We are living in a fast-changing world where upskilling is the key to staying in touch with the times. Post the pandemic, Education Technology (Edtech) players have leveraged the shift in delivery of education to the online mode and deployed innovative strategies to acquire new users. The pandemic has also proved that high-quality academic programs can successfully extend beyond the traditional in-person classroom experience, which has led to higher education institutes offering more online degrees and hybrid classroom models.
In a special discussion on The Digital Wave in Education, presented by Forbes India, in partnership with Quora, domain experts shared their experiences and offered their views on the entire EdTech spectrum in the country. Moderated by Manu Balachandran, the panel comprised Arjun Mohan, CEO, upGrad; Gurmit Singh, GM – APAC and MEA, Quora; Shashank Murali, CEO, Relevel by Unacademy; Diwakar Chittora, Founder and CEO, Intellipaat and Narayanan Ramaswamy, National Leader – Education and Skill Development, KPMG – India.
Exploring future trends in the Edtech space
The discussion kicked off with panelists sharing their journeys and observations on various trends in the Edtech space. Arjun Mohan observed that the upskilling market has always existed, but it was more from the perspective of the B2B space. Post-pandemic, however, working from home resulted in more time and discretionary income and people sought investment avenues. With that, they began to invest in themselves. “Investing in themselves would ensure that their careers take off. It’s a newer trend in a country like India because we believe that after college, all the investments we make are for our children,” he said. “The first wave began with the Y2K generation; these techies understood that without investing in themselves and knowing newer technologies, there’s no way they can go up.”
He remarked that this trend of investing in oneself, while having a job, is reflected on Quora too. Going further, he asserted that the platform has become a reliable pulse for trends in the Edtech market, saying, “I really like that Quora sits somewhere between search and social. I rely a lot on Quora. Our customers rely a lot on Quora for the right feedback. It has been a market reader for me last year.”
Arjun envisioned the market growing on the strength of the confidence of Indian youth. “They’re ambitious and ready to pick up new things to go to the next level. It is an exploding market and I will not be surprised if in the next phase of Indian Edtech, we will have more revenue coming out of upskilling than from K-12,” he opined.
Shashank Murali began by briefly explaining how Relevel came into being to meet the needs of Indian youth who lacked visibility of a clear path to their dream career, even if they knew what they wanted to pursue. In response to this gap, Relevel was founded with the singular mission to enable Indian youth to accelerate their careers, through testing their skills and garnering new skills, through courses.
He believed that time and again, every few years, the entire workforce sees changes and this makes upskilling a necessity. “Technology still has a lot to offer, in the context of learning journeys, in terms of gamification, personalization, both from content to exercises to so much more that’s yet to happen,” he said.
Another trend he observed was that sometimes, aspirations or confidence get dented by the lack of knowledge of English, particularly in the hinterlands of India. His solution for this was integrating teaching of this language with courses for key job roles, which are always in demand by employers, irrespective of economic cycles. “We keep trying to decipher demand and listen to our users on a constant basis to see what more we can offer them,” said Shashank Murali.
With his experience of catering to diverse audiences, Diwakar Chittora said, “Our differentiating factor is that we always follow a student-first approach, wherein we focus on value creation for our customers.” As Intellipaat is in the professional education segment, its audiences range from graduates to professionals at various stages of their career, who are typically between the ages of 22 to 55. “When prospective learners come to us, they come with different objectives in their mind,” he said, elaborating that some are freshers who seek employability, others want to hone their software skills, still others want to upgrade their tech skills in general or to meet specific project requirements. He described how his curriculum is designed to provide employability and industry readiness and talked about the criteria for selecting those who create it and instructors who deliver it. He acknowledged that Quora plays an important role in providing potential learners with the information that they seek, through genuine reviews and feedback.
Taking the discussion to a more macro level, Narayanan Ramaswamy discussed the policy environment, saying, “The government has woken up to the fact that it is going to be ‘tech all the way’ when it comes to education. It is creating an enabling environment for Edtech companies to become world leaders.”
While he gave instances of programmes like Diksha, SWAYAM, NPTEL and described their impact, he believed that there is still a lot of scope. “If you ask me, they can do a lot more because EdTech is the next wave, like information technology services were around 20 years ago.” Commenting on the future of the Edtech space, he observed that there are many unicorns and soon-to-be unicorns emerging in India, which is the largest market today.
Invited by the moderator to share his thoughts on how Quora can enable brands to build thought leadership and communicate their objective on the platform, Gurmit Singh said, “Thought leadership on Quora can be done in two ways. One is through the use of Quora Spaces, which enables brands to create a community on a particular topic and take a leadership stance there.” He explained how this alerts users and the topic gets more and more views, as people join the conversation that the brand has started. “The second way is by building thought leadership through your individual profile. We encourage people to answer as many questions as possible,” he added. “Within India itself, we have more than a hundred million plus unique monthly users. So you have a large audience that can subscribe to your thought leadership.”
In conclusion, Narayanan Ramaswamy opined, “Edtech is just in its infancy stage. There is so much more that can happen in the Edtech space.” He went on to depict some exciting trends that the sector is likely to see in future, such as mobile first and hybrid learning becoming more significant, the rise of vernacular learning, personalized and learner-centric courses, social learning and peer-to-peer models emerging, immersive learning through augmented reality and the virtual reality technologies in Edtech, amongst others.
“Gone are those days when there was a teacher and a learner. Now there is a peer model where you can learn from each other. And what better platform than Quora to learn from each other?
I do believe that with the kind of learner base and teaching traditions that we have, alongside the emergence of Edtech, India is going to see pre-eminence in online varsities, much sooner than we think,” he said.