Karun Tadepalli is the Co-founder and CEO of byteXL, one of the leading experiential learning platforms for IT career aspirants. He has a rich experience of more than two decades as a technology leader in leading teams globally, building enterprise applications for large enterprises and start-ups; including learning platforms. Karun visualized the need for practical and structured learning to reduce the skill gap between graduates and industry-readiness. He founded byteXL intending to reduce this skill gap and enhance the students’ employability quotient.
As educational institutions and workplaces slowly began to open two years into the pandemic, there has also been some emphasis on the brick-and-mortar mode of schooling. The pandemic times have seen a surge in EdTech. People across schools and colleges began to draw a myriad of benefits online education. However, some educational institutions seem to be content with switching over to brick and mortar. Prominent EdTech platforms are not left behind in the idea of having a physical school besides the online education by opening Tuition Centres. A few other EdTech platforms are following suit.
What does this tell us? There is belief being circulated that EdTech is failing us. Blame it on the obsolete not user-friendly software, or the claim that teachers are not trained enough on technology in the classroom. Then there are those students who are simply not motivated enough for online education. And for a few parents, it’s all about reducing the screen-time for children!
This is just the flip-side of the enormous numbers of people whose education was saved by EdTech especially during the lockdowns. Suddenly parents realized that much more can be achieved on EdTech platforms, never mind the expenses – they have been more interested in offering education to their children while saving time on commute and the time.
But the one fact that everybody comes to agree about is the role that an instructor plays – both online and in physical school. Irrespective of the hybrid model, it is the instructor who plays a major role in imparting the right knowledge and prepare the students. There are more reasons why EdTech will not entirely replace instructor-based learning. Here’s more:
- The debate itself is invalid in saying that EdTech will replace the instructor:
Firstly, we need to understand that EdTech was not devised to replace an instructor. It was only meant to complement an instructor’s coaching. EdTech is exactly what the internet had done to the computer – it enhanced the competencies of a computer through progressive technologies and brought the world closer with improving communications. EdTech must only serve as an enhanced mode of learning and skilling than the sole AI-enabled education-providing platform.
- EdTech should be an enabler for the instructor to teach in every nook and corner:
EdTech must play an important role in taking education to the remotest of places. The instructor must use EdTech as a tool to disseminate the learning sessions. This applies to all the tier 2 and tier 3 cities and it necessitates that technology and internet are robust in these regions. The EdTech platform must serve as an instructor-based learning tool. Although today we have the technology for delivery of the curriculum independent of a real tutor, the teacher-student interaction is highly recommended to develop the ability to analyze and communicate.
- EdTech must make education accessible in rural areas as well:
Contrary to what should have been the case, EdTech has not been omnichannel. Children from the economically marginalized population have already lost on education during the pandemic. According to a survey called ‘School Children’s Online and Offline Learning Survey (SCHOOL)’ in September 2021, 37% of the students in the rural areas were not studying at all. As many as 48% of the rural children were not able to read more than a few words. Only 8% of the rural students were attending the school online.
- EdTech should be affordable for the low-income groups:
In low and lower middle-income economies such as India, school enrolment is directly proportional to the rising parental income and education. If parents’ educational level is low, secondary school enrolment will equally be sensitive to household income; suggests a 2018 report by the World Bank. The lower-income group parents who see no incentives such as a mid-day meal see no benefit of online learning. Besides they also find it expensive to pay for online education, let alone the awareness that online education can give them.
- EdTech must be accountable:
It’s always easier to approach an institute, the management and the tutor whose physical presence gives an assurance to the students and parents. This is unlike an online school that appears to be intangible or elusive. Secondly, an EdTech platform by recruiting a trained instructor builds trust among the students and parents.
- The purpose of EdTech should be to reduce the costs of education:
Schools and colleges can adopt free online tools to improve the quality of education. While the Government has already provided platforms like NPTEL or Khan Academy to complement school curricula, it is the academic institution that must leverage the option to adopt digital learning as an auxiliary tool. A state mandate can be fruitful in this direction to empower the schools for digital education. Big EdTech players on the other hand must come up with workable business models that do not burden the parents or students with costs that go overboard their school or college fees.
- EdTech must be empowered by producing more and more technologically sound talents:
EdTech should work towards the goal by bringing the expertise of the instructor as well. At any point of time, EdTech should prioritize bridging the skill gap and help meet the demands of industry.
It is clear that the pandemic has had a significant impact on the EdTech market. But EdTech needs to bear some more responsibility by considering the fact that instructor-led teaching and the EdTech platform must go hand-in-hand. Somewhere along the line the purpose of EdTech has digressed. It seems to be heading towards a mechanical form of learning. But the goal of EdTech is to make education more accessible and provide auxiliary knowledge and this goal should not be forgotten. Besides, making EdTech affordable substantiated with an instructor will keep it yielding in the long run.