How COVID-19 is Revolutionizing the Online Education Industry While we have established that the online education sector was rapidly growing even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is safe to say that the contagion has accelerated this growth at an unimaginable rate

By Nikhil Barshikar

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When the initial cases of COVID-19 were documented in the Indian subcontinent in late January, few could have anticipated its impending course and impact on every aspect of human life over the following months. Yet here we are more than five months later, and our world has been transformed dramatically. Everything from board meetings to grocery shopping are now being conducted online via laptops or smartphones, exposing our heavy dependency on stable internet availability like never before.

Considering these massive shifts in the status quo, it is clear that technology—especially the Internet—has been central to our evolution and adaptability in the COVID-19 era. However, it is common knowledge that a tech-driven transformation was underway long before the pandemic hit us.

Take the online education industry for instance. The online education sector in India was not only valued at an all-time high of INR 19,300 crore in 2018, but it was also poised to reach INR 36,030 crore by 2024. Fuelling this growth was the rising Internet penetration, as well as simplified access to innovative technology. More than anything else though, the online education industry was witnessing growth at a breakneck pace due to professionals and students looking to upskill themselves in order to thrive in the new-age business landscape, while balancing their careers with their learning endeavors. Simultaneously, students who attended classes regularly still leveraged online learning to augment their education.

The COVID-19 Impact: Causing Ripples in the e-Learning Ecosphere

While we have established that the online education sector was rapidly growing even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is safe to say that the contagion has accelerated this growth at an unimaginable rate. Through online learning, being physically present in classrooms has given way to innovative new methods of education. As students refrain from being physically present in the same room as their teachers and classmates, online education is inevitably the only way of learning during this age of quarantines and social distancing.

As a result, the scope of online learning has also expanded during this challenging period. From preschools to top-tier universities, most institutes of learning now offer online education to varying degrees. Schools and colleges are closed indefinitely, which means millions of students are now dependent on online learning platforms to further their education and make the most of this unprecedented situation. The e-learning space, therefore, is bound to skyrocket over the next few months.

Why the World is Betting on Online Education During the Pandemic

There are several advantages of turning to online education—even beyond the fact that the model is synonymous with social distancing. These include:

Flexibility: It is far more convenient for students and teachers to embrace online learning. A stable internet connection and a computer are all that is required to turn your home into a classroom, and with today's high-speed internet connections at affordable prices, this setup is easier than ever.

Accessibility: Before the lockdown, thousands of migrant students returned to their hometowns to stay home and stay safe with their families. In such a scenario, online learning becomes a lifesaver. With E-Learning, students can access educational opportunities that would not be available to them otherwise.

Range of specializations: For students looking to enhance their professional skills through online learning, the Internet is a treasure trove of relevant courses, with thousands of hours of useful content that can bolster their knowledge and skill base. There is no dearth of options available, and students can take control of their career trajectory by choosing the one that suits them the best.

Cost-effectiveness: Online learning is much more economical than traditional learning methods. In fact, online degrees cost almost a tenth of their offline counterparts. This is a crucial aspect in today's economy, where job losses and pay cuts are rampant. Students can rest assured that the economic blows dealt by the pandemic will not affect their education and, in turn, the future of their careers.

The traditional learning method—rote learning followed by a degree—is now almost rendered outdated. Today's students understand that hands-on learning and relevant practical industry training are far more valuable in building a successful career. As a result, the desire to learn from industry professionals is booming. Students believe that such experiences will help them prepare for employment more effectively than in a classroom with archaic lessons.

Now that online education is the only viable option, a revolution is on the horizon. Millions of students who embrace e-learning during these difficult circumstances may stick to it even after the pandemic has passed. Online learning will be an intrinsic part of the new normal. It is a novel method of learning that has been steadily gaining momentum for a while, and by the looks of it, is here to stay.

Nikhil Barshikar

Founder and Managing Director, Imarticus Learning

His fifteen year career spans a variety of roles within Investment Banking, all of which culminated in the founding of Imarticus Learning, a leading player in Investment Banking & Data Analytics education. He began his career in the Corporate Finance division of the erstwhile Lehman Brothers at New York, following which he moved to Mumbai to set up Lehman's India operations. He has successfully managed large Operations, Technology, and Project teams at Nomura. His in-depth Investment Banking experience, ranging from strategic design to risk-free transition while handling large people driven organizations, has given him an excellent appraisal of the dilemmas faced by Financial Services and Analytics Consulting firms. This enables him to develop tailor-made strategies and solutions.

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