To make online education affordable and accessible for all and to plug the current gaps ailing formal education, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has called for formalising online education in India. The association has suggested a five-point charter that will transform the way education is imparted in India and will to a great extent the bridge the digital divide.
With access and affordability being a major deterrent for poor students, firstly, IAMAI has suggested cheaper hardware/connectivity or use of common service centres that will largely address the issue of access and affordability. According to IAMAI, there is a need to prioritise manufacturing and distribution of ICT Hardware essential for providing education and prioritise access for children, teachers, schools, and ed-tech firms engaging in distance learning.
Secondly, according to IAMAI, there should be emphasis on developing cloud-based learning platforms and training programs that promote familiarity with educational technology amongst teachers. The biggest challenge in the Indian education system is the existing quality of education. In most institutions, the course curriculum is not updated regularly to be in line with global developments. To fill this gap, the cloud can be optimised to deliver standardized courses from a central location to multiple classrooms. The cloud-enabled infrastructure can ensure seamless updates in course content as required and can be delivered to multiple classrooms at the same time, and with agility.
Thirdly, IAMAI has suggested subsidisation of fees (say 15-20%) for certain categories of basic/ essential e-learning for the underprivileged sections of the society so that they can upskill themselves.
Fourthly, according to IAMAI, all Boards and Universities must be empowered to offer courses online or offline or hybrid, with equal status of the degree/certificate earned via such courses. India has thousands of colleges and universities, but a very few have the infrastructure or resources to accommodate a 50 percent increase in students over the next 10-15 years. With scarce financial resources, to build new facilities or open new universities, enrolling students online is the logical solution to boost capacity.
Finally, IAMAI has said that the MHRD guidelines on online remote proctored assessments must be amended to facilitate Remote Proctored Assessments via credible platforms for all forms of online/ digital distance learning programmes. Online assessment solutions are clearly more customisable, interactive, secure, and quick to deliver. They work across multiple platforms (mobile included) and offer detailed interactive dashboards to analyse performance from various aspects. The ability to store historical assessment data and compare progress over time can be used to establish a trend and draw inferences on the learners’ progress in the context of learning.
The industry body has said that Digital technologies have played a big role in negotiating the current crisis. However, if we cannot transform our education post-COVID, we will never be able to transform our formal education sector and make education affordable and accessible form all. For underprivileged children, affordable, accessible and holistic Ed-tech solution enablement could become a great equaliser and hence an enabling policy a framework to formalise online education will be a huge boost to how education is imparted in India.