Massive downsizing and reopening of schools: Can the hybrid model save the day for edtech companies?

By Yogesh Makkar

The continuous flow in the online learning space is now exacerbated by the closure of many EdTech platforms, the return of offline courses, and the growing importance of blended learning.

With 320 million young learners in the fray, India’s education system represents a highly lucrative business opportunity for new-age entrepreneurs and businesses. In addition to business interest, serving the segment can catapult the country’s growth as today’s learners are tomorrow’s leaders.

After independence, our education system has gone through a series of changes, although the way e-learning has disrupted the scenario is simply unprecedented. Online learning is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it started in 1989, but it is true that it gained prominence once the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. The pandemic has led to a complete lockdown and with people confined to their homes and schools closed, online learning has become a preferred way for students to continue their learning. The growth momentum for e-learning continues today, with the category growing at an exponential rate of 26% CAGR and estimated to reach $1 trillion by the end of 2028.

Despite the tantalizing numbers and attractive numbers quoted above, EdTech platforms have recently seen a huge decline in popularity. Many EdTech companies that were growing in double digits a few months ago are struggling to stay afloat today. In fact, many of these companies have closed while others are restructuring their businesses with massive layoffs being announced every other day. Under such circumstances, everyone has a question in mind: has the online education bubble burst or is there still hope for a revival of online learning?

A comprehensive analysis of the current situation reveals that only EdTech startups have failed and entered the market with the sole motive of making money. These platforms exploited the crisis inflicted by Covid-19 and never cared about providing a “superior learning experience” through their business model. What they did instead was focus all of their energy on striking money into the target market.

All of these dying organizations are severely lacking in the ability to provide real education, real service, and most importantly, after-sales service to students. The aspirants learned to use the “chat systems” and with a class of over 100 students, there was hardly any interaction that would prove helpful to the students. Therefore, it is no surprise that students are now moving from these online “chat-based” centers to “interactive-immersive” centers that provide them with a real learning experience.

It’s also interesting to see that amid the continued downfall of many EdTech platforms, a handful of players are gaining popularity and making rapid progress in student enrollment, with new students joining them in droves. These are platforms that have done extensive research on the learning needs of students and as a result have rolled out their courses in small batches to provide an “interactive learning experience”. Using the latest technology and a small lot size, these companies are leading the next phase of growth in online education. Moreover, by providing superior learning experiences to aspiring students, these companies convert learners into their brand ambassadors, thereby saving a lot of money on brand promotion. In summary, there is no doubt that online education will continue to spread its wings far and wide, even if only content-driven platforms focused on providing a superior learning experience will survive.

The holistic view of the current situation in the learning space calls for the adoption of a “hybrid model” of learning – a mix of online and offline education media. While online learning can engage students through its immersive and vivid delivery mechanism, offline learning can provide more interactive and participatory learning perspectives. In a hybrid model, these two mediums can combine and produce a phenomenal learning experience for students. Experts predict that the offline learning system will increase the demand for virtual learning in the long term and that the coming together of these two modes of learning will help change the very face of the education sector.

In summary, the future belongs to the hybrid learning model and by integrating the advantages of online and offline methods, the hybrid model can significantly improve the learning experience of students. Indeed, such a model benefits not only students but also other actors in the ecosystem of the education sector. For faculty members, the hybrid model can make it easier to manage their classrooms while parents can rest assured that their wards are getting the best of both worlds through the hybrid model of education.

The author is founder, director at Kapdec.

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