As the coronavirus pandemic has brought various sectors to a grinding halt, students preparing for various entrance examinations are switching to online coaching portals which have remained immune to the nationwide lockdown. While all exams scheduled in the months of April and May have been postponed indefinitely by the National Testing Agency, coaching institutes in cities across India are shut.
Irrespective of the fees that many had paid to the centres before the lockdown came in force, students are struggling to keep up with their studies and have no choice but to shift to online classes so as to not waste crucial time. Pranav Thanki, a student from Porbandar in Gujarat, had, in January, shifted 200 km away to Surat to pursue medical coaching. However, the coaching centres closed down in March.
"I don't think it is just me who is benefitting from online coaching it has emerged as a saviour for many at the right time. During such trying times, online coaching for medical and engineering exams is the need of the hour," Thanki said. Several other students from different parts of the country echoed the same sentiment. "My simple question is why do many of the conventional coaching centres do not have an online teaching system. This lockdown hampered our education but online coaching option has come to our rescue," Sanchita Rai from Lucknow said.
Educational experts from both conventional and online coaching platforms said a paradigm shift from brick and mortar classrooms to virtual ones was in the offing much before the COVID-19 outbreak but the subsequent lockdown is expected to speed up the switchover. "While it seems like online (learning) is the only option for at least the next 3-4 months, a lot of these students would have to come to terms with the changed reality," said Kapil Gupta, the founder and CEO of NEETprep, a leading pan India online coaching centre.
According to him once a student is enrolled in an online coaching centre such as NEETprep, he/she will never miss face-to-face classroom coaching. "A lot of new adopters, especially those who have to switch from classroom coaching to online coaching, would have to design their days to ensure self-discipline and consistency of studies," he said.
"In this 21-day lockdown, this, ironically, might actually not be too difficult considering there is no outside activity like going out for a movie or with friends. And who knows, how many of these students who switch now will ever go back to classroom coaching," he added. Col Anil Dhall, a well-known cardiologist and currently serving as the Professor and head of the Department of Cardiology at Janakpuri Superspecialty Hospital and a close observer of medical education dynamics, said gradually all the conventional coaching centres will have to offer online coaching if they want to survive.
"Situations like lockdown are boosters to a paradigm shift. Time-saving, extensive content, and a wider availability of faculty drives students towards online coaching. Instead of saying that conventional coaching will die, the situation will push them to transform into online coaching providers, where a lockdown kind of a thing won't impact the students," Dhall said.
Akhand Swaroop Pandit, CEO and co-founder of Catalyst Group, an online learning platform, believes like most industry segments needing physical infrastructure and presence, the lockdown has had a negative effect on conventional offline coaching centres and this is where online course providers will gain.
"Conventional coaching is suffering as they have to bear direct costs such as rentals with no means to earn revenue with admissions being closed. On the other hand, students are preferring online classes during lockdown which they can attend as per their convenience," he said. "Subscription rates have seen a spike. This incident would definitely encourage the industry to strengthen the online coaching ecosystem for future, leading to greater penetration of our services," he added.
Narendra Shyamsukha, founder and chairman of ICA Edu Skills, said most conventional coaching institutes have also come up with e-learning options and are engaging their students with online study materials, assignments and webinars. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Class Owners Association (MCOA) that has nearly 1 lakh tutorials under its ambit, has urged the government to grant certain relaxations in taxes and other charges over the next few days as the lockdown has affected thee attendance and revenue of coaching classes in the state.(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed - PTI)