Dr Hari Krishna Maram , Digital Brand Ambassador & Chairman , Vision Digital India explains that the ed tech industry and education sector overall has gained during these uncertain times.
How does Vision Digital India help in providing digital education to all?
In Vision digital India, the idea is to provide advanced skills to the students. When we visited large number of universities globally and also the industries, we realized that there is a need of providing advanced technology programs to the youth especially in India. In India we have the largest education system of the world with more than 1000+ universities and 44,000 colleges, 6,35,000 schools, and 370 million students. So we understood after a lot of research and after consulting the global education leaders and technology entrepreneurs, there is a need of providing the most advanced skills to these students. Whatever syllabus is there, whether be it at graduation, post graduation or doctoral levels, these are all syllabuses framed long back in any university if you take. And most of our textbooks are not changed from the last 15-20 years. So we realized that there is a need to impart new skills because every minute there is a technological change, and who is going to address that. That is how this vision digital India journey started with a motto of providing digital skills to all.
How has digital education become even more significant in the current situation?
Before Corona every educational institution, be it a university or a college, used to focus more on infrastructure development. The majority of the promoters used to spend lot of money on building the infrastructure and buying the land. Nobody could therefore actually spend money on technology developing stakeholders on giving online learning or giving technology programs using these technology platforms. Now suddenly COVID-19 pandemic appeared, and then all the institutes are closed. Now most of the institutions are locked down, and 95% of the students are unable to attend the regular classroom training. So now things have changed andsuddenly all the education institutions have started looking on investing and training, developing students, stakeholders including the faculty and student on giving them technology training using the webinars and other online content. That is how the entire scenario is changing now. Not only in India, y this is the phenomenon globally because we are unable to attend the physical classes from primary to the doctoral programs. Now everything is happening using the webinars.
What are the technologies being used and how are they being leveraged by the different stakeholders?
Look at globally the number of job opportunities that are available in the area of technology. So today, even in this COVID-19 pandemic, when 85% of the industries are unable to grow, but the technology is still growing. If you look at the richest people of the world, they are increasing their wealth during the Covid 19 pandemic situation. That means there is a great opportunity in the area of technology. Therefore we have put a lot of efforts and research in the area of technology and invested large number of our resources developing wonderful content and courses in the areas of data science, digital marketing, analytics, Python, AR, machine learning. In the advanced areas of virtual learning and Virtual reality/augmented reality we are working with some of the best international players.
What sort of digital education you think would emerge as the impact of COVID19 is expected to last for some time?
The only alternative is is the development of a blender learning module. This is seen across the world today as a popular way to teach the students, whether at Harvard, MIT, Stanford or Oxford or Cambridge. The vaccine will take a minimum of six to seven months. But this is a critical time for every educational institute in the world and if you look at India, this is the time when the new academic cycle starts in all education institutions. But now because of this COVID, we are unable to start the classes. Most likely from September we are going to start classes only for higher education, and that too in a limited manner. We will not be having a large number of students in the classroom and we will not be having a thousand of students in the campus, but we have to work with smaller numbers. The ideal way today is using technology in delivering the classes. The same faculty will be reaching a large number of students with the same energy he was using earlier what he was teaching for a smaller set of class of 50-60 students. Today the reach is unlimited and that is the opportunity what we have today.
What would be the operating procedures of this model for different stakeholders in the education ecosystem and what would be the possible business model?
Today every industry is in trouble a big way except ed-tech,.Whosoever are there in the education technology industry are growing starting from Amazon to Facebook to even when you look at the Indian examples of Byjus, Upgrade and the international players like Coursera, Khan Academy. Everyone who is doing a lot of work in the area of education is growing at a faster speed. Our company in the last two months e have grown 40%-50% unlike what we were doing earlier. Most of our faculty was very happy because there is no need of traveling. They are sitting at their homes, using the best of technology and able to deliver much faster as well as utilize more number of hours of their precious time unlike earlier I think the situation where we are in, if we can utilize in a right way the growth will definitely come.
How would you differentiate yourself from other digital education platforms?
To talk about the edutech opportunities and the business opportunities during this COVID-19 time, in the last 20 days we are getting more requests from universities and colleges to create content, to deliver the classes, to run the programs for large number of students where they are unable to continue using the technology. When you differentiate with other people, what Vision Digital India adopted 4 years back was a blended learning model where we deliver a few sessions physically, going into the classroom and using their labs, while the remaining sessions were delivered online using the technology. That is the model we developed at Vision Digital India.
How would the dynamics of Indian education institutions change this year?
Looking at the positive side of COVID-19, this year every institution is worried about their admissions, placements, regular conducting classes c. What I see is a great positive sign because every year more than 4 million students go to other countries especially US, Europe, Australia, Singapore for higher education but this year the number of people going to other countries for higher education will come down. These students possibly will be looking at India as a destination and there are lots of investments happening in technology side from the foreign international players. So that will be a great opportunity for every educational technology company to invest on technology to do a lot of research, deliver the best quality modules and bringing some of the best courses which are having a great demand in international market for jobs and collaborating with some of the international universities and companies. This can definitely help the growth opportunities of our students who can get a better job in coming years.
In a more digital education model, how would you ensure the security aspect?
Today I think most of the things have become open source. Today we are using Zoom, we are using Google Meets and all of these have become free tools. When it comes to the security aspects, there are some concerns about having a large number of connections and connecting them.A lot of companies and a lot of tools have also came up to prevent misuse of this. Initially when we started during the lockdown period, there were some technical glitches but now everything is resolved and things are moving very smoothly. If we can adopt cyber security, we can deliver things in a very effective manner.
What is your roadmap for digital education in the next 2-3 years?
Digital education is the future because student population in India as well as across the world is increasing. Today we have closely 1.6 million students across the world and the youth in the demographic dividend across the globe is high. The studen population in the world in the age group below 35 in India is 55%. These are the students who will be looking at greater opportunities, more career opportunities in the coming 2-3 years. We are also putting in a lot of efforts in developing some new innovative programs to meet the demand of the demographic dividend youth where we are able to create a good number of jobs providing digital skills to all.
How do you facilitate the interaction and synergy between industry and academia?
The Vision Digital India model itself is bringing some of the best world renowned companies to the classroom. Whatever the training programs we are delivering are all certified by the global companies like IBM, Amazon, Microsoft and we collaborate with these people and bring these companies to the campuses. The advantage for the education institutions is they need not put in a lot of effort to get connected with these companies, because the courses which we are offering are having the highest demand in the industry.