MOOCs vs Indian Edtech Startups – Why The Latter Is Succeeding In India?

Indian edtech companies founded by Indians brought up in India have been a part of the system themselves and know the culture well.

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By Karthik KS

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We need to credit Facebook,LinkedInand the rest of the social media with having exposed the average Indian to a host of best practices and lifestyle.

With the world going flat, working professionals and students started aspiring for the lifestyle of the developed world. Brought up in a substandard academic world, they knew well the only way to compete with his global counterpart is by educating himself. Students in the developing world such as ours hoped to have access to quality education. In the last one decade, the large Indian student community who only had options of substandard quality of academics started lapping up anything that they could lay their hands on from the developed world and started learning it all. Fortunately for him, this decade gave him access to globally recognized courses from the some of the best institutes in the world via MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

Where MOOCs failed?

Driven by ambition to compete with their global counterparts our working professionals had got into the MOOCs bandwagon.While a majority of MOOC courses saw great registrations from India, the dropout rates were equally higher. The numbers show a dismal 10% of MOOC registrants completed their courses. The decade old learning habits of Indians infused during their formative years in school couldn't be shrugged off easily. MOOCs are built on a completely "self learning model".

Walk by any Indian school and we hear the group chants of 2 one's are 2, 2 two's are 4. Not just in the kindergarten, as the student advances her class she may not chant them loud however she continues to chant silently, till end of college. The Indian education system institutionally is built on rote learning followed by the measurement of the rote which is what we call examination. The better schools moved up the ladder by teaching by "stuffing down the throat". The funny part of the Indian system is that for the 15 years of her academic life she is used to being told what to do and think, however after that once she starts working she is expected to be thinking and doing on her own and be self driven.

Since, for MOOCs there is no cross-examination methodology, in absence of it Indian learners found themselves lost.This is where MOOCs failed.

While lack of engagement is being considered as one the prominent reasons for MOOCs to fail, there could be additional reasons of MOOCs witnessing high dropouts rates from India.

This isn't just an Indian learner's habit. It is human. Remove the guided "rope queue" in a bank in any part of the (developed) world and you are bound to see the same chaos at the counter as we see here.

What Indian Edtech are doing right?

Human beings by nature are good followers and are motivated by regular follow-ups and instructions. Indian edtech companies founded by Indians brought up in India have been a part of the system themselves and know the culture well. Courses served through the learning apps of Indian edtech companies have focused on a guide - and - self learn principal which is why we see completion rates from them are as high as 85%.

Whether it is K-12 education or continuous learning programs for working professionals, players like IIMs via NIIT Imperia or Pondicherry University using Avagmah Technology Platform, the technology solutions built in India centre around the learning habits of Indian learners. They are aware that Indian students need to be mentored throughout and their solutions are developed accordingly. As a result, students pursuing or using solutions offered or empowered by Indian edtech firms have more stickiness to their learning apps and continue to learn as it fits right in their learning habit curve.

A 2015 Microsoft Research report advocates that online-only teaching methodology is not the right fit for students in the developing world. For them, blended learning is the best approach. The report states, "The success of blended learning initiative comes not so much by forcing students to consume video content but by combining video content with engaging classroom interaction." This re-emphasizes the fact that without guided interaction students will most certainly lose track."

Benefits of Interactive Education

For example, in the brick and mortar learner world, Avagmah's intuitive android app helps mentors guide learners at every step and learners are not left to decide for themselves. Its technology helps mentors connect with learners at regular intervals along with anytime anywhere access.

Another great example of how human intervention or interaction works better could be gauged by the increasing popularity of "flipped classrooms' in India. Students are asked to go through video notes at home before the class session, and in-class time is utilized for doubts clarifications, discussions or exercises, which translates to a more enhanced learning experience.

This blend of intuitive technology with understanding of learning habits of the local population is guiding millions of Indian learners get quality global education, be it a short term certificate course or a long term MBA and complete their ambition to compete with their peers in the developed world. EdTech companies thus are also helping them transition from being driven to do things to be self driven beings.

Indian education industry is on the cusp of a disruption and Indian edtechfirms are changing the landscape. The Indian learner would be the only beneficiary.

Karthik KS

Founder & CEO, Avagmah

Karthik is a veteran edupreneur and is the founder and CEO of Avagmah, a startup which helps Universities, institutions and distance education providers make higher education more inclusive for learners.

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