Sitting in a cramped-up classroom, I stared at the tutor- a 20-something IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) graduate. After spending about 4 years earning a bachelor’s degree at India’s most renowned engineering institution, he had decided that teaching was his passion and spent time teaching high school students. I was one of the hundreds of students preparing for IIT-JEE, an entrance exam for IIT notorious for its low qualification rate. In 2017, about 1.7 million students appeared for the exam and about 11,000 actually qualified (that’s 0.92% qualification).
Parents pay a huge sum of money to get their kids into these coaching institutions which brag about providing the students with the best quality education. After attending school, students march into these coaching institutes and cram the lecture room to listen to (in most cases) an IIT graduate teach. Some of these kids travel over an hour just to reach these institutes.
A Lecturer Explaining a Concept
A Crowded Classroom in a Coaching Institute
Time wasted, money spent, and students in cramped up classrooms. So why do students attend these classes one might ask. These lectures are also discussion periods; students ask questions as the lecturer is teaching. Students can also get their doubts solved by their peers, and you’re likely to find those one or two ‘bright’ kids who manage to solve doubts more easily than others. They are given homework which is subsequently discussed and there is motivation to do more. The tests make students compete with their peers whilst preparing them for the actual JEE.
But can these advantages be digitised? Can we motivate students to learn more, to stay on track, to have discussions, to build a peer network without having them travel for hours, making them sit in discomfort, or making them pay a huge sum of money? It turns out that we can, at least to some extent.
I was watching telly for a change when I came across this website unacademy.com (not sponsored!). I decided to see what they have to offer. This was the first time I had come across a website that prepared students for entrance exams. How fascinating! The coaching institutes do provide digital recordings of the lectures but that has its limits, so I wanted to see what this particular website offered.
Unacademy boasts features such as language selection- a feature that is essential for the diverse population in India, flexible schedules, interactive polls, discussions with educators, doubt clearing sessions, short quizzes, and so on. It keeps students interested by the usual means such as notifications, quick stats, clean interface, etc. With all this, the app still manages to keep the costs low. Coaching institutes spend a lot in hiring popular lecturers. They also need to make a profit with a limited number of students. In an online platform, however, scalability is not limited by the classroom space, which may be how they are able to keep the cost to consumer low.
Screenshot of Unacademy
Of course, Unacademy is not the only platform out there; there is always competition, so companies have to stay on their toes all the time. But this is also true for coaching institutes. One can see new ones popping up all the time!
Yet with space being limited, the land costs rising, and the population density increasing, who do you think stands a better chance? What would you, as an aspiring candidate for an entrance exam opt for: a face-to-face coaching or online coaching? Why would you opt for one over the other? If you opt for coaching institutes (face-to-face coaching), how might an organisation convince you to shift to their online platform?