FPJ In-Depth: Does India's job market see value in edtech, online courses?

Though a shakeup in the edtech space’s confidence in pushing through the current economic conditions, starting from Byju’s to Coursera, might give the impression that online learning courses are losing value among users, that’s not the case among interns and professionals alike.

Abhishek NairUpdated: Friday, December 02, 2022, 11:23 AM IST
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The advent of the internet, which has made and is set to make an impact on billions of individuals, was also able to create an army of learners across India.

While seeing an opportunity in what this technology has to offer, many have decided not to be confined to classrooms but rather go beyond it to upskill themselves and enhance their career profile.

Edtech and online learning platforms in India, which have been barraged with questions over their viability in recent months, offer and teach alternative, new-age courses to students who might feel their academics are falling short of helping them excel.

Online courses not just a token for professionals

Though a shakeup in the edtech space’s confidence in pushing through the current economic conditions, starting from Byju’s to Coursera, might give the impression that online learning courses are losing value among users, that’s not the case among interns and professionals alike.

“I think I learned more from online courses than I did through my actual degree,” said Kenn Dsouza, who works in the field of content marketing and believes the skills contributed to his job prospects.

“I intend on learning new skills and don’t have any preference for a particular platform,” he said. D'souza has done courses in SEO, Graphic Design, Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and WordPress.

Others, such as Jincy Varghese, don’t see the courses being a waste of money or losing value in the long run as companies seek such qualifications in today’s day and age.

“Online certificate courses, in my experience, have not been irrelevant as many on Linkedin are posting their achievements with regards to the same on different platforms which also helps companies find the best-suited candidates for their jobs,” said Varghese, who did a course in Agile Project Management, which helped her bag a job as a Scrum Master.

Are online courses a hit with HR recruiters?

Though online course certificates are a positive add-on to the CV of someone looking for a job, according to professionals, there’s still uncertainty on the value it holds with Human Resource (HR) recruiters.

“Though I have mentioned the courses and attached certifications of the same on my CV, it’s hard to be sure if recruiters are giving your certification any particular importance,” said Shawn Mathias, a content writing intern, who subscribed to content writing and graphic designing courses on My Captain.

Some believe there’s a certain preference for courses from reputed platforms in the job market, which is something that could be considered by job applicants.

“Google/Microsoft SEM certifications are often valued over Udemy/Coursera certificates, even though the former courses are free,” said Dsouza. He added that a certificate is immaterial for the most part, but can make a difference in entry-level roles or when there is competition.

HR recruiters see potential in online courses during hiring process

While HR recruiters see potential in doing educational courses online and candidates applying it in their careers, there are certain inhibitions concerning the same.

“Though the culture of online educational courses is evolving in corporations, it still doesn't have a strong mark on the market yet,” said a Navi Mumbai-based HR recruiter, Ankita Kadu.

On the other hand, certain recruiters believe the contrary in the market’s readiness on accepting prospects who have dabbled in online courses relevant to their skills.

“Doing courses does help in boosting one's career and resume. HRs do look for those skills along with relevant experience,” said Mahima Rathi, an HR recruiter in Mumbai, who added that while the platforms from which the courses have been done don’t matter, it is important that candidates have understood it well.

“Practical knowledge will help employees settle in a company quickly which can help both them and the employers,” added Mahima.

Online course certifications = being job ready?

The differentiation between obtaining a certificate and learning the relevant skills are two aspects that are not mutually exclusive, according to recruiters, but how does one know if it’s not making a candidate job-ready?

“We usually ask candidates questions about the online courses done by them through the managerial route followed by a manual test conducted by our technical panellists which helps us assess a candidate’s certification skills,” said a recruiter from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), who wished to remain anonymous.

Academicians second the need for upskilling among students, professionals

A telling tale that signifies the rising interest in online courses is a study by BridgeLabz, an IP-driven incubation lab, which reveals that more than 77.78 percent of engineering graduates, who take up additional online certification courses, do believe it helps them secure jobs efficiently.

Almost 54.94 percent of engineering graduates expressed their willingness to opt for online certification courses with the remaining 49.38 percent thinking that taking online courses is relevant to increase their skill set, a data set that academicians agree on.

“It is for the better to have online courses as an alternative for students as they can have access to a wide range of courses, something that can help them scale up,” said Professor BG Fernandes, Head of the Electrical Engineering department at IIT Bombay.

“We need manpower and with responsibilities on faculty and researchers alike, students might not be able to receive all the relevant skills or knowledge from the same,” added Fernandes.

Others believe the government’s efforts in promoting multidisciplinary education have also led to students seeking additional skills.

“Students have started to think differently now. From Graphic Design to Business courses, the demand for alternative courses has increased,” said Krutika Desai, the Principal of Mithibai College in Mumbai’s Vile Parle, who further stated that colleges have turned to professionals for online courses as well. “Mithibai college has also worked with the Bombay Chartered Accountants Society, for example, to skill students,” added Krutika.

Govt’s efforts in building online curricula for students

The government’s efforts in promoting online programmes or courses have also come into the limelight with University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman, Jagadesh Kumar, stating that students' enrolment in online education programmes increased by 170 percent between 2021 and 2022.

With overseas students included, the total number of students enrolled in online undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) programmes climbed from 25,905 to 70,023 in 2021–22. Moreover, from 42 HEIs in 2020–21 to 58 HEIs in 2021–22, there has been a 38% growth in the number of HEIs in India that offer online programmes, according to the data by UGC.

(This is the second of the three part series on the edtech industry brought to you by the Free Press Journal, which delves into different aspects of the sector.)

(If you have a story in and around Mumbai, you have our ears, be a citizen journalist and send us your story here. )

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