Online Education in India: A Distant Dream or a Close Reality?

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Published: 08th April 2015
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A study conducted by the University of Virginia revealed that the first website visited by 95% of people upon opening their web browsers is the universally popular social networking site Facebook. A similar study conducted by the University revealed that the vast majority of Internet users leave more than three tabs open at a given moment in time, one of them being related to their current field of study, another their favorite sports team’s website and a third usually Twitter or YouTube. Could it be possible that the growing Online Education industry uses these facts to their advantage?

Online Learning is not an alien concept to many Indians. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, a large number of housewives used various Online Education portals to further their learning in different fields of interest. This may be a by-product of the traditional Indian belief that women spend the majority of their time within the confines of their family home. Adult and distance education have become commonplace in India. However, the younger generation of students, strangely enough, isn’t very keen on pursuing an Online Education, seemingly preferring to limit their Internet usage for leisure purposes such as social networking and gaming. Many educationists wonder whether the future of the traditional tuition class lies in the online world. With the usage of video conferencing platforms like Skype and Google+ Hangouts, they wonder whether in the future professors could conduct tuition for small groups of students in such a manner. Online Learning, however, faces a number of challenges in India: large parts of the country struggle to afford laptops and computers and many who do, cannot afford a stable Internet connection. The economic woes seem to halter our country’s progress in every field these days. There are certain groups, especially among the older generation, who have the misconception that the Internet is bad and every youngster using it will stray towards dark and dirty corners of the World Wide Web. This misguided belief needs to be altered before parents will allow their offspring to embrace any form of Online Learning.

Educationists can be broadly divided into two groups when it comes to Online Education: the modernists and the traditionalists. The first group likes to believe that Online Tuition Classes are just one enterprising step away by one of the numerous tech-savvy professors mulling around. I find myself increasingly aligned to this group. Why doesn’t someone take the initiative and open up a mainstream Online University from where students can attain recognized degrees to further their learning and qualifications? The traditionalists, however, believe that a country like India must first perfect the art of classroom education before we can even dream of venturing into modern fields like Online Education and Learning. A tutor we interviewed in South Mumbai sums it all up quite fittingly: “Arre beta,” he laments. “Half of us Indians don’t know the difference between Facebook and Google, what are you suggesting putting my everyday bread and butter on that godforsaken computer? Use some common sense na please!”
Opinions of elders are widespread among the older generation. What does the average school-going student think? Does spending hours in front of video games and the Internet saturate one’s computer usage or is there scope for Online Learning as well?

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