Around 1.2 billion learners globally have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, including 320 million students in India. Nationwide lockdowns and other risk-controlling measures by governments sent many students out of classrooms. But there have been many positive fallouts, such as adopting online learning and innovative learning methods to fill one of the enormous voids created in our education system so far.
The surprising innovations in the past few weeks highlight some of the long-term shifts the education sector is undergoing. In a way, the Covid-19 pandemic has permanently changed education for a whole generation of children. The sudden uptick in technology-enabled learning tools and methods has been unprecedented.
Even in the pre-covid-19 world, technology has been a critical enabler of some of the most significant transformations in the education sector, namely remote, distance, and online learning. The global online education market is estimated to touch $350 billion by 2025, with the Indian online education market showing remarkable growth since 2017 (ResearchAndMarkets.com). Many recent market estimates, however, have not factored in the Covid disruption. This means that the actual potential of the overall digital learning space is probably way more than our estimates.
EdTech sector shows the way
Education technology has already been a high-growth sector before the pandemic. However, Covid-19 has provided a significant impetus to the sector. In response to the lockdown measures, the last couple of months saw a spike in the usage of digital learning platforms, video conferencing tools, cloud-based online learning modules, etc.
India’s edtech major BYJU’S witnessed a 200 percent increase in new students, post its announcement of free access to its learning app. In what is termed the most significant ‘online movement’ in the history of education, around 730,000 students in Wuhan attended online classes via Tencent Online Classroom. Many Edtech startups have ensured that learning continued during the Covid-19 pandemic. Exams and assignments moved online, and remote learning became mainstream while teachers, students, and institutions tried to adapt to the new normal quickly.
In the future, we will likely see increased usage of augmented reality-based learning and AI-driven platforms as physical distancing norms continue. Even the brick-and-mortar classrooms, once they resume, will look different and become more technology-enabled. Very clearly, our education sector is preparing for a massive digital wave. Flexible learning technologies will continue to appeal to all classes of learners in the post-Covid world.
Edtech investments, which touched a whopping $18.66 billion in 2019, have seen an upsurge since the lockdown.
Minding the security gap
The sudden shift to distance learning has not been one without challenges. First, there was little time for preparation and training, which made the transition challenging and the user experience poor. But the bigger question is– how safe is distance and online learning?
In a considerably short period, device usage went up drastically. Students and educators accessed critical data remotely, while institutions hardly had the time to ensure a secure learning environment.
Endpoint security is a unique challenge in this context. Many devices used for distance learning are often unprotected and unpatched, making them highly vulnerable to cyberattacks. According to a recent study by Absolute, as many as 72 percent of devices are running old OS versions (2+ versions behind) across Windows 10, MacOS, and Chrome OS. An alarming number of Windows 10 devices were not being patched. The study warns that out-of-date devices are exposed to malicious activity and potential breaches.
There hasn’t been a more appropriate time for us to focus on aspects like endpoint security and data leakage prevention. Learn-from-home is set to be a new paradigm in the world of education. Security will be paramount in ensuring the sustainability of this emerging model. It is perhaps as critical as bridging the ‘digital divide’ to ensure access and correct education in the coming days.