Does online learning have the potential to change the entire education system?
Ajitesh Basani

Advantages of Online Learning

Online learning is something that has been introduced previously. It began in 1982 at the Western Behavioural Sciences Institute, California, where the school of management used computer conferencing to deliver a distance program to business executives. Before, correspondence courses existed in various formats such as television, radio, and postal services from the early 1900s.

Since the last two decades, we have seen many learning platforms come and go- some have done exceptionally well while others were unable to make an impact. Today, the proof is in the pudding as we have witnessed collaborative Ed-tech models come into the limelight. With synchronous and asynchronous formats available today, the limitation of distance and time has been removed, making it convenient for beginners and advanced learners to progress throughout their adult lives.

Coming specifically to India, the NEP 2020 talks about ensuring fair use of technology where digital learning and integration are scaled in the country. Our current Graduate Enrolment Ratio (GER) is at 28 per cent. Keeping in mind the goal of achieving a 50 per cent Graduate Enrolment Ratio, leveraging online learning is the only practical way forward. The Indian government is a big believer in MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) and has successfully launched various courses over the years focused on skilling.

Online learning has its fair share of problems that need mitigation. For instance, technical issues (digital divide) are among the most significant barriers to scaling online learning. The smartphone penetration is currently at (2023) around 70 per cent, and we could see this go to 96 per cent by 2040; till then, we have a limited number of students/learners who have access to online learning.

With the present online learning community, we need help with completion rates being close to 12 to 15 per cent. Self-paced courses, though convenient, have average completion rates of 3 per cent, whereas cohort-based or group-based online learning sessions have completion rates of over 85 per cent. This means that online learning works, but how it is delivered and consumed matters most in its success.

The reason why the online learning segment works is that it is flexible, accessible, affordable and provides an overall customized learning experience to the end user. Learning has to be a two-way street where the feedback loop plays a vital role. Coming to the crux of the issue- Does online learning impact the current education system? Yes. Does it have the potential to change the entire education system? If I am optimistic and realistic, then, most likely. Some of the possible directions in which online learning would leap towards:

  • More personalized and adaptive learning: In the future, online learning platforms may become more personalized and adaptive, using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create customized learning paths for each learner.
  • Increased use of virtual and augmented reality: Virtual and augmented reality technologies have the potential to revolutionize online learning by allowing students to experience immersive, interactive learning environments.
  • Greater use of video and other multimedia: Online learning platforms are likely to continue to use video and other multimedia as a primary means of delivering course content, as these formats are effective at engaging students and helping them retain information.
  • Continued growth in popularity: As online learning continues to grow, likely, more and more schools, universities, and other educational institutions will offer online courses and programs, making it easier for people to access high-quality education from anywhere in the world.
  • Increased collaboration and socialization: Online learning platforms may also focus on fostering collaboration and socialization among students, which is an essential factor in student success.

The future of online learning looks bright, as it has become increasingly acceptable and accessible in recent years. Now, from access, we are moving towards mass adoption and a deeper engagement that is not just one-way communication but an AI-enabled learning format which understands, tracks, and assesses a student’s learning cycle- this is the future of online learning.

Educational institutions should not sleep over what is about to come. It is high time for traditional institutions to adapt and leverage online learning, as it is only a matter of time until we see several brick-and-mortar institutions get disrupted by the advancement of AI. Finally, an important reminder and takeaway are that online learning will not replace traditional education and will co-exist with each other in the future.

About the Author

Mr Ajitesh Basani, Executive Director, Acharya Bangalore B-School.

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