Every day as more and more people are logging on to the internet, the message is clear: Online is the future!
In our lifetime, we have seen the times before the internet revolution and the present time when not being online is not an option. It has also been interesting to see the role of the internet evolve over this short span of 25 years. From being a communication access point to today when it is used for pretty much everything, whether it is ordering groceries, sharing content, watching movies or even doing a degree. All that one requires is a device as small as a smartphone.
In a report published by ReseachandMarkets.com, the Indian online education market, which is still at its nascent stage is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20.02% during the period of 2017-21. In this study, the revenue generators considered were online educational content, distance learning programs conducted online, and online test preparation services. The report also showed an incremental growth of $ 9.52 billion from 2017 to 2022, forecasting the e-learning market size to be at $ 18 billion by 2022. These numbers may seem extremely exciting to anyone who is associated with the online education market in India as it opens up new opportunities for innovation, growth and exciting possibilities that one can explore. As a student, one could only look forward to new ways of learning, thereby leaving behind the boring teaching methodologies taught in school.
The online education market has found various methods of delivering knowledge, in the form of Massive Open Online Classrooms (MOOCs), online courses, research papers published online, videos, audio recordings, and other blended learning mediums. Since the online medium eliminates the need for a student to be physically present, it opens up the classroom to pretty much the entire world. A student sitting in Vishakhapatnam, looking to do a course on Digital Marketing (DM) can log on to Udemy or Coursera and sign up for a DM certification by Google delivered by a Facilitator in Ireland. He/she is ensured of top quality course material, a network of international peers a certification that will assure him/her a job, all at 1/10th of the cost. Similarly, a student from Srinagar preparing for the UPSC exam can sign up for online coaching classes from platforms like NeoStencil and have the same experience that someone attending classroom sessions will have. The student can study at their own pace, pause, and resume whenever they want and ask their questions and doubts to their teachers.
While this section of the population that we talk of is educated, most of them have access to the traditional style of learning i.e through schools and colleges and use the online medium of learning just to supplement their learning or to be job-ready. This is a fairly small part of the market share. Let us look at the population, who cannot afford to go to schools. According to a survey conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), around 30% of India between the age group of 15-29 are neither enrolled in any educational program, skilled training or are employed. These staggering numbers pose as a great opportunity for online education platforms to bring in those who cannot afford traditional schooling and can make use of online education to be employable. With the increased penetration of the internet and smartphones, this goal can certainly be achieved.
On comparing online education as a medium over the traditional school education, there are certainly several advantages that the former has such as:
- A comfortable and non-judgemental learning environment
- Convenience and flexibility of studying at your own pace at your own time at your own home
- Lower cost than a full-fledged classroom degree/program
- Variety of courses compared to the fixed number of courses offered by traditional schools and colleges
- Up-skilling for a career jump without taking a break
- Building a network of peers not limited by geography
While the online education segment is certainly set to grow in India, it can make a world of a difference if brought to the rural villages. Due to the lack of adequate educational facilities in most of the rural parts of India, the government must encourage and educate people about using online learning mediums Instead of spending money on infrastructure, building, and resources.
According to India’s demographic profile in 2018, around 27.4% of the population are under 14 years old, which means that in the next 20 years they will all be working and have completed their education. This is a huge scope for the online education market for the generation that is going to be born with the smartphone to provide them access to good quality learning content. With the revolution that is currently brewing, only a few players hold the lion’s share of the market. But it will be interesting to see if they retain their share or other players emerge and the market finds itself divided among many.
Today, learning and knowledge are not limited by geographies, it is only bound by one’s mindset and willingness to learn. Online education has found its feet in the Indian market, where and how it moves forward is yet to be seen, but it is certain to take many with it as it marches on.