market awaits boom time
all set for a take-off due to cost advantages. Few niche market players in
the US are developing courses and platforms for e-learning, hoping that when
the economy improves, they will be poised to reap big benefits, writes
A few years
ago, it was hard to travel through a small town or village in India and not
notice the proliferation of computer schools and academies. Thousands of
them mushroomed, promising to teach students “valuable” computer skills and
languages like DB2, COBOL, BASIC, then Java, C++ and UNIX, as they became
popular. The incredible success enjoyed by NIIT and Aptech did not go
unnoticed by the smaller players and fly-by-night operators that mushroomed,
offering all kinds of courses. This was also the boom period for IT when
eager employers were hiring anyone who could spell COBOL or Java. Even IT
training has not been immune to the global slowdown looming large.
get enquiries from readers, some of them with dubious skills acquired at
small academies, looking for a break in IT. The flip side of this lack of
opportunities for the semi-skilled people is the lack of demand for “IT
courses”, leading to the vapourising of many of the training institutes.
Even NIIT and Aptech have not been spared by the slowdown, posting sharp
losses in recent quarters. However, the growth of IT education sector that
we experienced in the past had an unintended (and positive) side effect
something that very few of us realise building of a wealth of knowledge in
the form of experienced, qualified and trained instructors. It is time that
Indian educators and training companies harness that knowledge and
recent downturn, or should I say because of the downturn, we are seeing a
renewed interest in e-learning. Companies are apprehensive about spending
precious dollars on training and mentoring employees, especially if it
involves sending people to far off locales for a few days. However,
companies are not averse to allowing their employees from learning new
skills in their own time, especially when all it takes is logging online and
“attending” their courses. For employees who are eager to grab any
opportunity to acquire new skills, e-learning is the best option available.
my MBA at the University of Colorado, I had an opportunity to attend an
e-course during one of the semesters. The university supports candidates who
want to switch between “regular” and “distance” streams, because of their
personal and professional commitments. The course being offered was similar
to an on-campus course and was structured around stimulating discussion on
the Web. There was weightage for class participation, meaning logging in and
responding to questions and comments posted by the instructor. Students had
to take tests and assignments as in a regular course. The secure environment
for logging on to the classes was provided by a third party company
specialising in e-learning. Although the system had a few quirks, like not
being able to experience the ambience of a classroom and all the discussion
that ensues, it was a convenient learning platform.
trend is not towards a complete shift to e-learning, there are a number of
things going for it. There are a few niche market players in the US who are
developing courses and platforms for e-learning, hoping that when the
economy improves, they will reap big benefits. Indian training institutions
have a number of latent advantages:
educational institutions have an abundant supply of qualified, talented
and experienced instructors, lecturers and researchers.
instructors are tech-savvy, a big plus when managing online courses.
abundance of Web-development and infrastructure to develop sophisticated
global economy also means that there is abundance of local talent that can
be involved in creating, designing and managing e-learning systems.
Technologies and the backbone for e-learning already exist. We already
have access to a number of sophisticated tools like Net meeting, video
conferencing that can be seamlessly blended to provide superior learning
aspects like articulation, accent, pronunciation, etc, play a lesser role
since there is little personal/oral interaction. Even oral instruction can
be dictated, recorded and edited at leisure.
might be slowing their training and human resource development budgets, but
e-learning is poised for a takeoff because of the associated cost-benefits.
As De Gues, former executive vice president of Shell, says, “A company’s
success no longer depends on its ability to raise investment capital, but on
the ability of its people to learn together and produce new ideas”.
companies and entrepreneurs that can bet on e-learning technologies and
infrastructure development will be able to emerge as global players when the
world-market stabilises and business leaders start focusing on the basics,
including training and development of their human resources.