Friday, August 22, 2008

E-Learning has huge potential in India

India celebrated its 61st Independence Day on August 15, 2008. Even after 61 years, a large section of the population does not have access to proper education. Barring the top schools under ICSE/CBSE system, the IIT/IIM/NIT/IIIT and few other elite universities, the education standards in rest of schools & colleges are poor. The need of the hour is to build a cost effective education system – which can deliver the best quality education system like that of the elite schools but at one tenth the price.

When I look at the challenge, I can see the answer in e-Learning. But then e-learning is not the right answer. E-Learning has been around for quite some time now, and is yet to make the mark. So what is that we are missing? This question got me thinking, exploring and brainstorming.

E-Learning in India

E-learning in India is miniscule when compared to traditional learning. E-Learning is limited to select few elite universities/colleges and top-100 Indian companies. (Plus fortune-500 firms that operate in India.) The amount of money invested on E-learning by top-100 firms is negligible when compared to the instructor led trainings. In the academic world, E-learning is almost non-existent.

This dismal picture hides the real potential of E-Learning and also reveals the reasons for the failure of E-Learning.

Challenges to E-Learning

E-Learning has not taken off in India for several reasons that range from faulty technology to government regulations.

The failure of E-Learning can be greatly attributed to wrong technology. The current PC & Web based technology is not suited for Indian conditions. The current technologies used in E-Learning were all developed in America – and is not suitable for India & other developing countries.

The technical barriers to E-learning in India are as follows:
  1. Low Computer Penetration
    India has very low computer penetration. Currently only 2% of Indian population has computers at home. This means that e-learning via PC will be a non-starter.See:

  2. E-learning is based on computer platform with broadband Internet

    Coupled with low computer penetration, the high price of Internet broadband & non availability of broadband in many parts of the country implies that very few people can access E-Learning content that is being created.

  3. Technology Barriers.

    Today’s LMS platforms used in E-learning are quite complex. The users are expected to have basic computer skills to operate. Given the fact that the entire audience for e-Learning is there for basic education – the current e-Learning platform is totally failure for the intended audience.

  4. Language barrier.

    Probably the biggest drawback of today’s e-Learning technology is the language – All the current e-Learning platforms & content are based on English language. Though India has a huge English speaking population – the target audience for basic education via e-learning are not proficient with English and with computers.

Technical barriers are not the only thing that is pulling back e-Learning. Apart from the technical barriers, there are business use case problems to deal with.

  1. Faulty Business models.

    The current technology requires deployment of Learning Management Systems (LMS) running on a central server. The users have to log in via Internet or Intranet to access the programs. Reliable LMS software are expensive to license – it is about $25 to $100 per user per year (depending on the number of users), in addition there is need for several other software: database, web server, security systems etc. Plus there is the cost of licensing the learning content. The total cost of the systems & software itself has to be amortized over the number of users. This business model will work in a corporate environment where companies have proprietary content and are willing to foot the bill for e-learning system.

    The current e-learning business models are best suited for corporate firms – where the users are not cost sensitive & users have sufficient computer skills. This model however is not suitable for a large scale deployment that will be required in an Indian scenario.

    E-Learning has been successfully deployed in some of the universities abroad – mainly in the US & Europe, but here the cost was not a major factor.

  2. Outdated government rules & regulation

    Education system in India is governed by various governmental agencies. These agencies follow archaic rules that are designed to extend government control and prevent any form of innovation. The current rules do not exactly prevent e-learning, but the system does not encourage e-learning either.
  3. Cultural mores and norms
    Culture in India also hinders e-learning. The society considers classroom learning as “REAL” learning and any other form of “distance” learning is essentially second rate. As a result, people are naturally discouraged from opting for e-learning. On the contrary, Indian Universities have developed and promoted distance education – mainly through correspondence courses. These courses are offered only for higher education – as a substitute for college/university education.
Closing Thoughts

E-Learning has a big potential in India given the huge population base and the rapid growth of the economy. However there are quite a few obstacles to be overcome. This article describes the problems which prevent e-learning from taking off. In the subsequent articles, I will talk about the possible solutions and the changes needed to make quality education accessible & affordable for all.

1 comment:

Pink Angel said...

Thanks a lot
I am make a research about e-leaning in India,so your article help me