Current market situation is very favourable to EdTech and online learning: Dr. Santanu Paul, TalentSprint

The future institutions are going to be those which have the right combination of both physical and digital presence.

TalentSprint is an EdTech firm that brings high-end and deep tech education to aspiring and experienced professionals. It partners with worldclass academic institutions such as IIT Hyderabad, IIM Calcutta, IIT Kanpur, IIIT Hyderabad, IISc, among others, to develop and offer disruptive programs. It also has collaborations with global corporations like Google, Microsoft, Pegasystems and more.

Here, Dr. Santanu Paul, CEO and MD, TalentSprint, tells us about how the edtech sector is beating the blues. Excerpts from an interview.


Dr Santanu Paul, CEO and MD, TalentSprint

DQ: What are the challenges ahead for the edtech sector and how will you overcome them?

Dr. Santanu Paul:  Learning has a few componentseg. classroom learning, where you learn from a teacher, and that is happening very well through digital means. There is no challenge there. But, there is another very critical component of learning, which is social learning–where you learn by engaging / interacting with your classmates, your peers.

Today, as classes are happening online, the only complaint that you hear from students is–I wish I could be in school with my friends, and, I miss my classmates.  That seems to be a major gap! Social aspect of learning, which happens through peers, through interaction with friends and classmates, that’s the missing piece, and the main challenge in digital learning. It would be interesting to see how that gets solved, over time.

DQ: How the sector is thriving in today’s difficult times?

Dr. Santanu Paul: The edtech sector is thriving. It has got the biggest ever push forward. For decades, people have been debating what is the purpose of physical classrooms and the belief has always been that “Oh! You know, if people don’t sit in the same classroom with the Professor, you can’t really learn”. But, the current situation has shown that digital learning isn’t just possible, it is also very efficient, scalable and safe! So, apart from the fact that social learning is compromised, the current market situation is very favourable to edtech and online learning.

We are crossing over into a new era where there will be no looking back. Many companies around us are making announcements that suggest that even after the pandemic is over, there will not be a situation where 100% people will go back to office. We are hearing about various degrees of work from home, eg., 30%, or 50%, being announced by companies. Similarly, post pandemic, education will never go back to exactly what it was. It will become a lot of online lectures, combined with physical campus experiences. We may go to campus for social reasons, but, not for learning from teachers. A new model, a new normal, is emerging.

DQ: How can companies stay ahead of the curve by introducing onlineintense programs for their employees?

Dr. Santanu Paul: This is already happening, and now, it will get accelerated. Earlier, companies were willing to spend money for employees to travel to far off places and learn in a physical campus, or a physical classroom format. That will stop. I think from now on, companies will put the money behind digital learning methods and content rather than the travel and the hospitality of employees.

Companies are partnering with learning companies, education technology companies to provide catalogues of online courses, online programs, online certifications. Just as an employee gets a bunch of services from HR, Finance, etc., similarly, the L&D department of companies will start providing learning to employees as a service, through digital methods. Employees will have to sign into a portal to access an online catalogue of courses, and learn digitally.

While some courses will be mandatory, some might also be offered as part of perquisiteseg., every year you can use a fixed budget to learn courses of your choice online, and get yourself trained and certified. In this approachwhere no one needs to travel, nor do companies need to spend money on travel and hospitality, we expect people to spend more time learning digitally.

DQ: What are the future emerging trends in the edtech industry?

Dr. Santanu Paul: Let’s talk about the professional learning segment that TalentSprint works in. This segment focuses on people who are entering the workforce or are already in the workforceeg., both, firsttime job seekers who are looking for upskilling, or working professionals, who need reskilling. With almost all sectors and domains being disrupted by technology, we see a very strong movement towards the intersection of DeepTech with an industry domain.

Eg., new and emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, data sciences, analytics, blockchain, cyber security, are intersecting with industry domains like finance, automotive, healthcare, environment, marketing, etc. Clearly, the future professional will be one who is strong in emerging technologies in a specific domain. So, if you are a finance professional, you may want to learn fintech.

If you are an automotive professional, you may want to learn automotive tech. If you are a professional in the field of healthcare, you may want to learn about data sciences for healthcare. Mastering the intersection of DeepTech and your industry domain will be a sweet spot for all the future professionals. TalentSprint offers several such programs, eg Digital Health and Imaging in partnership with Indian Institute of Science, Fintech and Financial Blockchain and AI Powered Marketing with IIM Calcutta, CyberSecurity and Cyber Defense with IIT Kanpur, AI and Machine Learning and Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology with IIIT Hyderabad, to name a few.

DQ: How has TalentSprint reinvented itself and the pushed ahead in this new world?

Dr. Santanu Paul:  Working professionals are seeing a huge transformation in their personal lives and careers. TalentSprint is supporting them by offering various deep tech executive education programs in digital delivery format, I have already mentioned those.

The other big transformation that’s happening now is in academic institutions. Most academic institutions are realisingthat their beautiful physical campuses are not viable or capable of delivering learning in the current new normal situation brought about by the pandemic. They now need digital campuses. The future institutions are going to be those which have the right combination of both physical and digital presence.

It’s not enough to have big lovely buildings! You need to have wonderful, lovely online platforms too, to go along with them. Similarly, several corporate houses have realized the need for a strong digital platform which can continue to offer learning programs to their employees. TalentSprint’s digital delivery platform iPearl.ai is in demand from both academic institutes and corporate houses.

iPearl.ai was first implemented in 2013 and has been continuously upgraded with rich features and functionalities. The platform has been perfected to meet the needs of learning institutions, faculty and students over the last seven years. This feature-rich platform has been tested for scale with over 300,000 students across India and abroad so far. iPearl.ai is highly secured and is hosted on the cloud with over 99.9% availability. Built using best-in-class open source tools and SAAS services, the platform can be implemented quickly for any institution.

TalentSprint is in discussions with several top IITs, IIMs, private educational institutes as well as top corporate houses to deploy iPearl.ai. A simple analogy is of a home chef who wants to cook great meals. iPearl.ai is like a fully loaded kitchen, which the home chef can rent as it has everything they need to cook and serve great meals. We have all the technology stack needed for varied digital education needs, both of corporates and academic institutes. We are talking to several institutes and companies to offer iPearl.ai platform as a service. Several of the academic institutions are considering iPearl.ai to restart their academic sessions as planned earlier while companies are considering offering learning solutions for employees.

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