Lockdown Brings India’s Public Edtech Infrastructure Under Spotlight

India’s HRD ministry has been aggressively advocating for students to leverage official e-learning platforms

The government launched a host of online learning initiatives under its National Digital Literacy Mission

Although edtech solutions are aplenty, the question of accessibility still remains unanswered amid India’s huge digital divide

Necessity is the mother of invention, and coronavirus has proved to be that force of necessity for various private and public agents in the education sphere. It has also given a boost to the popularity of existing edtech solutions. While edtech companies saw a significant rise in organic users, Indian government’s digital initiatives have also come to the forefront in this crisis. 

India’s ministry of human resource development (MHRD) has noted in a series of campaigns that students should utilise the lockdown by learning new courses or continue their ongoing courses online through MHRD’s various online learning and information and communication technology initiatives. Last month, the minister also appealed to the educator and learners to suggest the improvements that they would like to see in the government’s online learning infrastructure.

In order to send these responses, the minister asked people to use the hashtag #BharatPadheOnline. Responding to the appeal, multiple people asked the government to increase the variety of courses on the SWAYAM platform and to allow the transfer of course credits for all universities. 

Concerns were also raised on limited access to the internet or digital devices in the country. According to the 59th review report of National Digital Literacy Mission (NDLM), around 16 Cr rural households in India do not have access to computers. Also, a nationwide survey of villages conducted by the ministry of rural development in 2017-18, showed that only 47% of Indian households received electricity for more than 12 hours a day.

The MHRD has launched a slew of online learning initiatives under the National Mission on Education. The mission was launched to make knowledge resources available for every learner in the country and achieve full utilisation of India’s human resource potential. 

Government’s Online Video Classes Keep Public Education Going

SWAYAM: The government’s flagship online learning platform provides massive open online courses with 140 universities approved credit transfer feature. It is said to have over 1.9K courses covering school and higher education, and 1.57 Cr total students enrolled till January 2020. 

SWAYAMPRABHA: The initiative provides 24×7 educational programmes through 32 DTH channels and Youtube videos. With over 3 Cr views, the Youtube channel has 56K total videos covering school and higher education. 

National Digital Library (NDL): It is a repository of educational content (text, audio, video, simulation, graphics) on multiple disciplines from primary to postgraduate levels. NDL has 4.3 Cr pieces of content harvested from 250 sources in over 300 languages and claims to have more than 55 Lakh registered users. 

Virtual Labs: VLabs provide remote-access to labs in various disciplines of science and engineering. These virtual labs caters to students at the undergraduate level, postgraduate level, and research scholars. This project aims at helping students to learn basic and advanced concepts through remote experimentation. It has 275 labs with over 2200 experiments and 18 Lakh students benefitted. 

NPTEL: The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) was initiated by seven Indian Institutes of Technology (Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Guwahati and Roorkee) along with the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru in 2003, with support of MHRD. The platform offers sessions across civil engineering, computer science and engineering, electrical engineering, electronics and communication engineering and mechanical engineering and 235 other courses in web/video format.

DIKSHA: The app offers curriculum-linked resources for teachers and students in an interactive and engaging format. The platform tools can be used teachers for school-level assessments, sharing of best practices and experiences amongst teacher community through case studies, research papers and innovative pedagogical practices, among other use-cases. The platform also allows educators and learners to access lessons digitally by scanning the QR code in textbooks. 

Learning Resources Come Online

E-Gyankosh: It is a national digital repository to store and share the digital learning resources developed by the open and distance learning institutions in the country. Students can download all the study material for all the courses that are taught by IGNOU free of cost. There’s also a web-based TV channel for IGNOU courses, Gyan Darshan.

Epathshala: The platform provides free access to ebooks (class I to XII) through website and app.

e-PG Pathshala: It is a gateway for ebooks up to postgraduate level and provides curriculum-based, interactive content in different subjects across all disciplines. 

e-ShodhSindhu: It is a collection of journals, archives, and ebooks on a perpetual access basis. The platform hosts over 10K e-journals and more than 31.35K ebooks. 

Shodhganga: Shodhganga is a platform for research students to deposit their PhD theses and make them available to the entire scholarly community in open access.

Targeting Next-Gen Research

Shodh Shudhhi (PDS): It is a plagiarism detection software that encourages original information by preventing copy-pasting and unethical research. 

VIDWAN: This is an expert database and national research network which has profiles of scientists, researchers and other faculty members working at leading academic institution 

Spoken Tutorial: Besides written and video tutorials, learners can get spoken tutorials in IT applications with self-training modules. 

NEAT: This is an AI adaptive learning portal, an initiative for skilling of learners in the latest technologies through a private-public partnership model. 

e-Yantra: A platform aimed at creating the next generation of embedded systems engineers with a practical outlook to help provide practical solutions to some of the real-world problems. E-Yantra provides engineers hands-on experience in embedded systems. It has a network of 380 labs and has benefited 2300+ colleges. Earlier this month, e-Yantra also organised a hackathon to find innovative solutions for addressing the challenges of COVID-19 and its spread.

Gyandhara: Gyandhara is an internet audio counselling service where students can listen to live discussions by the teachers and experts on the topic of the day and interact with them through telephone. 

The debate on the effectiveness of online learning has been a point of contention for many. It’s been argued that the expertise of a good teacher cannot be replicated in an online classroom where one-on-one observation of a student’s behaviour is not possible and even peer-learning becomes a far-fetched concept.  

Yet, the coronavirus lockdown has forced the world to experiment with online education. While some may call online education an equaliser for the masses, the linguistic, social, and economical accessibility of digital platforms still remains to be tackled in countries with varied demographics such as India. 

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Written by Yatti Soni


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