“Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
The famous expression by Sir Winston Churchill is one of high relevance for online education in the COVID-19 crisis. Industries have reinvented their business models and re-defined how they approach various parts of their value chains. Businesses are now significantly reliant on the rapid use of technology and digital tools.
In this “Year of Zoom,” the category that we saw leaping on innovation was Online Education. I see it from various perspectives; as a parent of two school-going kids as well as a professional with a keen interest in how the business world is shaping up. While sharpening my know-how on the digital ecosystem, I aimed to discover the key catalysts at play;
Forced online or long-term sustainable change?
This shift was forced due to restrictions and precautions imposed by the pandemic. The long-term potential of online education merits a deeper analysis and could present a much larger economic frame via a vis a mere shift of institutions from in-person to Online.
Accessibility and Affordability
Whether Synchronous, Asynchronous or Hybrid forms of Online – one key aspect that scores in the favor of online education is- access. Anywhere, anytime and in various flexible forms, the ease that online education offers do work in the direction of a long-term shift. These include
- Global access to the best of teachers (who were so far available to a limited few in the traditional model)
- Increased choice-making in terms of course and curriculum design in line with what skills is the industry lacking and looking for.
This increase in reach and access is certainly capable of leveraging the existing resources to a larger population. This will lower the cost of education, making it affordable to a lot of people in the region.
Rise of Ed-tech Sector and its Investment potential
In regions like the GCC, the time is ripe for “Unlocking the Value” in the sector. In the past, the sector has had a large representation by the Government. The recent changes have been a bellwether for the private sector also to take a serious re-look at the opportunity. Given the large addressable market, there is a sizeable headroom to create a unique Public-private ecosystem that enables the flow of capital, ease of regulation, and collaboration with global experts and thought leaders to accelerate the change to this new world. It’s the opportune time to analyze the needs and the need-gaps in the current infrastructure and look at models to increase adoption and drive the sector to growth and scalability.
Boon to Re-skilling
This is perhaps a big one, specifically for the Gulf Region. With a large migrant population of skilled and semi-skilled workers, the need for re-skilling in this quickly changing world is perhaps more than ever. The majority of these employees require skill up-gradation. Re-skilling through online education could be a boon to them and their employers to equip them with the new functional and generic skills. This will enable them to have growth and sustainability in their careers while driving their larger agenda of organizational development and productivity. This opens a large direction and revenue stream for institutions that can adapt their existing infrastructure in the direction of adult learning and re-skilling. This also gives local institutions the opportunity to partner with the best in the world to get the skills unavailable here in the region and vice-versa take their resources to the global audiences.
Enriching the Teaching Experience
I was fortunate enough to experience this shift myself. Having taken an online course recently, I witnessed the stark difference in the increased engagement and retention compared to my education years two decades back. With the use of simulation, gamification, and game-based learning, the sheer experience of teaching can be made highly interesting and engaging blurring the lines between work and play. This change could have a significant role informative education as well as adult education making it more amenable for access, engagement, and retention among a large population on their connected devices.
Evaluating the various aspects of Access, Affordability, Use of Technology, Investments and Experience – I firmly believe that the Online education sector is on a part of no return and the pandemic-induced urgency has accelerated the journey by leaps in a short period of time. While this will transform the primary, secondary and higher education sector for the greater good, the big opportunity for the GCC region is the re-skilling opportunity that serves a large population of women and migrant workers who didn’t finish their higher education or has lost relevance and wants to acquire new skills for their Income and upliftment. The start needs to be made by institutions in terms of understanding from employers what the skills gaps are? and how best they can create a win-win model for making a favorable impact on the participants involved and the economy at large.
The Article is written by Ms. Divya Nagpal, an experienced professional whose journey has ranged from a medical professional managing her own practice to an architectural consultant and homemaker running her own enterprise. Driven by the purpose to create impact through leveraging technology, she is now pursuing her passion with the business platform focused on helping small and medium scale organizations achieve their digital transformation objectives. As a representative for Benchkart, she currently manages regional operations in the Middle East for the rapidly growing platform.