The Much-Needed Revolution Brought In By Educational Technology. What Lies Ahead?

Rishabh Khanna is the Founder of Suraasa, a teacher training and accreditation platform. He belongs to Karnal, Haryana, a city widely regarded as an education hub. Rishabh has earned a degree in mechanical engineering from a leading college in New Delhi.

Technology has brought about a shift in the educational system. While the traditional system was teacher-centric and had a human touch for the learning group, with the evolution of technology, the education sector witnessed the digital transformation. The current digitized educational system enables self-paced learning for every single learner. This paves the way for the emergence of ed-tech players in the market and hence contributes in making a system-to-system comparison.

Impact of the pandemic
The pandemic's occurrence last year upturned our lives and the economic scenario. Considering its impact on the education sector, as reported by UNICEF, the pandemic affected approximately 90% of the world's student population. In India itself, 1.5 million-plus schools were shut which affected the learning of 286 million children from pre-primary to secondary levels.

However, a notable fact is that the occurrence of COVID-19 came as a blessing in disguise for the education sector and eventually escalated and drove the process of technology adoption in the Indian education market. The industry found an opportunity in the testing times and COVID1-9 acted as a catalyst. The educational players came up with product approaches and innovative solutions to survive in the dynamically changing market. It led to the emergence of various ed-tech players and this initiated the e-learning journey for the students and hence, online learning has become the new fad.

Since the concept is new, it is still picking up pace. But experts believe that it will soon occupy a major share in the education market. Not only has the traditional educational system taken the digital route but the preference for online courses has also witnessed a surge.

Present scenario and trends
As per IBEF, India is the second-largest e-learning market after the US and the Indian online education market presently stands at $247mn as reported by KPMG.

The Ed-tech firms have witnessed a rise and institutes are now imbibing the use of cloud-based technologies for student relationship management (CRM), learning management systems (LMS), assessment management, etc. to provide top-notch learning to the students surpassing all barriers.

With the e-learning concept, video-assisted and self-paced learning as per the comfort and convenience of the learners is also rising.

Ed-tech is witnessing a surge owing to the plethora of benefits it offers-

· Innovative teaching method- Ed-tech enables interactive, interesting, and innovative learning for the students via multimedia and tech-savvy solutions. It also empowers the teachers to create specific courses as per the requirement of the students

· Collaborative teaching- Ed-tech has led to the formation of a collaborative environment between the students and the teachers wherein they connect, engage, discuss, and collectively resolve issues

· Seamless remote learning process- Ed-tech has brought the wave of remote online learning thereby making the educational process flexible and seamless. It also ensures the curriculum is interactive and engaging so that the students can gather optimum knowledge and absorb it effectively.

The road ahead
As per KPMG's report, India's online education market is expected to grow $1.96 billion and will have around 9.6 million users by 2021. While the primary and secondary supplemental education will be the largest category in 2021 at $773 million growing at a CAGR of 60%, the massive open online courses will witness a surge.

Future technological trends
The ed-tech industry will boom in the coming times and will witness various technological advancements.

As per KPMG's report, India's online education market is expected to grow $1.96 billion and will have around 9.6 million users by 2021

While blended learning will become the new norm, the major tech trends ruling the ed-tech industry in the future are-

1. Blockchain technology- It will facilitate smooth exchange of relevant information amongst students and institutes thereby ensuring a collaborative environment. With the abundance of data storage space, the requisite data will be encrypted and distributed so that it can be accessed via multiple systems and devices. This technological solution will also ensure the data transaction to be centralized and transparent and will be used majorly in massive open online courses and ePortfolios that will allow verification of skills, knowledge, authentication, and cost for e-learning agencies.

2. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning- They are the recent trends witnessed in the education sector and will revolutionize its operations. They will help in automating basic activities and will also ensure customization of the facilities. For instance, grading, resolving student's queries promptly when the teachers are occupied or unavailable, providing quick feedback, and monitoring the progress of students.

3. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality- VR and AR have made the learning experience all the more immersive and advanced. While VR offers a constructed reality, AR provides an enhanced view of the real image. Both of them will ensure the simplified understanding of complex concepts and will extend a real-world training and learning experience amidst the online setup.

4. Moving from STEM-based to STEAsM-based programs- This is the new fad in the ed-tech sector and offers the introduction of a curriculum based on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art (the newly added element), and Math that extend the right balance of logical reasoning and creativity amongst the learners. Not only will it hone their personality but will also instill various soft skills amongst the students and will motivate them to think out of the box. They will receive a hands-on learning experience and will understand the concept of teamwork and surviving in a cohesive environment.

5. Social distancing paving the way for distance learning- E-learning and online courses will witness a rise in the future. They will be at the forefront of the educational system and will be securing an equally important stature as the traditional system. They will offer a high-end, extensive and engaging educational experience by using a variety of content formats. Be it live stream, pre-recorded sessions, animated videos, group meets, or digital media tools, the variety of the content format is what gives e-learning leverage over the physical teaching system. Additionally, hybrid or blended learning will also be implemented in the coming times ensuring safety and protection amidst the on-going pandemic.

6. Recorded video lessons- Ed-tech and e-learning are paving the way for video-assisted learning. Consuming knowledge via animated videos extends improvised and enhanced learning experience thereby making the concepts all the more interesting and comprehensible. It also offers the students the flexibility to study at their convenience.

7. Big Data- It will help in personalizing and customizing the study experience for students. It will help them study effectively as per their convenience, requirements, and preferences and will also aid in resolving their queries quickly and in the required format.

8. Social media- Institutes are now using social media as a communication tool so that students can interact and exchange information. It will soon adorn the role of an infotainment platform and will enhance the functioning of the e-learning system in India. Students will increasingly discuss, exchange ideas, information, post queries, resolve doubts, and will engage in fruitful conversations on social media.

Summing Up
Ed-tech is the recent entrant in the education sector but it is flourishing and will eventually grow all the more significantly owing to technological advancements and digital innovations. The future of the industry seems promising with state-of-the-art solutions like Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality striving to redefine the future of educational technology in India in the coming times.