely available, the number of people online is going to increase drastically. A survey of Indian private schools revealed that 92 per cent of students had access to the internet, but it’s very important that the remaining eight per cent and also brought into the fold.

The e-learning sector is going to play a major role in this rapid rise of the internet as students will invariably turn to online coaching classes and special tutor lessons to prepare for exams and earn new degrees apart from attending regular school and college online classes. Connecting more and more people to the internet will not only be a wise economic decision, but also a necessary humanitarian one.

Innovation in Education Technology

The world of online learning will undergo many changes, especially when it comes to the content being provided. In recent times, we’ve seen BYJU’s acquire WhiteHat Jr., an online platform dedicated to teaching children how to code, for $300 million. Brands like Coursera, Udemy and UpGrad, involved in the global professional education market, have also been expanding and offering an increased number of courses ever since the pandemic began. India’s UpGrad, for instance, has forecasted crossing ₹10,000 crores in revenue in the next five years due to the increase in demand of online education after the coronavirus pandemic. According to UpGrad Chairman and Co-Founder Ronnie Screwvala, the global pandemic has brought renewed acceptability to the ed-tech space. In the future, e-learning platforms will focus on teaching, and adopting, modern relevant topics like block chain, machine learning, data science and digital marketing. 

The technology of Internet of Things (IoT)-which provides major tools to automate data collection & is crucial in enhancing connectivity, compatibility, interoperability and cybersecurity-is still at a niche stage in India, according to a report by Deloitte India in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The report states that the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an increase in the development of IoT in the country as the technology is essential in running businesses like online educational institutions. The report also revealed that India spent $20.6 billion on the technology of IoT in 2019 alone.

Drawbacks

Perpetual online classes with no interaction with teachers and friends, as the case has been for the past few months, is not good for the mental health of children. According to a survey conducted in the U.K., more than three-fourths of school students said their mental health has worsened since the pandemic began. Comparatively, only 15 percent of the children said that the lockdown has had no effect on their mental health. In China, 23 percent of school students showed signs of depression whereas 19 percent reported anxiety symptoms due to the coronavirus.

In India, while there are no official figures of the effect of the pandemic on the mental health of school and college students, it should be noted that the CHILDLINE India helpline received 92,000 calls of domestic abuse within just 11 days of the lockdown. These factors point to the importance of the school/college environment in a child’s life. Moving forward, as we battle the ongoing pandemic, classes in schools and colleges will take on a hybrid role with students dividing time between in-person and online attendance.

While the pandemic wreaks havoc & we adapt to its unpredictability, the e-learning sector has the potential of revolutionizing the way knowledge is consumed by breaking barriers of accessibility and making classrooms and courses from all over the globe instantly consumable.

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Mayank Gulati

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