Online education push reformative but policy lacks clarity, structure

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About three years into her job, software engineer Singdha Prakash realised that her work at a Bangalore technology firm has become boring and repetitive.

Unsure of her career path, Prakash took a 11-month-long online course in data science, offered jointly by the Indian Institute of Information Technology in Bangalore and ed-tech company upGrad.

“Following the course, I switched my job with a 48% jump in my salary,” she claimed. “Though it’s not a full-fledged degree, yet it is industry relevant and helped me in my career growth,” Prakash said. Several of her contemporaries are now looking at online courses without much inhibition, she said.

It is not just early-career employees, but also established professionals who seem ready to adopt online or any variant of this model of education. “Mid-to-late career skill-upgradation is a requirement for career growth and to engage with your clients better. A hybrid—online plus class contact—model of education helps you assess your relative acquisition of knowledge,” said Nilanjan Chatterjee, a Hyderabad-based professional with more than 20 years of experience who has done a course in artificial intelligence from TalentSprint, an ed-tech player.

This perhaps is the reason behind the government bringing in an online education policy, a first of its kind in India. The human resource development ministry believes that the online push is reformative and expands the reach of quality education. It estimates that by 2022, 6.5 million people will be learning through online modes, up from 1 million in 2018. It will also help in the training of college teachers, authorities believe.

However, such courses lack clarity and structure and suffer from implementational hiccups in colleges and universities. Private ed-tech players such as upGrad, TalentSprint, and Learnapp, are bringing industry into the equation, the government policy does not seem to be very clear on this. The rules do not have clarity on whom they want to target—freshers or executives. It is not clear how professors will gain by offering such courses and how the quality assessment will happen.