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Challenges and Opportunities for Online Education in India



Considering the rapid change in technology, inevitable changes in education sector are going to happen. A lot or research is taking place to understand the pros and cons of online education in comparison to face to face education. In India, there are a lot of challenges and opportunities for online education. With a comprehensive literature review, in this paper, we have identified key factors which will boost online education in India. We have identified internet penetration; low cost of online education, ease of doing course, initiative by government, employer's recognition and bridging gap are the key factors the growth of online education. There are certain factors which are creating a hindrance in the growth which include insufficient digital infrastructure, credibility and language used in online education. With the increase in number of internet users in India, the paper also looks into what opportunities are there in future in education sector.
Challenges and Opportunities for Online Education in India
Aman Jindal Dr. B P S Chahal
Associate Professor, Associate Professor & Head-MBA
University School of Business University School of Business
Chandigarh University Chandigarh University
Considering the rapid change in technology, inevitable changes in education sector are going to
happen. A lot or research is taking place to understand the pros and cons of online education in
comparison to face to face education. In India, there are a lot of challenges and opportunities for
online education. With a comprehensive literature review, in this paper, we have identified key
factors which will boost online education in India. We have identified internet penetration; low
cost of online education, ease of doing course, initiative by government, employer’s recognition
and bridging gap are the key factors the growth of online education. There are certain factors
which are creating a hindrance in the growth which include insufficient digital infrastructure,
credibility and language used in online education. With the increase in number of internet users
in India, the paper also looks into what opportunities are there in future in education sector.
Keywords: Online education; Face to face education; Challenges and opportunities; Digital
The growth of technology has brought tremendous change in the almost every sphere of life.
Technology has also impacted the process of education. The face to face education has
experienced a remarkable change in the last 10 years. Although face to face education is still
considered the norm, but acceptance of online courses is increasing in the field of management
and engineering. Some of the reasons for the exponential growth of online education is that it is
instant, online, anywhere accessible, self-driven and on the go.
The major reason for the phenomenal growth in online education is MOOCs (Massive Open
online courses). According to Kaplan, Andreas M.; Haenlein, Michael (2016), MOOCs
are online courses which are aimed at unlimited participation and offer open access through
the web. MOOCs have gained lot of popularity since the time of its development in 2008. Over
800 universities around the world have launched at least one MOOC till date. According to
report by Class Central, there were 83 million students who had registered for MOOCs by
December, 2017.The list of top five MOOC provider by registered users include Coursera, edX,
XuetangX, Udacity and FutureLearn.
The government is supporting online education in India because of its potential to improve
education quality and reach through the Digital India initiative. Government of India in
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Association with Ministry of HRD has initiated a programme named SWAYAM (Study Webs
of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) that is designed to achieve the three
fundamental objectives of Education Policy i.e., access, equity and quality. The main objectives
of this effort are to take the quality teaching learning resources to all, including those who cannot
afford. This program SWAYAM seeks to provide education to those students who are not yet
aware of the digital revolution taking place and are still not able to join the mainstream of the
knowledge economy. Nearly 2000 online courses are offered through Swayam and
approximately 150 million students across the globe are enrolled in different courses.
Review of Literature
There are many definitions of online learning. Khan (1997) has defined online learning as the
delivery of instruction to a remote audience using the web as an intermediary. Elaine Allen, Jeff
Seaman (2011) have defined Online courses as those in which minimum 80 percent of the course
content is delivered online and Face-to-face instruction are those courses in which less than 30
percent of the content is delivered online.
According to Stack, Steven Dr. (2015), online education has proliferated in the last decade. His
research has not found any major difference in the scores of the students taking online course and
face to face classes.
Another research done by Dr. Fahad N. Al-FAHAD investigates the students' attitudes and
perceptions of 186 University Student's from different colleges towards effectiveness of mobile
learning in their studies. Their research findings indicate that students perceive Mobile
technologies as an effective tool in improving their communication and learning.
Herman, T., & Banister, S. had done a research on comparison of cost and learning outcomes of
traditional and Online coursework. Their findings shows that online course engages students in
the learning process, supports strong student learning outcomes, and saves cost for the university
According to a report by Google and KPMG, the online education market in India at the end of
December, 2016 was $247 million and it will reach $1.96 billion by 2021. Also India’s online
education market is the second largest market after US. The findings of the report also states that
the paid user base for online education services will also grow at least by six times i.e.
approximately 9.6 million users by 2021.
Drivers of online education growth in India
Acceptability of online education in India is growing at an exponential rate because of the
following factors:
1. Internet penetration in India
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According to a report by IAMAI and Kantar IMRB, there were 481 million users of internet in
India and this is growing at the rate of 11.34%. Also internet penetration in urban India was
64.84% while in rural India it was 20.26% till December, 2017. The main reason for the growth
of internet users in India is the increase in number of smart phone users. According to a report by
eMarketer, the US-based market research firm, there were nearly 291.6 million smart phone
users in India by the December, 2017. They are expecting that this number will grow by 15.6%
to reach 337 million by the end of 2018. The key factors behind this growth are the upsurge in
smart phone usage and availability of more affordable smart phones. Availability of internet at
fast speed and at very affordable price is the reason for growth in mobile internet user. Because
of internet, world class education becomes easily accessible to urban and rural population.
2. Online education saves money and time
As online education is through internet, so it can be easily accessed anywhere, anytime. You can
access the content early morning, late evening, at home, in cafeteria, or on the train. As the
content is generally preloaded, so you can download the lectures / videos and watch them at your
convenience time and again. Also cost of online education is very low in comparison to face to
face education. Also there is a great savings on hostel and transportation fees. Since all the
content is available online, so you need not buy books also.
3. Ease of doing courses for working professionals
Online education offers great opportunity for working professionals as they cannot leave their
jobs to pursue higher education. Online education offers them a variety of courses to choose
from and this can help in finding new career options for them. This is also supported by the
report from Google and KPMG which states that reskilling and online certification is the biggest
sector in online education. Another online platform upgrad is offering online courses on Big
Data and are also providing jobs in this area.
4. Initiative by Government of India
Government of India is also taking initiatives to promote online education. They have started
Swayam through which they are offering free education and certification courses to all. Main
objective of this initiative is to provide quality education for which they have tied up with IITs,
IIMs and NPTEL. They are also tying up with universities by which student can earn credit
though online courses. In order to establish digital infrastructure in India, the government has
also launched National Optical Fiber Network. The main objective of this initiative is to increase
broadband connectivity and create a fast network. Government has started online National
Digital Library in which 17 million digital books & journals are available. There are 32 lakhs
registered users are accessing NDL free of cost. Government has provided Wi-Fi facility to all
the central universities.
5. Gaining recognition among employers
Today most of the universities in US are offering at least one online course. In India also many
of the prestigious institutions are offering online courses where otherwise admission is very
difficult and costly. Online courses done from well respected universities/ institutions are
accepted by employers. Employers also understand that online education requires self-discipline,
drive and other skills that they are looking for in a candidate. So proper care should be taken in
selecting the university from where you are doing course. Also there are hundreds of options to
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choose from. Right selection from right educational institute can help you make right career
6. Bridge the gap between education level and industry expectations
According to a report in The World Employment and Social Outlook Trends, there were 18.3
million Indians unemployed in 2017 and it is projected to increase by 18.9 million by the year
2019. According to a report, India’s working age population is increasing and is expected to
reach 64% of the population by 2021. Do you think it is because of sufficient job opportunities
are not available in India? Nascom says 6 million people will be required in cyber security by
2022. According to Tech Mahindra CEO C P Gurnani, 94% of IT graduates are not fit for hiring.
According to opinion given by Sanjay Bansal, 58% of unemployed graduates and majority of the
unemployed post-graduates (62%) states that jobs matching their skill and education are not
available and this is the primary reason for their unemployment. So online education is one of
the alternatives to bridge the gap between what industries expect and what the educational
institutes are delivering. Online education offers an opportunity to enhance skills through
advance courses available in different domains.
Challenges in Online education
There are a lot of challenges faced by people in online education in India. Some of these
challenges which need to be overcome are:
1. Insufficient digital infrastructure
Although Government of India is taking initiative to develop digital infrastructure but a lot need
to be done in this direction. High speed internet and stable power supply are the biggest problem.
India stands 89th worldwide on internet speed and stability. According to the report of World
Economic Forum, only 15 percent of the households have access to the Internet, and mobile
broadband remains accessible to very few i.e. only 5.5 subscriptions for every 100 people.
Further, currently reach of broadband is just about 600 corridors, largely in and around the top 50
to 100 Indian cities, leaving rural areas with poor connectivity. 5G networks technology is the
requirement of today’s which will increase the speed of downloading the data.
2. Limited Social interaction
Since online education can be accessed at home or any other convenient place, there is very
limited direct interaction with the teacher and other people doing the course. According to
Dhirendra Kumar (2010), especially those courses which are self paced, there is very less
discussion among the peers. Most of the discussion takes place through e mail, chat room or
discussion groups. There isn’t any campus atmosphere to improve social interaction. So you are
not able to develop any social links which do help in the career growth.
3. Questionable credibility of degrees
Although industry has started recognizing online degrees, there are still a lot of fraudulent and
non-accredited degrees being offered online. The number of scam operators is rising who are
offering fake certificated which does not have any credentials. These scams not only losses the
credibility of the online certificates but also the faith of prospective employer in online
4. Motivation
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Some students need the push to get to the class. In case of self paced online programmes, student
may procrastinate. The dropout rate in online education is very high. Self motivation and
discipline is required to complete the assignments and upload them timely. If you have difficulty
working independently, staying organized and meeting deadlines, you might struggle in an
online program.
5. Language of the Course
India is a multi-linguistic country, and a vast majority of the population comes from rural areas.
The content offered by most of the online courses is in English. Hence, those students who are
not able to speak English struggle with the availability of language content. Hence, it is the duty
of computer professionals, educators, administrators, language content creators, and content
disseminators, to sit together and give a viable framework and standard solution to the learners
knowing only Indian languages.
Opportunities in Online Education
Change in technology is offering many opportunities for all stakeholders in the online education
sector which includes entrepreneurs, education providers and learners. Some of the factors
offering different opportunities in this domain include:
1. Mobile Learning
According to a report in Stastia (2018), in the year 2017 there were 320.57 million people who
accessed the internet through their mobile phone. This figure is projected to increase to 462.26
million by the year 2021. The surge in users is credited to availability of 4G internet and smart
phones at very low price. Going forward, IAMAI hopes that the National Telecom Policy (NTP)
2018, which is focusing on new technologies like 5G, will promote better quality data services at
more affordable prices and help address the digital divides that will promote internet penetration
in the rural areas through mobile internet. According to report by Zenith, mobile devices will
account for 73 per cent of time spent using the internet in 2018. So the vast majority of students
in future will have access to e-learning through mobile phones.
2. Investor’s Interest
A large number of entrepreneurs are venturing into online education as this is expected to see an
uptrend in the next 5 years thanks to the Digital India campaign, the cultural importance given to
education and falling mobile data prices. The Chang Zuckerberg Initiative has invested $50
million in Byju’s, Bertelsmann India has invested $8.2 million in Eruditus, and Kaizen
Management Advisors and DeVry Inc. have put in $10 million in EduPristine. Khan Academy is
a non profit organization which receives financial support from philanthropic organizations like
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google and Netflix founder Reed Hastings. Online
learning platform Unacademy also raised $11.5 million of funding led by Sequoia India and
SAIF Partners; and Eruditus Executive Education, a provider of executive education
programmes, had raised $8 million funding from Bertelsmann India Investments. So, the online
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education sector will continue to spark more interest among entrepreneurs, investors and attract
more funding.
3. Blended Model
There will be convergence of the offline education and online education in future. This concept
of blended learning combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It
requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, but student has some control over
time, place, path, or pace. This model will take advantage of both face-to-face classroom
practices combined with computer-mediated activities. In future, there will be virtual classrooms
where face to face offline pedagogy will be aided by digital courses on practical knowledge and
soft skills.
4. New Courses
Today the most popular courses in online education are related to IT which includes subjects like
big data, cloud computing, and digital marketing. But in future demand for different types of
courses in unexpected subjects such as culinary management, photography, personality
development, forensic science, cyber law, etc. will increase.
Online education can change the whole future scenario in education if it can be implemented in
joint collaboration with industry, universities and government. Drastic changes in course
curriculum are required to bridge the gap so that students are industry ready after passing out.
Education process needs to be changed by making it more practical with the use of technology.
Also course should be designed in different language to increase their reach and more
opportunities for youth of rural India. Innovations are required to design ways to increase the
social skills of online learners.
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revolution: About MOOCs, SPOCs, social media, and the Cookie Monster". Business
Horizons. 59 (4): 44150. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2016.03.008
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5. Kushwah, Shivpal Singh; Vijayakumar J K. Content creation and E-learning in Indian
languages: a model
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6. Stack, Steven Dr. (2015). "Learning Outcomes in an online vs traditional course,"
International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Vol. 9: No. 1,
Article 5.
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Web Links
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... Advantages of online education include flexibility in scheduling, accessibility for a diverse range of learners, the ability to choose from a wider variety of courses and programs, and reduced geographical barriers. However, challenges such as maintaining student engagement, ensuring access to necessary technology, and providing adequate support for students who may struggle with self-directed learning are also associated with online education [11]. The growth of online education has been significantly accelerated by advances in technology, and it has become increasingly popular as a mode of learning, especially in situations where physical attendance at a traditional educational institution is not possible or practical. ...
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... The education system has been changed significantly in recent past due to the applications and integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in different sectors of education including educational management, educational administration, educational operations and research, etc [2,9,22] . Some of the latest technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, Data Analytics, Internet of Things, Blockchain Technologies, Cyber Physical Systems have changed educational systems and operation significantly. ...
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... Poor infrastructure and lack of qualified faculty is also a problem. According to NAAC data only 30% of the universities and 45% of the colleges were found to be of quality to be ranked at 'A' level".Internet penetration plays a key role in the growth of E learning [14]. It was estimated that the internet penetration rate was 65 percent in urban India, in rural India it was 20-26% till December, 2017. ...
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... However, it is broader and not only restricted in Online Education, rather it is about ICT applications in Education, E-Learning, Corporate Education, and so on. The integration of ICT is not new, after the development of the ICT and Computing the Education Sector became technology-centric [9], [19], [31] . COVID-19 has drastically changed the entire educational system including traditional [14], [28], [41] . ...
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... Digital technologies which include the Internet, mobile apps, sensors and others have the capability to sit up the learning process. Jindal & Chahal [1] find out on their study that online education has significant impact on the future Indian education system. Rebuilding the curriculum to make students more employable and using technology to impart the various skills in local languages can improve the speed of the development of online education in India. ...
In the 21st century, a majority of individuals use the internet regularly to increase their knowledge and to foster general awareness in this era of globalization. Due to the recent Covid-19 pandemic people and students are facing problems in their study or gaining access to high quality knowledge. It has had a great impact in the whole world, affecting each and every aspect of society i.e. education, economy, social life, etc. In every sector we observe an increasing adoption of digital technologies. The education sector has additionally adopted new paradigms for imparting knowledge and skills. It has shifted itself from traditional media to digital classrooms. All educational institutions at primary, secondary and college/ university levels are adopting new pedagogies or androgogies to cater to this situation and maintain the continuity in providing knowledge to its students. India as a growing nation is continuously seeking to make improvements progressing within the education sector. Just as there are many challenges to the education system of India, the situation provides equally a number of opportunities to overcome those challenges and to form education systems far better education for the Digital learning of the 21st century.
Engineering education is facing the challenging task of creating competent engineers due to COVID-19. In the pre-COVID-19 scenario also it was facing challenges like quality of teachers, infrastructure, approach of the regulating authorities, and competitiveness. Engineering education in India is imparted through government-aided, private self-financed institutes of technologies. Engineering teachers from private engineering colleges face the problems of work environment and motivation. Politics in private engineering colleges plays a demotivational role in engineering education. The political influence and unethical practices in many organizations are killing motivation for excellence in honest teaching professionals. In staff selection also, many times, political background is taken into consideration. Management many times encourages incompetent people due to the non-technical factors that are not relevant to teaching quality. Internal politics among the staff members for hiding uncompetitiveness plays deteriorator in engineering education.
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Relative enrollment in online classes has tripled over the last ten years, but the efficacy of learning online remains unclear. While two recent Meta analyses report higher exam grades for online vs. traditional classes, this body of research has been marked by two recurrent limitations: (1) a possible problem of selection bias wherein students self select the mode of course delivery and (2) a relative lack of proctoring of exams in online sections. Both of these confounders contribute to observed differences in performance. The present study addresses these limitations. Data refer to 64 students enrolled in criminology classes at a Carnegie research extensive university. Due to an administrative error in the course schedule, which failed to list one section as online, students were unable to self select into the online section, creating a rare opportunity for quasi randomization of students into sections. Both sections were taught by the same instructor. The dependent variable is the score on the standardized final examination. All exams were proctored by the instructor. The central independent variable is method of delivery of content: online vs. the traditional classroom. Controlling for other constructs, there was no significant difference between exam scores. Also, student evaluations did not differ between sections. Controlling for selection effects and the proctoring of exams, the academic performance of online students was the same as that of traditional students. Future work is needed for other courses, other fields, and other types of academic institutions.
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This study documents the transformation of a graduate-level course for teachers that had traditionally been taught in a face-to-face (f2f) model, in multiple sections, at a large university. By designing the course for online delivery and developing various interactive multimedia modules, the university was able to offer the course at a considerable savings while maintaining quality. The faculty worked in close collaboration, strategizing creative solutions to maintain the academic rigor and integrity of the course. Student papers and projects were analyzed and compared from both the f2f and online versions of the course to determine academic quality and learning outcomes.
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In the era of E-publishing and E-learning, numerous universities and cultural organizations around the world have launched initiatives to develop tools for multilingual learning and web publishing and have given preference to local content. India has different languages and different culture. Most of the knowledge and information related to people, culture, science and philosophy of India is available in Indian languages, which will be useful for learning and developing knowledge base. In India E-learning systems and online courses are already started, but as a multi lingual country, which gives importance to education through regional languages, there should be facilities for multi lingual E-learning. This paper covers the issues of Indian language knowledge base/content base, its requirement, and its implication in e learning. An Integrated multi lingual E-learning system for India is proposed in this paper, where importance given to multi lingual course content creation.
  • Jyoti Chauhan
Chauhan, Jyoti (2017). International Journal of Computer Trends and Technology (IJCTT) -Volume 49 Issue 2 July 2017
Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE
  • Srichanyachon Napaporn
Napaporn, SRICHANYACHON (2014). Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE July 2014 ISSN 1302-6488 Volume: 15 Number: 3 Article 5