Indian students have become reluctant e-learners amid pandemic

17 November 2020 Consultancy.in

As e-learning becomes the norm, the majority of Indian students still prefer to learn in person. This is according to data from government-backed scholarship portal Vidyasaarathi. 

More than 10,000 students between the ages of 12 and 28 were surveyed across 400 Indian cities, to better understand the reality of learning during Covid-19. Schools in India closed even before a nationwide lockdown was announced back in March, and the phased reopening of educational institutions began only last month.

With the majority of students still learning from home, more than 60% currently spend between one and four hours each day on e-learning. Around a third spend up to eight hours, while a diligent 8% of Indian students spend between eight and twelve hours a day with their online learning.

Hours spent per day on elearning + benefit of online learningEnabling this dedication is the constant availability and accessibility of online learning channels, when compared to in-person classes. And students are well aware of these benefits. More than 70% appreciate the fact that they can access their learning platforms anywhere, while more than 15% acknowledge it for its ease of use.

The numbers also suggest that students are making the most of these perks. In fact, a staggering 80% are actually using their smartphones to attend classes and access learning materials. Compare this to less than 20% who use their laptops and 1% who attend lecutres on tablets.

While convenience is definitely a factor here, socio-economic forces might be skewing the numbers to some extent. Cheap data access and affordable contracts have driven rampant smartphone penetration across India. India is expected to have 850 million online users by 2025, as smartphone affordability and access reaches lower tier cities and even rural India.

Devices used for e-learning + Medium used for e-learning

The same cannot be said of laptops or tablets, which are distinctly cost heavy. Vidyasaarathi’s surveys were targeted at middle class India, with 90% of respondents coming from families with less than Rs.7 lakh in annual income. For many of these students, smartphones would be the only oprion within their means.

The device of choice appears to be influencing the learning application of choice. Nearly 60% prefer to attend classes via WhatsApp call or Zoom – easily accessed on a smartphone. Of the rest, 30% use EdTech platforms employed by their school or educational institutions, while only around 10% use independent EdTech platforms for their learning.

The last numbers highlight that despite investments flowing into EdTech platforms, partnering with educational institutions appears to be an effective way to drive adoption. Also clear from all the numbers is that students are making the most of their resources to continue their education despite Covid-19 and all its challenges.

Online learning vs physical classrooms + Biggest challenge while learning online

Indeed, online channels are being used for every aspect of education, from following the curriculum to pursuing extra-curricular activities such as arts, sports, entertainment, or even virtually socialising with friends. While the numbers tilt heavily towards curriculum-based usage, the mix signals commitment and adaptability.

At the same time, adoption doesn’t necessarily mean endorsement. Students have taken up e-learning for lack of a better option, while 75% would still prefer a physical classroom according to the report. The biggest reason is an unstable internet connection, with nearly 60% reporting this as their main challenge with online learning.

With many businesses still working virtually and travel restricted, most families find themselves in a full house around the clock. This puts a strain on the WiFi connection for one, but also throws up a number of distractions – an issue for more than 30% of students. For just over 10%, physical classrooms provide better opportunities to speak to teachers and clear doubts if necessary.


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