The Virtual Classroom
Online education is rapidly growing in India but is it truly beneficial?
The past decade has witnessed breakthrough advancements in technology and communication techniques. In today’s world, the internet has become a necessity for survival and knowledge. While the world expands its technology driven gadgets and enhances communication, South Asia unfortunately lags behind due to poor infrastructure, lack of innovation and inadequate investment in the IT sector. However, India’s economy has been growing and the IT and communication industry has progressed immensely. India has succeeded in combining the advancements in communication technology with another basic requirement: education.
Even though distance-learning methods have existed since the 1980s, the real breakthrough emerged when communication and technology expanded, some ten to fifteen years ago. The idea of online education is to share knowledge with those who do not have easy access to it. The target audience are children and young adults who reside in remote rural settlements far away from educational institutions or are financially unable to afford the increasing cost of good education. In countries such as India and Pakistan, parallel education systems prevail with private education standards considered better than pub- lic schooling. Unfortunately, few are able to afford such luxuries.
Online education methods on the other hand are not only affordable but are also convenient for people who have commenced a fast-track professional career. With an online degree, professionals can focus on their jobs and utilise evenings and weekends to pursue graduate-level education.
Distance-learning education has made it possible for a larger num- ber of people to earn an education thus increasing competition in the job market, since earning a graduate degree is now much easier. Critics argue that online education has also decreased the true value of education. Most people who enroll in an online education program get a degree. They do not, however, get the same life experiences as compared to those who attend a college or university on a daily basis. A serious drawback of online education is also the limited tutor support, forcing students to rely on self-teaching. The purpose of receiving an online education is to create a virtual classroom environment however the system fails when students are unable to cohesively participate, engage in discussions with their peers and ask questions to clarify concepts.
A country like India is deeply di- vided by social class allowing only a handful of young people to not only receive an education from one of the top private institutions within the country but to go abroad to achieve a higher degree. It is therefore highly plausible that employers shortlist their employee choices based on academic background. In such scenarios where numerous candidates are vying for one role, employers are less likely to prefer someone who has a degree from an online education program. Distancelearning education is beneficial when it complements a profession or a traditional education background. A business or finance graduate will benefit greatly if he/she chooses to pursue a distance-learning program to enhance the understanding of a particular jobrelated subject.
The credibility of online education has a long way to go before it can match the credibility of traditional education methods. Employers remain sceptical about hiring people with online degrees and prefer students with the experience of gaining education in a traditional environment. Hailing from a culture that remains family oriented, gaining independent, real-world experience is critical before entering a specific profession. In today’s world, global exposure and experience is indispensable and is of-
The credibility of online education has a long way to go before it can match the credibility of traditional education methods. Employers remain sceptical about hiring people with online degrees and prefer students with the experience of gaining education in a traditional environment.
ten a criterion for senior positions in numerous industries.
According to an article published by the Press Trust of India, India’s online education market size is likely to double from the current $20 billion to at least $40 billion by the year 2017. Not only is this beneficial for India’s economy but it also means that more students are opting for online education. The reason for this rapid popularity is that not only are the country’s top universities expensive but since competition has increased, they have toughened their admission process as well. From a large pool of students, only a select few are admitted to prestigious institutions.
The rise of private education institutions across the globe has also meant the demise of good quality education. Most stakeholders are more concerned with increased revenues and profits, compromising the true benefits of education. The physical state of many institutions is deteriorating and students suffer from a lack of basic facilities. In order for these facil- ities to be provided and maintained, institutions charge students sky-high prices that not everyone can afford. The private education market in India accounts for only 5% of the education sector but is estimated to be worth approximately $70 billion in 2012. Besides that, female education rates remain at a dismal level and many struggle to obtain quality education due to a cultural bias. Some females are not allowed to attain traditional education and resort to online education methods instead.
Online education is a growing market and is increasingly beneficial to those who have limited resources. However, if combined, traditional and online education methods can achieve excellence in education, promote mass learning and enhance the student experience. Suha Jafri holds a BA Honors in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester. She is currently pursuing studies in professional journalism in the UK.