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Education in India currently has a three part problem. First, the traditional classroom model forces a small classroom size that drives the price per student upward. Next, teachers must cater to a class as a whole and therefore cannot customize learning for each student. Lastly, most of the best teachers are based out of the large metros which makes it difficult to provide quality education to smaller cities. Colleges and education services companies have struggled to fix this problem in the past. Despite these issues, I feel passionately optimistic about the future of education in our country – and it’s all thanks to technology!
So how does technology solve this problem? To understand the answer to this question, it’s important to note that learning happens in two phases. The first phase deals with absorbing the material and the second phase deals with applying the absorbed material. You need stellar instructors to aid students in the first phase. After all, if students don’t understand a concept, there is no way that they could apply it. Unfortunately, most of the experienced instructors reside in cities and it is too costly to send them to smaller cities on a regular basis to teach. This is where educational services companies should use two way live video conferencing technology to allow their best and brightest instructors to cater to students in small towns. This raises an important question from the perspective of students: Is video conferencing as effective a medium to deliver course material as in class teaching? Our own experience (and the experience of some great universities like MIT) tells us that learning outcomes are exactly the same! Internet infrastructure has developed to the point that there can be seamless two way interaction between the instructor and students without compromise in the learning experience. In fact, the “value” that students derive out of video conferencing is far superior since when employed en masse, the cost of infrastructure and the instructor itself can be spread among thousands of students. This is simply not possible in the traditional set up where the costs are distributed among only 60-70 students in the classroom. Additionally, connecting students from various cities through a video conferencing mechanism exposes students in one city to the thinking of students in another city. This is valuable from a diversity standpoint.
The second phase of learning – that is applying the concepts, can be implemented on a large scale by deploying adaptive learning platforms. An adaptive learning platform essentially is an intelligent software application that gauges a student’s proficiency of a certain concept and gradually improves the student’s level of understanding by introducing problems that are slightly above the student’s level of understanding. Adaptive platforms also gather data points on when and how a student learns best. For example, some people learn best through visual cues, others through sound and some through text. The platform could then customize practice exercises to suit every student. Again, as with video conferencing, when the cost of developing such an advanced platform is spread among the millions of students, courses can be offered at a very low price. Thus, while video conferencing makes learning concepts affordable and accessible, the adaptive learning platform makes applying the learnt concepts not only affordable and accessible but personalised for each student.
Even though video conferencing for education and adaptive learning platforms are relatively new concepts in India, their adoption rate has been staggering. Needless to say, we at Vidyalankar recognize that we must cater to the needs of the underserved and are working towards building a comprehensive learning solution for students across the country. Stay tuned for updates!