The advent of the internet brought with it a new way of learning i.e. virtual education or e-learning. Although this type of learning started with the Internet, it has been slow to develop. With the onset of the global pandemic crisis in 2020, virtual education saw a major leap in adoption and growth. The pandemic-related shutdown of the education sector has had to rely on digital mode to continue operations, intensifying the growth of educational technologies (EdTech) around the world.
During this transition, both students and professionals recognized the importance of online learning and its benefits. The flexibility and convenience of taking online courses allows for anytime, anywhere learning. Continuing education is imperative for working professionals to stay relevant, up to date and to advance in their careers. EdTech players and e-learning platforms, in collaboration with leading institutes and top companies, launched various online programs to appeal to both students and professionals. The regulatory environment has also given the education sector a strong tailwind and impetus, as the New Education Policy outlined provisions for the extension to online degrees, credit transfer and blended learning as key pillars for improving access to affordable and quality education.
Let’s examine some of the changes in virtual education over the past two years and their expected impact in the years to come.
Industry growth and prospects
For years, EdTech and online education held a small place in education. The global online education market grew from less than USD 190 billion in 2019 to USD 250 billion in 2020. According to global market research results, it is projected to grow to USD 586 billion by 2027. India plays a significant role in online education – the market has grown four-fold to $3 billion since 2019 – with around 40 million students entering the higher education ecosystem each year. Of the organized workforce in India, about 40% of employees need to be retrained through professional certifications. With over 5000 EdTech startups across the learning lifecycle, the stage is set for online education to become India’s next digital export to the world. All of this has been well promoted through government initiatives such as eVidya, Diksha and the National Knowledge Network. More fundraising and mergers are expected as a number of innovations for effective learning and development work.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, people had some apprehension about digital technology-enhanced virtual learning. The pandemic has helped bring online learning to people from all segments. Interest in online learning methods has increased at an unprecedented rate, with searches for online courses increasing by over 85% in the last year. Online courses grew by 140%. The pace of digital adoption by education providers has been rapid as most stakeholders have switched to online methods to ensure continuity of learning while replicating face-to-face experience online. Most people from all backgrounds found this helpful, especially working people. Recent years have consolidated the role of virtual learning in learners’ daily lives. In the future, this cohort and the new generations will mainly look for online learning, training and development methods. This reinforces the future growth of online education.
The potential for growth and increasing adoption attracted more investment in education technology and e-learning. Globally, 21 out of 34 EdTech unicorn companies have been included in the elite list for 2020-2022. India has become the second largest financing market for EdTech in the world. In India alone, five companies became unicorns amid the pandemic crisis. Both foreign and Indian investors are coming to invest in EdTech companies. This investment has led to steep sector growth and increased the success rate of EdTech startups as global EdTech spending is projected to reach $400 billion by 2026, compared to $183 billion in 2018.
innovation and development
In a relatively short period of time, virtual education has completely changed thanks to the rapid development of digital technologies. EdTech startups combine many innovative features and approaches in their content, deployments, and platforms. Gamification, simulation-based experiential learning through VR-AR, AI and machine learning-assisted automation, microlearning, outcome-based learning, and many other features and approaches will be implemented to enhance online teaching and learning. These innovations can significantly transform the general education system.
The virtual education sector has been able to expand and grow for a decade over the past two years through strong partnerships between the formal education ecosystem and EdTech players. Now the sector is focused on sustained growth by offering effective methods for seamless education supported by digital solutions relevant in the global market. Increased adoption, investment and innovation will be key factors to drive and sustain this trend for years to come.
The views expressed above are the author’s own.
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