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#Throwback2020: The year ed-tech platforms thrived

From online courses to coding classes, e-learning is disrupting the traditional education system.

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NEW DELHI: 2020 threw up education headlines that were previously unimaginable. Closure of schools and university campuses across the country, cancellation of exams and ensuing protests, resumption of exams and protests thereof, and learning going truly digital – it was a year of chaos and disruption for education. With the threat of the virus showing no signs of abating, educational institutes remained shut and students moved in front of the screens. The obvious beneficiaries of this unprecedented surge in e-learning were ed-tech start-ups, which lapped up the opportunity to jumpstart their growth.

Several education technology enterprises which had been vying to establish a steady financial footing managed to secure their place in the market as the pandemic ensured people remain indoors. Riding high on the digital wave with rapid adoption of mobile phones and penetration of the internet, these platforms emerged as convenient options for students to continue learning within the four walls of their homes.

According to the Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (IVCA) and PGA Labs data, Indian ed-tech start-ups witnessed a total investment of $2.22 billion in 2020 as compared to $553 million in 2019. Byju’s raised the most capital of $1.35 billion, followed by Unacademy which raked in $264 million this year.

Behind the boom in e-learning

Credited as India’s first ed-tech unicorn, Byju’s emerged as a key player in the e-learning space. The start-up had already been in robust growth mode after its collaboration with Disney last year to make learning fun for young students. It gained a surge in its usage after the government enforced a 21-day lockdown in March. Students reeling under increasing academic pressure began exploring digital alternatives as they navigated new rules of online schooling.

Another Bengaluru based start-up, Unacademy, which began its journey almost a decade ago on YouTube, also recorded as many as 30 million registered users as demand for e-learning soared. Students aspiring to qualify in various competitive examinations, turned to the platform after traditional coaching centres also faced closure.

Data states that Indian online education platforms have raised $4 billion in the past five years (2016-2020) and Byju’s Unacademy and Vedantu have led the charts and attracted the highest funding.

Coursera, Toppr, upGrad, meritnation, Getmyuni, Brainlyand Flintbox were other major players that held significant market share in the country in 2020. With their live online classes, course videos and personalised doubt-clearing sessions with online tutors, the platforms managed to make inroads into student groups.

Apps like eduTinker helped teachers – used to chalkboards and notebooks – to navigate the unfamiliar space and overcome challenges posed by new digital tools. These apps are not only aids to school education but also prepare students to pick up new skills. Among these extracurricular activities, coding is currently hot property thanks to White Hat Jr, which was recently acquired by Byju’s. Vendatu, too, launched Super Coders to provide coding lessons.

Apart from children, youngsters too migrated online to learn new skills or explore hobbies. Universities also began offering free online courses for those committed to learn digitally. Ed-tech start-up Yellow Class did just that. It offers a chance to children to get into new hobbies like drawing or dancing. Some platforms like Elearnmarkets.com and StockEdge.com also provide certified courses in the stock markets and other financial market courses for small investors.

Long road ahead

A recent report by IVCA pegs India’s education market at$117 billion with around 360 million learners in 2019-20.

While 2020 may prove to be a watershed year for e-education in India, there is still a long road ahead. Online platforms have proved to be convenient options when institutions were shut, but their real test would be when schools reopen and online sessions are replaced with actual classrooms.  There are still no clearly defined benchmarks of how efficiently students learn in these virtual classrooms. But, going ahead, ed-tech start-ups could collaborate with schools and other educational institutes in a way that ultimately benefits students in the post-pandemic world.

How well these ed-tech platforms would complement the traditional system of education in India in the time to come is a story waiting to be told. Nonetheless, the groundwork has been laid in 2020.

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