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Article by Mohan Babu


E-learning market awaits boom time

E-learning is 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 Mohan Babu

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.

I frequently 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 expertise.

Despite the 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.

While doing 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.

Although the 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:

  • Indian educational institutions have an abundant supply of qualified, talented and experienced instructors, lecturers and researchers.
  • Indian instructors are tech-savvy, a big plus when managing online courses.
  • An abundance of Web-development and infrastructure to develop sophisticated systems.
  • Slowing 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 experience.
  • Cultural 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.

Global giants 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”.

Indian 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.




About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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