28/06/2016 8:35 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST

A Realistic Approach To Online Learning Could Do Wonders For Skilling India

Student working on laptop in library
Sam Edwards via Getty Images
Student working on laptop in library

In the last two years, the concept of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has gained traction in India. No surprises there. Learning through MOOC can be an effective solution to the problem of education in an economy where learning infrastructure is still in the making, leaving thousands of college graduates underemployed today. Recently RBI governor Raghuram Rajan expressed his views on the need to make degrees more affordable, where outstanding education loans stand at ₹63,320 crore and how online education has failed to make an impact owing to the low completion rates of MOOCs. While Mr. Rajan acknowledges the potency of online learning, he missed noting the fact that this method of learning has indeed grown rapidly, in spite of the MOOCs debate. With the launch of SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds), the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has made a concerted effort to push MOOCs. The platform will get more than 2000 top-level courses and the certification will help students get entry into institutions. There's also the IIT Pal portal and app which will be soon launched to help students with JEE preparation.

Ed-tech companies -- which have the attention of venture capitalists finally --are offering long-term solutions to re-skilling.

Today India is home to more than 365 million youth with immense potential to fast-track its growth. The National Policy for Skill Development (NPSD), 2009 has espoused a target of 500 million trained youth by 2022. The aforementioned developments in online learning come after realization of the fact that lack of education infrastructure, up-to-date course curricula and qualified teachers are some of the main reasons behind the unskilled white collared workforce in the country.

A study by MIT and Harvard stated that 95% of learners do not complete MOOCs. The reason behind low completion rate is quite simple: the courses offered target specific skills and come at a price way below what one will have to shell out for a certificate or a diploma from a traditional institute. As opposed to this, most of MOOC programmes do not result in certification. Additionally, people drop out because of no live teacher engagement or assistance and due to low motivation levels. Usually three kinds of learners sign up for a MOOC programme: those who want to continue with their education after leaving a formal institution, those who have never had a chance to go to a formal institution and those who are still in secondary school, but interested in learning more.

Technology does not change things for good always. Its impact on the job market is a testimony to this. For instance, today IT companies are able to downsize with the help of automation. Soon some of the leading companies in this space will be able to save labour costs by dropping some of their employees off the roster. Similar things may happen in other industries. Bottom line: millennials cannot afford to be complacent with their educational qualifications and they must update their skills from time to time. With a plethora of courses, ed-tech companies -- which have the attention of venture capitalists finally --are offering long-term solutions to re-skilling. Highly interactive platforms allow professionals to complete courses on-the-go with on-demand assistance from highly-qualified faculty across the globe. Employers' faith in professional certification is growing by the day. Research shows that 91% of hiring managers consider certification a criterion while recruiting; another 81% of hiring managers believe that certified professionals are far more productive than their non-certified counterparts.

. Research shows that 91% of hiring managers consider certification a criterion while recruiting; another 81% of hiring managers believe that certified professionals are far more productive...

According to market research company ReportLinker, the global e-learning market is estimated to touch $243.8 billion-mark by 2022. The likes of Udacity, Lynda, and Simplilearn among others are transforming the online learning experience through innovative training methods. Digital platforms allow exploration of new ways of learning. For one, gamification ensures a great experience. Today Scrum certification which is crucial for project management professionals is being taught online by incorporating gamification. This helps in reducing course completion time. Online learning platforms are also offering on-demand learning solutions that allow learners to attend unlimited real-time face-to-face online sessions with world-class trainers, regardless of their geographies and time-zones. Besides, new learning management systems are enabling users to customize their study plans to help them sustain their motivation level to learn with frequent updates on their course progress. So, the bottom line is that the learner is never alone.

Online learning is unsettling for believers of education imparted in classrooms. As more traditional institutes incorporate online learning in their curriculum, things will change fast. It goes without saying that broadband penetration is a prerequisite for uptake of online courses. For India, online learning makes complete sense at this point. The MHRD's New Education Policy will address many challenges in the country's education system and from the turn of recent events it is clear that online education will be a crucial piece in the ministry's strategy. This presents a golden opportunity for education technology companies and government departments to collaborate on various skilling projects.

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