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Thursday, October 29, 2020

What did India’s e-learning boost mean for tech giants?

At YouTube alone, Indians have seen 4 billion hours of ‘how-to’ videos covering professional skills such as writing resumes, job interviews, and career planning as well as hobbies like gardening, photography, art, music, dance, and sports.

Written by Shyna Kalra | New Delhi | Updated: September 28, 2020 7:27:23 pm
online learning, digital learning, online class, digital education google, google india, Zoom, education news, school reopen, school online best classes, best online classes,Google said content in Indian regional languages will be key in the future. (Representational image/ Pexels)

Virtual classrooms and e-learning became immensely popular during the coronavirus-induced lockdown, which forced educational institutions across the globe to shut. To adjust to the sudden shift away from physical classrooms, schools leveraged on advanced technologies. In India too, the trend was pretty much the same. More and more schools held online classes with the help of video conferencing apps. Consequently, Zoom, a video conferencing service, and Google saw a massive uptick in their users. While Zoom claims that India is its second-largest market now, Google said it reached out to 140 million students and educators via its GSuite for Education and 120 million through Google Classroom.

“Usage of Zoom has grown from 10 million daily meeting participants in December to 300 million in April, globally. Over 1,00,000 schools across 25 countries are using Zoom including 2,300 in India to help children continue their education remotely. India is the second-largest market for us outside of the US,” said Sameer Raje, India Head, Zoom Video Communications.

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To cater to the increasing demand, Zoom will soon launch “student engagement and classroom management” features which will be available free of cost at Zoom for Education plans, Raje informed. Zoom said it has taken several steps to ensure safety on the platform, including enabling meeting passwords and virtual waiting rooms by default for users enrolled in the K-12, Free Basic, and Single Pro programmes.

Top picks during lockdown

Along with Google, YouTube has also seen an uptick in users. YouTube has evolved from “just entertainment and information, to now being a platform for information, entertainment, and education,” said Bani Paintal Dhawan, head of education, India and South Asia, Google.

On YouTube alone, Indians have seen 4 billion hours of ‘how-to’ videos covering professional skills such as writing resumes, job interviews, and career planning as well as hobbies like gardening, photography, art, music, dance, and sports, Dhawan informed.

Among courses offered by Google, most-popular curriculum-based topics included mathematics and physics, as well as hobby-based short courses including photography, and DIY arts and crafts at YouTube Learning Destination.

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Google said content in Indian regional languages will be key in the future. “In April we launched Teach From Home — an information hub in English and eight Indian languages aimed at helping teachers and educators get the support they need to begin teaching remotely. Over 4 lakh educators have accessed information on this hub to date. We believe that the availability of quality educational content in Indian languages is going to be more important than ever, to enable online education to be truly effective for everyone,” Dhawan told indianexpress.com.

Low connectivity areas

For users in remote-areas, Zoom said it has seen “wide adoption in small towns and villages”. Several organisations such as Teach for India are using Zoom to reach-out to students in low bandwidth areas. WhatsApp too has worked well in such areas. While the Facebook-owned messaging app is not an education platform, several students and teachers in rural areas used it as one. Some of the case studies include Kriger Campus – a community of over 30,000 of educators, colleges, alumni and students.

Future of education

“Nothing can replace the value of face-to-face interactions in a real classroom, including the psychological and physiological benefits of real, interpersonal connections. However, online education will continue to be an important supplement in the overall education process, as it will enable continuity in the face of disruptive circumstances — beyond this pandemic, even in the case of inclement weather, societal disruptions, etc, where a seamless transition to online education will continue to benefit students,” said Dhawan. She further said implementing blended learning — comprising a mix of both online and face-to-face instruction — will be key to effective teaching and learning in the times ahead.

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Raje said hybrid learning is most likely here to stay, and a combination of virtual and face-to-face instruction could offer some students greater access to educational experiences. “With virtual and hybrid classrooms, and micro-learning, education institutes can see increased student participation and learning retention,” said Raje.

Learning from the pandemic

Google’s Dhawan said the COVID-19 outbreak has forced ‘us to think and execute learning in an online environment, at scale, and with speed’. “We remain committed to working towards a future where every student has access to the skills they will need and the quality education they deserve,” she said.
Our biggest challenges are often our greatest learning opportunities, and 2020 has been a great learning experience for us all, said Raje. He believes the biggest learning that Zoom got through the process was, “customers value a platform that is frictionless as well as secure”. Always design for 100x. You never know when you’ll need it. If and when you do need it, you will have to turn it up very quickly, so always design for scale,” he said.

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