Randhir Kumar, Founder and Chief Mentor, BasicFirst Learning OPC Pvt. Limited

The Indian education sector has seen a huge technology uptake in the past few years. From AI and ML to IoT and AR/VR, use cases across technology domains are finding a place in the edtech space. The Covid-19 pandemic has given a further impetus to this trend with even traditional universities and schools now exploring ICT. Randhir Kumar, Founder and Chief Mentor, BasicFirst Learning OPC Pvt. Limited, shares his  views on the key technology trends shaping the sector, the opportunities and challenges brought forth by Covid-19, and the way forward…

What role is ICT/digital playing in the education sector? What are some of the key technology trends shaping the sector?

ICT plays a catalytic role in enhancing learning in classrooms and beyond. It enhances the scope of education by facilitating mobile learning and inclusive education. It facilitates research and scholarly communication. Some of the key technology trends are as follows:

  • AI in education: AI can turn learning into an enjoyable experience. One of the newest ways teachers can engage students online or in a classroom is through simulation. Leading gaming companies have been using simulation to engage their customers for decades. Many medical and flying institutes have started using computer-powered simulations to put candidates/students in real-life situations wherein students can react and interact.
  • Tech-savvy classrooms: With the introduction of multiple formats of learning, modern classrooms have been equipped with the most advanced technologies to give students complete engagement. The difficult textual content can be explained through videos such as documentaries and movies to give it a more relatable touch. Podcasts have also become an integral part of a number of classrooms, and students find it helpful to get useful insights on the textual content.
  • Virtual reality (VR): With the introduction of VR into the education system, the classroom learning experience has undergone a tremendous change. Learning has become much more immersive. Unlike plain images and hands-on experiments in the lab, students can now view enhanced versions of the image and objects on their mobile devices. The AR and VR trends in education technology are making learning a compelling experience.

What are your views on the use of technologies like AR/VR, IoT and AI in the education sector? What is their uptake in the Indian market?

The education sector was long due for a fresh makeover. The ML era has, in a way, revolutionised the perception of education by introducing AI to manage teaching and learning matters. This technological intervention has been one of the most sought after developments in the world of education in recent times. AI makes interactions with global peers smooth, and also helps in creating cross-country partnerships.

Also, AI and ML are used on e-learning platforms as virtual assistants to lend support to students, teachers and parents alike. AI and ML resolve academic, admission, technical and other queries through chatbots, which provide answers to questions through a feed, or refer to the person in charge. Through a subscription-based feed framework, the online platforms offer daily updates to the online community. The content is designed for students, parents, teachers and alumni to keep them up to date with the latest developments on the platform, in the industry, and their preferred sector of the profession.

What are the opportunities and challenges arising due to Covid-19 for edtech players and traditional educational institutions such as schools?

The ongoing global pandemic followed by the worldwide lockdown has opened up unexpected avenues for pioneering educational reforms. In these unprecedented times, when all educational ventures are in limbo, online learning has come to revive the dulled hopes of students.

Opportunities during Covid-19

  • Remote learning: With the rapid rise of the internet, many leading universities and educational institutions are using the opportunity to offer online distance learning courses to students who could not attend universities. Everyone can access comprehensive information and lectures from experienced professors online.
  • On-demand information: One of the most important contributions of e-learning is that students, professionals and other individuals can remotely educate themselves on any topic of interest whenever they want with minimal restrictions. All one needs is a connected medium, preferably a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop with internet access.

Challenges faced during Covid-19

  • Intellectual barriers: India is a country of diverse languages, cultures, customs and ideas. Creating a platform catering to myriad regional languages is a challenging task. Nonetheless, many e-learning platforms now support widely spoken languages to benefit everyone.
  • Time management: People pursuing self-learning via e-learning platforms often juggle between academics and other work. Consequently, some learners cannot manage their time well or do not find motivation to complete courses online. Therefore, dropouts due to time constraints occur, making it imperative to prepare a proper schedule and follow it for a holistic learning experience.

Going forward, how do you see the education space transforming in India? What will be the key drivers and elements? 

The Digital India campaign was launched to empower the country in the field of technology. Since then, every sector has seen rapid changes owing to advancements in technology. Also, e-learning is not confined to schools and universities, industries are also using it to upskill their employees through digital training sessions and webinars.

Self-paced e-learning is the new normal. Earlier, students needed to migrate from smaller cities, with or without financial support, as most universities are present in metropolitan cities. With due credit to online learning platforms, individuals are now signing up for undergraduate and postgraduate degree, diploma courses, and certificate programmes online to continue their studies, or add a competitive edge to their résumés by upskilling, or to learn something as a hobby.

At this time of crisis, e-learning portals are seeing a massive surge in registrations and the belief that learning is confined to the four walls of a traditional classroom has been shattered. It has now become apparent that education permeates geographical proximities. Many state governments are looking at tying up with e-learning portals to help teachers and students. The lockdown will serve as a time-trial for all e-learning ventures as they are the only means of continuing the learning journey for students. As India is still a growing country, there is enough room for improvement. As the infrastructure to support digital growth in Tier 2 and 3 cities grows, the online e-learning industry will grow with it.