Millions of students are trying to bridge the digital gap: Irwin Anand, MD, Udemy India

A marketplace for teaching and learning, Udemy helps students acquire the skills they need to succeed. It also helps organisations of all kinds to prepare for the ever-evolving future of work. The curated collection of business and technical courses gives companies, governments, and non-profits the power to develop in-house expertise, and satisfy employees’ hunger for learning and development. Irwin Anand, MD, Udemy India, talks about how they have dealt with the country’s digital divide in education. Excerpts:

DQ: How are you dealing with the country’s digital divide in education during the pandemic?

Irwin Anand: The pandemic has accelerated the global movement towards online learning. We’ve entered an era of continuous change, and companies and individuals need continuous learning to thrive. The education systems have changed drastically, and today, we see millions of students trying to bridge the digital gap. This was coherently visible as students flocked to online sites on their mobile phones to upskill themselves. Indian students who have a basic understanding of English were seen enrolling in online lectures to try and learn virtually, to upskill themselves while at home.

Additionally, to help students deal with the pandemic, we released the Udemy Fee Resource Center, a curated collection of free Udemy courses to help them learn new skills during the lockdown. This resource center is an excellent place for individual learners and leaders to find key resources and courses about adapting to working from home, searching for a job, staying active and maintaining balance while spending time at home.

DQ: Besides the disparity in students’ access to basic internet infrastructure, students at home have to battle many socio-political differences. How is this issue being addressed?

Irwin Anand: There are so many students who have been subjected to the digital divide. In fact, internet access has been a major issue in many parts of the country, not to mention the disparity at home and access to modern resources. I feel that all students are trying to make the most of the resources available to them. We have seen a major shift to edtech platforms during these times, to battle the pandemic, and workplaces as well as institutions have started adopting the online programmes.

DQ: Without understanding the way in which a student learns, it is unrealistic to expect good returns. Does an edutech company need to hire educators?

Irwin Anand: Every education company needs to work with subject matter experts in their fields. We have a strong base of 57,000 instructors who are global experts in their respective fields. It is not an education portal, but more so a marketplace, with thousands of courses suited to our students’ needs. We have a wide array of courses in various spheres and students can choose a course that is well-suited to their requirements.

We also cater to individuals who are out of school and in the workforce. Our platform allows anyone to take a course and become better at their job, excel at a project or change jobs successfully. As such, good returns equate to learning the latest skills from real-world practitioners, which is what Udemy provides.

In India, we have seen a 200% growth in overall enrolments for our courses. Looking at our instructor base, we’ve seen a 125% year-over-year increase in new instructors creating courses on our platform as everyday experts look to share their knowledge with the world and find new sources of income.

DQ: Poor user engagement is often seen as a major hurdle in the way of success. How do you address such issues?

Irwin Anand: We firmly believe in the power of knowledge. Even our courses are designed in the most optimum, comprehensible way so that the level of retention of our courses does not suffer. Being a marketplace, we have structured an algorithm to make sure that the highest-rated courses appear at the top, while a student searches for any particular course he/she wants to enrol in, thereby increasing the user engagement for that particular course.

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