Hybrid Learning: The Future Of Education

Experts believe edtech startups and offline educational institutions will work in tandem to offer a hybrid model of learning to students across age groups

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India’s edtech industry is poised to become a $30-billion space in the next 10 years, said a report released in April this year by transaction advisory firm RBSA Advisors. According to the report, the current industry size is between $2.75 billion and $3 billion. 

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While the pandemic was brutal to many industries, it paved the way for growth in the edtech industry globally. In India, market leaders including Byju’s, Unacademy and upGrad not only grabbed some huge investments from global funds, but they have also been on an acquisition spree to enhance niche services or offerings. 

The above-mentioned report also said that online education offerings for classes 1 to 12 are projected to increase 6.3 times by 2022 from the base of 2019. However, as things get back to normal and schools and colleges slowly open up, the bigger question is how will the space shape up and what are the business models within edtech that will not only survive, but flourish. 

Hybrid Model Of Learning

Experts believe that the shift in the behavior of teachers and students is akin to the adoption of digital payments during demonetization and it won’t be reversed now that they see so much value and convenience in it. “Offline learning will continue to happen in schools but a hybrid model of learning will be the way forward. The digital revolution in education has been a long time coming and the pandemic has just accelerated the process. With the Internet now readily available on mobile devices, students are finding a lot of value in the ease of access and affordability of online learning,” said Mukul Rustagi, co-founder and CEO, Classplus. The startup raised $65 million from Tiger Global and others in June this year.

Rustagi also added that sitting in tier II and tier III cities, they are now able to learn from the best and renowned educators who may be based out of anywhere in the country. “Even the teachers who until recently were confined to their neighborhoods are at an advantage with this behavioral shift as they can now teach beyond their geographical locations,” he said. 

The hybrid form of education is expected to give the best of both worlds for teachers, institutions and students. “We have seen teachers truly build a national teaching brand, attract students from different geographies and increase their overall revenues as well. Integrating tech into teaching and education can solve many challenges for the entire ecosystem and we believe we will only continue to see more and more innovation in this space,” said Divyansh Bordia, co-founder and COO, Teachmint. 

Teachmint claims that over 90 per cent of teachers on its platform today have at least one student outside their immediate city. Launched in 2020, Teachmint raised $20 million in a pre-series B round led by existing investor Learn Capital with participation from CM Ventures in July this year.  

Recently, the World Economic Forum reported that online learning significantly enhances a child’s retention span due to the self-paced nature of these platforms. 

“Availability of reading material as per convenience, gamified modules and more focused video content are USPs of any edtech platform. Having said that, the interaction between a student and teacher is crucial to enable higher-order thinking and improve applications of the concepts taught. In addition to this, it is important to note that soft and social skills cannot be accurately replicated by technology. Therefore, a blend of both is absolutely paramount,” said Mahalakshmi Satish, India Director, Prodigy Education. The Canada-based startup was launched in India in 2018 and offers a game-based and adaptive maths platform for 1st-8th grade students.

Sub-Segments In Edtech That Will Thrive

While schools will continue to operate offline or in a hybrid model, other types of learning like test prep, vocational training, career and business skills will continue to happen online, believe experts. “Online learning is democratizing education by allowing students in small cities and towns to learn from the best available teachers. Now that they know they have this option without relocating to bigger cities, they’ll make the best use of it and continue learning online,” said Classplus’ Rustagi.   

Extracurriculars and tutorials may also continue to see a lot of takers. “Online learning is solving the biggest problem, accessibility to great teachers. For example, It will be very difficult to find a good teacher for coding, guitar or chess in a small town. But with online learning, everybody can have access to great courses and can learn from the best teachers from the other side of the globe. This will remain true to curriculum-based learning, STEM or extra curriculum learning etc. Online learning will keep democratizing education in the future, it is a new normal,” said Gagan Jain, co-founder and CEO, Uniform Junction.

In the working professionals' segment, the demand for upskilling/re-skilling is also expected to continue to attract interest. “Startups working towards personalized experiences with the help of technology should benefit too. I would see greater adoption of technology in schools/tuition centers too going forward, from learning management systems to other tools in making learning more effective,” Gaurav Perti, founder and CEO, PurpleTutor.

Professional upskilling and test prep are two areas that will surely continue on an online structure. “Examination and test prep is a major part of the Indian education system. These courses become far more immersive and interactive online with access to multiple resources, time schedules lectures etc at student’s convenience. Online presence is therefore expected to grow in this space, especially courses that cater to national level test aspirants such as the UPSC, state PSC exams, Bank PO exams, etc.,” said Pratip Mazumdar, Partner, Inflexor Ventures.

Besides executive education and coaching, which was a mostly one-on-one thing in a pre-pandemic era, may now stay predominantly online. “Many startups have sprung up to offer classes on communication skills, leadership ability, networking, etc., and these are all cohort-based online allowing the participants to take part at their convenience from anywhere in the world,” Mazumdar added. 

S Shanthi

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Entrepreneur Staff

Shanthi specialises in writing sector-specific trends,  interviews and startup profiles. She has worked as a feature writer for over a decade in several print and digital media companies. She is also a mom who looks forward to playing a game of cards with her tween daughter every evening after work.