Outlook15

As part of our #Outlook15 series, we asked heads of online education companies – Edukart, Testbook, Meritnation and WizIQ about their focus areas for 2015 and the challenges that the online education sector needs to address. Answers have been shortened for brevity.

Which according to you were the top developments and roadblocks with respect to the digital education sector in 2014? Why?

Ishan Gupta, Edukart

– 2014 had been an important year for digital education because there has been a rise in both adoption and acceptance as more universities and course providers went online. Even the MOOC platforms like Coursera, Udacity, EdX attracted more courses and course providers. On EduKart, we also have added many new course providers during this year in different functional areas including law, healthcare and big data.

– But despite these developments, if one compares the online education offerings with the opportunities available, then we should expect to see a larger range online courses becoming available in 2015.

Narendra Agarwal, Testbook

The top development has been the emergence of new players in test prep market and VC’s again looking into digital education seriously. The major roadblock is the low penetration of internet in India.

Prayag Panchwadkar, Meritnation

E learning in India is looking at promising growth due to the continuing rapid growth of the online education market. The government focus on creating a “Digital India” is a significant development which will lead to enhanced growth for the digital education sector. Availability of high quality internet connectivity continues to be an improvement area countrywide.

Harman Singh, WizIQ

HarmanSingh– One of the most talked about trend in online education in 2014 was that of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These courses are free and are delivered online to massive audiences. Recently, MOOCs have become increasingly popular and are causing a massive shift in the way people look at the experience of gaining education.

– Technological innovation has also had a major impact on corporate training within organizations. Corporate training is a $150 billion industry and a huge number of organizations worldwide are looking for new web-based options to train their employees. These eLearning methods reduce the costs associated with employee training tremendously and provide new and better opportunities to organizations for conducting their employee training programs.

– However, in the absence of live engagement with instructors, these online training programs fail to achieve the desired results. But with a variety of cloud-based online learning platforms available these days, this limitation can be easily overcome. Platforms like WizIQ present an incredible opportunity to organizations to enable their employees to interact in real-time with professionals across the globe

– Mobile learning was another very significant eLearning trend in 2014. The idea behind this trend is to provide students with anytime, anywhere access to quality education through their mobile devices. But while many platforms have taken an initiative to go mobile this year, majority of them are still not mobile ready.

What has changed from 2013 to 2014 and how?

Ishan Gupta, Edukart

– While in 2013 there were limited options available for a student in online education, 2014 saw more course providers coming online with different offerings from  short term certifications and self paced courses to full fledged online degree courses.

Narendra Agarwal, Testbook

– The entire education pattern is changing which is generating new opportunities to explore in digital education. Majority of the competitive exams at graduation level has shifted from paper pen-based to computer-based exams, like GATE, CAT, IIT, Banking exams etc. which has left no choice for students except prepare online.

Prayag Panchwadkar, Meritnation

prayagpanchwadkar– There has been a huge influx of students in online education, which led to Meritnation’s user base going up to 81 lakh users in 2014.

– VC’s have recognised the growth potential of  this market and Online Education ventures have received the second highest levels of VC funding this year.

– The increase in use of 3G services has also significantly enhanced consumption of rich media content.

Harman Singh, WizIQ

– Shift to live online learning from self-paced online learning: This is one of the most significant changes that has taken place from 2013 to 2014. Lack of live online instruction and peer to peer interaction has long been associated as the biggest limitation of online education.

– Personalized learning is another change witnessed in the past one year. eLearning platforms have recognized the need of enabling learners to choose their own learning paths based on their interests and needs, and are working to customize their technologies accordingly.

– The LMS market has witnessed a huge growth. According to report by Bersin & Associates, the LMS market is well over $2.5 billion and grew by over 21% this year, compared to 13% the prior year. 2014 also witnessed a lot of debates around the utility of MOOCs.

What are the consumption patterns that you observed in 2014?

Ishan Gupta, Edukart

– EduKart today offers more than 1000 degree, diploma and certificate courses across various fields.  In 2014 we have seen an increasing traction towards pursuing distance degrees in online modes such as MBA, MA, BBA and LLM, industry specific courses like Big Data and Hadoop in IT, Equity Research in Finance and Clinical Research in healthcare.

Narendra Agarwal, Testbook

– Students are still reluctant on shifting completely to digital learning, but they are very enthusiastic about using online services to fill the current gap in the traditional coaching learning processes like good testing platforms loaded with smart and logical analysis on their performance to increase their efficiency.

Prayag Panchwadkar, Meritnation

– We have observed that students using Meritnation.com are increasing their use of advanced analytic tools to measure and improve their performance in online learning. This leads to faster learning and recall.

Harman Singh, WizIQ

The consumption patterns that we have observed are:

– There is a huge demand for self-paced learning in vocational and language courses.

– Instructor-led, live online learning is preferred over video-based learning in technical and IT courses.

– Recordings of live online lectures help students to go through content after class and learn better.

– Students prefer to learn on mobile and tablet devices as they are much easier to carry everywhere instead of lugging a full-sized laptop with them.

What do you intend to focus on in 2015 and why?

Ishan Gupta, Edukart

ishangupta– As the largest higher education platform of India we will focus more on increasing the choices offered to our students in terms of both, courses and course providers. We also plan to expand our existing course categories to more niche and industry specific sectors, while expanding our degree courses portfolio.Moreover, we will increase our engagement with large corporates around the country to support their employee education and training requirements. Further, we plan to enhance our offline presence in India and in the neighboring countries in the near future.

Narendra Agarwal, Testbook

– In coming months, Testbook’s focus will be on mobile and growth. We believe that India’s mobile internet growth story will help flourish digital education in India.

Prayag Panchwadkar, Meritnation

– In digital education, the next wave of product enhancements will revolve around creating immersive and interactive content. In 2015, Meritnation.com will be focusing on interactive learning via our “Live Classes”, providing students access to high quality virtual classroom experiences. Meritnation.com will also be focusing on providing smart learning platforms via mobile apps to enable “learning on the go”.

Harman Singh, WizIQ

In 2015, we intend to focus on the following two trends:

– mLearning, where learners can engage in discussions and live classes on mobile and can also access course files and videos on their devices using WizIQ’s mobile app.

– Analytics, where instructors can view detailed student reports – including test scores, comparative score details, and attendance reports, etc. This provides instructors with insights to improve content and learners’ engagement.”

What are the challenges in the segment that would need to be addressed in 2015?

Ishan Gupta, Edukart

– Creating more engaging models for delivery of online education will be the major challenge of online education in 2015. But we are optimistic as the constant evolution in technology will surely help in resolving these issues. Another challenge that needs to be immediately addressed is to raise the trust levels amongst students for online education. We are sure that 2015 will be a turning point as online education in terms of increased trust amongst aspirants and employers as more and more premium course providers come online.

Narendra Agarwal, Testbook

– Need to develop a smart learning system which can help realize students that it is the most effective, cheap and least time-consuming way of learning.

Prayag Panchwadkar, Meritnation

– First trial and user acceptance will continue to be key challenges for the digital education sector. Addressing customer perceptions to change mindsets is key to growing the market for the industry.  Online learning platforms have now matured to the point where they offer a better value proposition than Tuitions/ Supplementary books. Continuous reinforcement of information will go a long way to promote discovery and adoption among category customers.

Harman Singh, WizIQ

– Reluctance in adopting ICT by Higher-Ed institutes: Teachers have certain inhibitions regarding online education and often ICT is looked down upon as a high-cost project. Therefore, they need to be trained and motivated to implement digital teaching practices.

– Poor internet connectivity: This is one of the major challenges for online education in India.

– Keeping up with change: Technology is an ever dynamic domain so it is necessary to update and innovate constantly. New technologies keep coming up every now and then and hence digital education practices also need to evolve accordingly.

What are the likely trends that you expect to see in 2015? Why?

Ishan Gupta, Edukart

– 2015 is going to be an eventful year for online education as more and more universities adopt online mode of education. Another development that is expected in the coming year is evolution of more engaging platforms for content delivery.  Indian universities wil probably include MOOC as part of their plans to deliver content.  We have seen Indian School of Business partnering with Coursera to offer its courses online in 2014- so 2015 should only see more premier institutions jump on the MOOC train.

Narendra Agarwal, Testbook

narendraagarwal– As discussed above, startups will go beyond test prep and will try to develop a smart learning system as it the solution of tackling the existing problems in the current system like accessibility, high costs and time constraints. More and more focus will be on machine learning and artificial intelligence to make learning and testing more engaging as well as effective.

Prayag Panchwadkar, Meritnation

– In 2015, a slew of powerful and reasonably priced smartphone and tablet options will be available to students. This will provide an increasing number of students with terminals to access online learning platforms.

– Also, the use of Apps for consuming education related content is expected to rise across all devices as consumers grow familiar with App usage in the category. Companies are will respond to this trend by offering more and specialised apps to respond to varying needs of consumers. As an example, Meritnation.com is leading the way in providing content via apps and enabling multi device content consumption.

– The market is also likely to see new entrants with offerings in niche areas of online learning like  Test Preparation. With our strong experience of the Test Preparation market via our offerings for entrance tests like JEE and AIPMT we foresee consumers increasingly demand more from their online education courses by way advanced analytic tools along and gamification to make learning easier. We will also see Indian companies targeting high potential markets abroad with specialized offerings.

Harman Singh, WizIQ

– Interactive flipped-classrooms, a form of blended learning technique where students watch content and video lectures online at home at their own pace and in-class time is devoted to discussions with peers and teachers. During class sessions, teachers help students to clarify their doubts about the lecture content and apply that knowledge in class. However, here too passive learning through video lectures doesn’t seem to bring any significant boost in student achievement. Therefore, the technology used for flipped learning must be optimized for interactivity.

– Mobile learning was a major eLearning trend in 2014 but in 2015, we expect more online education platforms to be available on mobile devices, with a user interface more customized to meet the needs of learners.

– Accessibility across all devices: Though many websites are becoming device-friendly, some are still limited to a particular device or OS. That can create problems in accessibility and thus create hurdles in smooth learning. In 2015 and ahead, we’ll see e-Learning platforms becoming more user and device-friendly.

– A blend of games, quizzes, flipped classrooms, activities, etc. will be required as part of course material to enhance the learning outcomes of students. Teachers and students will thus choose those e-Learning technologies that help them deliver blended learning most efficiently and in the least possible time.

– Equal opportunity: Education technology platforms should be designed to provide people with disabilities with an equal access to learning. A majority of online education platforms are now recognizing this need and making it a part of their core design. In 2015, we expect to see more eLearning platforms fulfilling this need of online education.

What was something in digital education sector in India that surprised you in 2014?

Ishan Gupta, Edukart

– The rising acceptance of online education niche and industry specific courses has been encouraging. We also more corporates coming forward to leverage online education offerings for their employee base. This implies that the students as well as the industry has started to accept online education courses in India.With digital education there is a course for everyone and we are excited to see that people are accepting these courses.

Harman Singh, WizIQ

– Indian Government’s recent decision of allocating Rs.100 crore to set up virtual classrooms & online courses came as a surprise. The government has taken a progressive move by putting faith in technology to solve problems of the education industry.

– Having said that, education has its own peculiar nuances which a general technology provider cannot understand or address. The first and foremost is that government should choose only a specialist education technology provider. Then they should prefer to go for an Opex based model over Capex based because there is no point spending huge capital upfront building technologies, without knowing whether it’s going to provide the desired learning outcomes.

What do you think will not happen in digital education sector in India in 2015?

Ishan Gupta, Edukart

– As India’s largest higher education enrollment platform, we are optimistic about the coming year. The industry is going to develop and we are sure that a lot of challenges will be overcome in the coming year.

Harman Singh, WizIQ

– Although the kind of shift from traditional classroom teaching to online education that we are expecting will not happen very soon and it may take some time for educators and learners in India to adopt digital learning practices into their systems, the growth that we are witnessing presently is highly inspiring. Experiments by world renowned Professor of Educational Technology, Sugata Mitra have also exemplified the willingness to adopt internet learning by Indians.