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Free courses, offers... Online learning gets tempting!

By Vinay Umarji
April 06, 2020 10:00 IST
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Edtech brands are offering discounts, adding fresh content and engaging more frequently with users during the lockdown, reports Vinay Umarji.

Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

IMAGE: B-schools expect placement offers to be much better this year. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee / Reuters

Over the past fortnight, as students across the country, across different age groups have been forced to rely increasingly on online learning, educational tech or edtech brands have been drawn under the spotlight.

Byju's, Toppr, upGrad and Lido Learning, among others, have seen a sharp rise in student engagement and enquiries on their platforms. And to make the most of the demand pull in the time of a countrywide lockdown, these brands have stepped in with attractive offers, extensions and a host of user engagement initiatives, hoping that this is the best time to bridge the digital gaps on the internet's educational highway.

Some brands have made their content free, unlocking what used to be hitherto premium access, while many have launched short, engaging content, hoping to hook first timers on to their platforms.

Byju's has made the learning app free for all students till the end of April.

Similarly, an after-school personalised learning app, Toppr has made its 'live' and 'video' classes free for students from class 5 to class 12.

Higher education platform, upGrad has opened up its 'live platform' to colleges, universities, NGOs and government agencies.

 

This is the edtech moment say experts.

Much as demonetisation was the turning point for fintech brands, the present lockdown will give online learning its biggest boost ever, believes N Chandramouli, CEO of TRA Research.

While the benefits and convenience of digital learning may have been evident for a while, its importance was never driven home as sharply as is being done now. With students being restricted to their homes and tutored by parents, there is an educational gap that must be filled.

Since parents don't want their children to lose out, they are more open to edtech platforms he pointed out. "The edtech brands have come out at the right time (with their offers)," Chandramouli added.

"Since our announcement, there is a 60 per cent increase in the number of new students using the app daily. The number of queries from students and parents have more than doubled in the past week," said Divya Gokulnath, co-founder and director, Byju's.

The numbers have zoomed for Toppr too according Zishaan Hayath, its founder and CEO. The platform has seen a 50 per cent growth in subscribers for its 'live' classes.

"Students are also spending more time on all modules, with the highest growth on the 'Ask Doubts' module," he added.

By opening up their platforms and content, edtech brands are being responsible and strategic believes Harish Bijoor, CEO of Harish Bijoor Consults.

"They are creating benign pathways for themselves and it is good because brands that offer benign cues to consumers are remembered," he said.

But he sees a gap between what users want and what these platforms have to offer. "We need edtech companies to cater to all those age groups affected by the lockdown," he added.

Experts believe that the lockdown could be used as a testing ground for new kinds of educational products.

It may be time for some of the brands to tap into non-academic or knowledge-led learning courses too, many believe. This may help drive up the reach of edtech brands even further, especially since demand is no longer the preserve of just school going children.

Consider the big jump in interest for courses on online higher education brand upGrad. From 2,500 enquiries a day two to three weeks ago, it has seen a 50 per cent upside with over 3,800 enquiries a day.

"At upGrad, we provide our learners with industry-relevant programmes. We already have more than 21,000 paid learners and digital marketing and data science courses are in demand in the current scenario," said Mayank Kumar, co-founder and MD of the Ronnie Screwvala-backed start-up.

Even game-based learning apps have seen a sharp jump in users on the platform and that too without any special offers or increased ad thrust. One such company is online elearning platform Lido Learning.

The company has not yet announced any special offers nor has it spent on advertising but "we have 25 per cent new organic users visiting our website regularly as well as spending more average time on our website.

"We also noticed a 2x pull in acceptability and adaptability of our premium offering," said Sahil Sheth, founder and CEO, Lido Learning.

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