The quality of manpower is a significant resource for large populous countries such as India, which depend on them for their rapid economic growth. Realizing the potential and opportunities in the education sector, the start-up space in this segment has seen much action off late. Almost one third of these companies have yearly revenue in the range of Rs.5 lakh to Rs.1 crore and one fourth of these companies have revenue of more than Rs.1 crore per year. Investment communities are also very enthusiastic about EdTech start-ups. According to VCCEdge, the education sector has seen the rise of investment in recent years. In 2010, the total investment in EdTech was valued at $187M for 27 companies which rose to $248M for 48 companies in 2014 and in 2015, the 51 deals were signed in EdTech investment valued at $155M.
The taxonomy that one can use to analyse the education space is whether (i) delivery of course content is synchronous or asynchronous and (ii) tests, assignments and other methods of assessments and discussions happen synchronously or asynchronously. While the traditional class rooms are synchronous in both, the Learning Management Systems such as Moodle assist synchronous class room delivery with assignments and quizzes that could be digitally posted to be done asynchronously.
On the other hand, the Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) such as Coursera, edX and Udacity massified the reach of online education through asynchronous delivery of lectures from well-renowned universities and professors across the world. However, even after five years, these online platforms are figuring out ways to closely monitor and track the asynchronous conduct of assessments and exams.
However, new platforms that use the philosophy of “flipped classroom” are beginning to appear in the horizon. In this mode, the lectures are given asynchronously using video and other multimedia while the quizzes, doubt clearing sessions and discussions do take place synchronously assisted by technology and by instructors and moderators. The flipped classroom model allows the participants to come together and engage collectively in discussions and problem solving. This collaborative method of assessment is very different from the traditional methods being practiced. Through technologies, the flipped class room model (i)allows constructive and collaborative learning (ii) provides rich multimedia based course content to be learnt at own space asynchronously in a personalized way.
Communication technologies such as Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) enable peer-to-peer video based discussion sessions between students and instructors or amongst students to be set up with much ease. The granularity of data collected by the platforms enable deep analytics to be performed to provide personalization of content. With improved mobile broadband and increased cost of commute for synchronous face-to-face sessions, the flipped class room model provides an interesting alternative. Most of the start-ups have realized the growing need of personalized learning experience of students, and have started exploring this space. Hence, as in MOOC, thought and technology leadership is required to massify the flipped classroom model.
The use of the above technologies is echoed by the Edustars survey that notes that 61% of Indian companies have built mobile and tablet apps in education space; 54% of these companies use cloud for their offerings and 32 per of them use video technology for learning solutions.
Though there is big boom in EdTech start-ups with the ever growing usage of online learning, the education system is yet to experience the game changing effect that we all have been eagerly waiting to happen. While the technology is expected to disrupt education with online courses reducing costs of content and creating equal access opportunities to students around the world with improvement in adaptive learning, the education sector still has to experience a radical difference.
There still remains unemployed and underemployed graduates who pay high tuition fees that coexists with poor completion rates. It is time that we ramp up to adopt disruptive models such as flipped classroom to bring a revolution of some sorts to the critical field of education.
V. Sridhar is professor at IIIT-Bangalore and Krunal Sagan is cofounder, Epecate