Economic & Social Impacts of Online Learning in Higher Education: Building Resilience.

AuthorSalwan, Prashant


Indian higher education (HE) sector constitutes approximately 40,000 colleges and 993 universities, which makes it the world's most extensive higher education system. With 37.4 million students registered in higher education India stands second in terms of student enrolment. In FY19-20 India's education sector was of the size of US$ 101.1 billion (IBEF, 2020)

India is the second-largest market (first being the USA) for e-learning, about US $ 1.96 billion in 2020 and 9.5 million users recording a 41 percent CAGR between 2016 and 2021 (IBEF, 2020).

Government of India is investing in a big way in online education as India targets to reach 30% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education by 2020-21. In 2004-05 Indian GER in higher education was only 26.3, just above the world average of 24% while in other Asian countries it was significantly higher, like in China 51% and in South Korea 94%. Even Malaysia and Indonesia had higher GER, 45% and 36%, respectively. The USA has a GER 88% and Germany's is 70%. (AISHE, 2019)

HE costs are high, and students from low-income families cannot continuously come to the college for studies as they must do a part-time j ob to make two ends meet. COVID-19 has been a massive disruption for the education sector. "The global crisis with the spread of COVID-19 is not only creating havoc on the health of people, global economies but also having a devastating impact on education system due to closure of universities, colleges and schools around the world." (Association of Indian Universities, 2020). Due to the extended closure of schools and colleges, the accessibility of education to the students has reduced. As per UNESCO, nationwide closures have impacted almost 70% of the world's student population (UNESCO, 2020).

Hence the question arises as to how can the education sector rebound and give education to all? What are the steps the education sector needs to take to build resilience? As per Association of Indian Universities (AIU) "the preparedness of the Indian universities in imparting online quality education to Indian students amid COVID-19 crisis is limited." So, what should Indian universities do so that they can enhance their preparatory levels? To answer these questions IIM Indore along with Technical Education Quality Improvement Program (TEQUIP -III of MHRD) has undertaken exhaustive and in-depth research on online teaching in technical HE institutes and came out with strategies for building capabilities in HE institutes.

Technology Usage in Education

According to UNESCO, education institutes need to gear up for the delivery of educational services online. Online learning delivery of content will reduce the losses of academic learning and help the industry develop resilience (UNESCO, 2020). In May 2020 Finance Minister (FM) announced that Technology-driven education to be the focus. FM launched the PM eVIDYa program for multi-mode access to digital/online learning. Top 100 universities, as per NIRF ranking, were permitted to automatically start online courses. The government has launched many initiatives of online classes in urban and rural areas. SWAYAM ( is the most successful Government of India initiative on online learning. The courses learned through the SWAYAM platform can be used as credits and are allowed to be transferred to the academic record of students.

Technology usage can help India improve the quality of teaching and launch skill-based courses. It is expected that if Indian HE uses technology interventions the economic impact would be in the range of $60 billion to $90 billion per year by 2025. The usage of Information and Multimedia Education Technologies will help HE institutes in providing better education to students, which is resulting in higher productivity to industries by giving more skilled workers. (Mckinsey, 2020)

Higher Education Institutes & Online Teaching

For developing strategies in the post-COVID-19 landscape first, the industry needs to understand how the disruption has affected them and their value creation partners. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) came out with five primary challenges affecting industries due to COVID-19 viz., Asymmetry, Disruption, Age, Populism, and Trust. These five challenges post-COVID -19 have a profound impact on the Indian higher education sector (PWC, 2020) (Table 2)

The HE sector needs to reconfigure itself to manage these five challenges...

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