India being the second-largest country by population, just behind China, has over 60 percent of its population in the working-age group. With the increasing population, we are poised to have the largest workforce by 2027. Along with a rising thirst for knowledge and the ever-increasing needs of the employers, the demand for higher education is only going to rise with current enrolments well within 30 percent.
While the rapid expansion of facilities is a given, there is an urgent need to skill the learners, equip them with quality education, and provide them with quality content. Currently, only a fraction of the total learner population has access to quality education that looks after their holistic development and provides them with the necessary skills to succeed in a competitive working environment.
"With the increasing internet and smartphone penetration in the country along with the rising needs of the students, online courses have gained rapid traction"
To aid this burgeoning requirement for skill development, digital innovation has been one of the rescuers. With the increasing internet and smartphone penetration in the country along with the rising needs of the students, online courses have gained rapid traction. With the aid of cutting technology and Artificial Intelligence, this space is rapidly filling the gap where traditional classroom education had left a big void. Students right from high school to working professionals are enrolling for online courses, thereby rapidly fuelling an expansion in this sector which is largely led by private players. Online courses provide a massive variety of programs and subjects and are likely to come at a lower cost as well. Along with the reduced cost of the course, the reduction in other associated costs of commuting and course material would exponentially bring down the overall expenses for the students.
What draws more attraction towards these online courses is the flexibility that they provide to help students balance out their other commitments. These online courses also come as a boon for people who are already working but want to upgrade their skills on the latest developments or, exploring different skill sets while still being able to work or are looking to switch their career paths in their field of choice. Going back to a traditional classroom setting would not be an option for many. So, these virtual courses help them to continue their education while not leaving their current jobs.
Moreover, there has been an increasing awareness and attraction towards International Education, with Indian students going to Canada, Australia and other countries is increasing rapidly in the past 5 years. But international education is still not accessible to the majority of our population. These online courses also have the power to bridge that gap, by giving people access to infinite knowledge from across the world, by partnering with the world-class institutions and helping students access knowledge at the tip of their fingers.
While these platforms do offer many advantages, the question remains whether the actual learning or education is effective? To address this issue, the virtual courses do provide a platform for healthy interaction between the instructors or professors and the students. Most of these platforms use the Learning Management System (LMS), which makes the processes effective for the instructors as well as the students. Using this, instructors can upload the course material such as PowerPoint presentations, articles, or lectures, track student progress, conduct quizzes, monitor attendance. Students, on the other hand, can access this for documentation, course tracking, submitting research or assignments, completing examinations/assignments, and many more.
There are also synchronous sessions that require scheduled attendance through online chatting and conferencing. Platforms like LMS also provide opportunities for peer to peer learning. While the course work remains the same between online courses and traditional media, there are certain challenges in online learning like complete dependency on technology, instilling students with self-motivation, building a community sense among the learners, and the test-taking process. To tackle some of these, at times learners might be required to take the assessments at physical centers under supervision. This ensures credibility, both from the instructor's and student's side.
To sum it up, these courses do provide an incredible alternative to traditional education and would go a long way in the skill development of our workforce. Having said this, traditional education is also all set to see a rapid increase. With the recent inclination towards online and international education, due to the flexibility, diversity, and quality it provides, there would be an increasing internationalism of education with both institutes from India opening campuses in foreign countries. With the Government opening up FDI in the education sector, one would see a potential increase of international institutes penetrating the Indian market as well. Online course providers can also tap into this market opportunity, to bring these international classrooms at the doorsteps of the Indian students, thereby catering to their specific needs and requirements, as the education system becomes more sophisticated and self-centric. And with that, higher education institutes will also have to realize the growing need for quality education and innovate accordingly, to cater to the growing working population, and to get them ready for the next big bang in the higher education sector.
Saket Kumar Dwivedy, Head-Human Resources
An alumnus of Management Development Institute, Saket Kumar Dwivedy has specialties in HR Business Partnering/ HR Generalist, HR Analytics, HR M&A, Change Management, and many more. Currently working as Head of HR in upGrad, Saket holds prolific experience in HR management priorly working with MX Player, Times Internet, and Glenmark Pharmaceuticals.