Re-imagining Rural Education In Digital India
Written by Shalini Saxena on 25 August 2017
The gloomy state of educational structure in India has been a distressing issue for past several decades. Though many schemes have been launched to improve the scenario, the condition of rural education in India continues to be miserable. Issues like - lack of proper infrastructure, the dearth of professionally trained teachers willing to work in remote locations, gender differentiation and difficulty in attracting students to school - continue to hinder the rural education. As a result, there is a huge gap between the already-attained and yet-to-be-attained learning goals. E-learning can be the key to unlocking the challenges and help India bridge this gap, specifically in rural areas.
Can e-learning transform the face of rural education in India?
Elearning is simply a term used to encapsulate ‘the use of technology for effective learning’, and what could be more effective than deploying this tool for spreading the light of education in the darkest corners of the nation! E-learning’s invasion in rural education has emerged as both - a ray of hope as well as a challenge. In a developing country like India, e-learning undoubtedly offers great opportunities to empower the rural areas. With Information and Communication Technology (ICT) crafting e-learning’s path, it can incredibly transform the face of rural learning. Here are some facts that back the bright future of eLearning in India:
Educational Technology and Rural India
Educational technology gives access to a large amount of digital learning material. A good Learning Management System (LMS) shapes the information and adds learnability quotient to it. The world of digital learning is vast, but with the right ‘knowledge management tools’ it is possible to design an excellent ‘student-centered course’. Though the process requires intense planning and precise implementation, education technology is certainly capable of overcoming the bottlenecks hampering the progress in rural learning. Thus, the overall all socio-economic impact will be remarkable:
Good teachers can be made available to students in remote areas through video conferencing or virtual guidance.
With online courses, students in rural India can learn even in the absence of a physical school.
By utilizing off-the-shelf content, a lot of time and effort can be saved. The content (video lectures, printable notes, app, etc.) once created can be reused multiple times to teach in different regions.
Talk-n-chalk classrooms if replaced by PCs or portable devices connected to the internet may play a major role in attracting as well as retaining more students.
Freedom to learn
With digital learning, students can choose from a diverse variety of courses and learn what they are interested in.
As online resources can be accessed anytime, anywhere – even the students who are unable to attend regular classes can study. This will help students who have to work or are differently abled.
The course outcomes can be assessed quickly with minimal efforts and used for formulating future policies.
In an ideal world, e-learning can be designed to reach the rural masses and perfectly overcome the glitches in traditional learning. But the ground reality is much different! While e-learning brings the promise of improved teaching methodologies, it also comes with a number of concerns related to its execution. Though eLearning holds the potential to transform the ideal scenario into a reality, these factors are constraining it:
A major percentage of Indian population is incapable of reading or writing English, and translating all the content into Hindi or Regional languages can be a daunting task.
Seamless internet connectivity is still not available in many parts of the country. With the number of internet users expected to double by 2018, meeting the bandwidth requirements will be a bigger challenge.
Despite a sudden increase in digital literacy, many are still not conversant in understanding digital terminologies and devices.
Spreading awareness about eLearning among the uneducated rural population is another 'difficult to tackle' problem.
Tracking and Security
Verifying the examiner and examinee authenticity, as well as tracking the course completion need implementation of extra mechanisms besides the learning process.
mLearning - Reaching the rural India
The steep rise in the number of mobile users and internet connectivity reaching rural India - the stage is set for mLearning. According to a recent report by Internet and Mobile Association of India and IMRB-International, “Rural India recorded 87 million mobile Internet users, doubling the number in 2014. The rural has a large potential for mobile internet and the data consumption is poised to grow leaps and bounds.”
Smartphones - Changing the ground realities
Smartphones are penetrating deeper in rural areas as the prices are dropping constantly. As the smartphone owners are increasing, the horizon of mLearning is broadening. While setting up educational institutes may take years, mLearning can reach the current rural generation with immediate effect.
Going offline - Resolving connectivity issues
Besides having the usual eLearning benefits, mLearning brings in solutions which allow accessing the content offline in a secure manner. This resolves the issue of not having seamless internet connectivity. The data is sent back to the server when connected to the internet, thus smoothly tracking the course progress and collecting feedback.
The Initiatives - A step forward
Call it National Literacy Mission, Right to Education, or Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) – different names were given at different times however the goal was one EDUCATION FOR ALL! As a result of tremendous efforts from the Government and several NGOs, the status of rural education has improved drastically.
The Government of India (GoI) under PM Modi’s directive has been taking huge steps to support eLearning. According to a recent report by the UK-India Business Council, “India has become the largest market for e-learning after the US, and the sector is expected to receive a boost from the government’s Rs. 1.13 trillion Digital India initiative.”
CSR (Corporate social responsibility)
Organizations like HP, Cognizant, Azim Premji Foundation, HCL, Cisco, etc. have taken up initiatives to educate the rural India via digital methods.
As eLearning itself is still in its nascent stage not much can be predicted about its future role in rural education, but there’s no denying the fact that ‘eLearning is the ideal solution for all the difficulties faced by the education system in rural India.'
Several Non-Profit organizations are educating teachers as well as students in remote locations in India using CloodOn platform. CloodOn sees a clear shift in usage from desktops to mobile devices. There is also an increase in usage of rich content like videos facilitated by CloodOn and partner mobile apps.
CloodOn believes that e-learning has the potential to transform rural education.