The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic brought sweeping changes to virtually every business. The pan-industry shift from physical to digital, which had seen slow but steady progress over the years prior, evolved a decade or more overnight. At the forefront of this wave of change was the education sector, led by a host of edtech apps both new and established.
The education sector in India had long been in stasis. Only since the advent of the digital revolution had a gradual change in the learning ecosystem begun. The efforts of early pioneers in edtech had brought online learning into the mainstream and made it a viable alternative to traditional methods. Despite these inroads, the physical presence of students and professors in brick-and-mortar learning establishments continued to dominate the space. However, the sudden advent of COVID meant that this was no longer feasible. Moving online was the one and only option available.
Over the course of the pandemic, online learning and the edtech space played a critical role in ensuring the education of millions across the world. Online learning platforms saw staggering growth figures, driven both by students and by professionals looking to upskill and expand their skillsets. But as the world now regains a semblance of normality, with offices reopening and students returning to physical classrooms, edtech firms need to evolve once more to cope with a readjustment in demand.
In order to maintain its relevance and traction under shifting circumstances, edtech must now focus on the convergence of online and offline learning. We are now in the era of hybrid learning, in which both online and offline aspects play an equally critical role in attracting and retaining students/learners. After two years of self-isolation and confinement at home, the prospect of entirely online education is no longer an appealing prospect. Startups are pivoting their business models to bring the physical education dimension back in the online space. The physical presence of a professor, one-on-one interactions, and the ideas that are sparked by in-person conversations are the needs of the hour. As such, online-first edtech startups need to move quickly to reinvent themselves for this new landscape.
This can be achieved through two principle methods:
Partnering with educational institutes
The biggest barrier to growth for the next wave of edtech startups is the lack of physical infrastructure and facilities. This can be remedied by entering into partnerships with a select group of universities nationwide. Traditional Indian educational institutions can take their offline setups online with the help of edtech startups, and offer both accessibility and availability to students across metro and non-metro cities. Edtech companies are similarly empowered through access to these universities’ existing resources – both human and physical. This synergistic with an online component exponentially improves the quality of education on offer.
If edtech startups can successfully utilise this framework to provide their services to a larger audience, they can achieve economies of scale. The end result is the ability to offer their services at ever more affordable rates, and as a direct result, increase their target market and future growth prospects.
Adopting an omnichannel growth model
An alternative to partnering with existing institutes is for edtech firms to open directly owned operated offline centres. The benefit of this omnichannel model is the oversight and control over every aspect of the learning experience it offers platforms. The strategic operation of a web of these centres allows platforms to cater to students in critical tier II and III cities, driving high traction and acting as catchment areas for learners. These offline touchpoints strengthen and reinforce the online components of the education, while helping build brand trust with the target audience and meet the growing demand for inter-personal mentoring.
The author is co-founder at Seekho.ai
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