Sunday, April 11, 2010

Challenges and Opport 4 online learning prgm’s success in India - Suhas Katti

Online learning in India has taken off in a big way in the past few years. This popularity can be attributed to a large number of working professionals and students; who have found it a highly convenient tool to upgrade their learning curve; without having to disrupt their regular activities. A professional or student living in a small town can easily get access to the best course materials, faculty expertise of the various prestigious institutions like IIMs, XLRI, IIITs among others.
This boom in online learning has seen the market grown by approx $ 200 million to an estimated $ 1 billion by the end of 2010; according to Business Week, a business magazine. This has attracted well known names like IITs, IIMs, Sikkim Manipal University and private online learning companies like NIIT, Educomp Solutions and TutorVista. Even, foreign universities are not far behind to be a part of India’s booming online learning business. It is reported that Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University are also exploring tie-ups in India to offer courses in engineering, finance, management and human resource to Indian students.
The India growth story has seen a boom in several sectors like retail, real estates, financial services and a subsequent talent crunch; since the demand & supply for talent in these sectors is largely skewed in favor of demand. This has created a lot of demand for online learning catering to these sectors. The end users are typical working professionals who feel the need to enhance their skills and learning curve with best possible learning to further their careers.
Educational institutions, too are taking to online education in a big way. Quite often they are understaffed and their courses are in great demand by students & professionals who want to access their quality education. This puts a constraint on the universities resources. Online learning is only the way out.

The challenges facing online learning in India are:
1. Infrastructural bottlenecks seriously, hamper the growth of online learning to small towns and ‘tier three‘ cities; where there is an entire market waiting to be tapped. The power shortages along with poor bandwidth connectivity are the major impediments.
2. Online degrees are perceived poorly by general public as compared to the regular full time degrees. This perception needs to be changed in order to make online educational successful in India and this is happening slowly & steadily.

3. The course fees are prohibitively expensive as compared to regular courses. Also, banks refuse to give educational loans for online courses. There is a need to make them more affordable to attract more users.

4. Several of the online courses are autonomous; not recognized by the universities or regulatory authorities. There is a need to make these courses widely acceptable and recognized by educational authorities & the industry.

5. The course content is not standardized; especially in case of autonomous courses. This is again one of the reasons for lack of recognisation by industry.

The above challenges notwithstanding; several opportunities abound for growth of online learning business. Large population of young professionals and students, who are interested in upgrading their skills, present an opportunity. Lack of infrastructure in terms of quality education, colleges; especially in small towns are also blessing in disguise for the spread of online learning. Several PE & VC firms are showing interest in online learning business; thus indicating widespread opportunities in online learning business.

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