Great Learning

We use technology and community to aid course completion: Arjun Nair, co-founder, Great Learning

Great Learning is one of India’s leading ed-tech companies for professional and higher education. It offers career-relevant programmes from world-class universities in the most in-demand domains. As one of the largest professional learning companies with a global footprint in 140+ countries, Great Learning is on a mission to make professionals around the world proficient and future-ready. Arjun Nair, Co-founder, Great Learning, tells us more. Excerpts from the interview:

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

Arjun Nair: While a lot of educational institutions have struggled to provide education online in the last year, we believe that it’s possible to derive the effective learning outcomes through virtual learning. Therefore, to overcome this education crisis and enable Indian institutions to seamlessly deliver a world-class, high-quality, and engaging online learning experience to its learners, we offered our sustainable learning management system, ‘Olympus Digital Campus’,to them amid the pandemic.

Built and perfected over the last 7 years, the platform enables all aspects of learning, including live learning, timetabling, proctored exams, assessments, grading, student collaboration, attendance, content development, progress/engagement tracking, and faculty feedback. So far, it has helped over 150 Indian colleges across towns and cities such as Coimbatore, Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Goa, Tenkamijar (Mangalore), Nandyal (AP), and Moradabad (MP) to get them ‘digitally ready’, and has supported over 1,00,000 students in their education continuity.

DQ: Besides the disparity in access to basic internet, students also have to battle with many socio-economic challenges. How are you addressing this issue at your end?

Arjun Nair: The pandemic has posed tough times for a lot of students and professionals, who have not only suffered physically and mentally, but also economically, owing to the massive slump in the job market. Despite this black swan event, millions of learners across the country have turned this downtime into an opportunity to begin their upskilling journey.

We, at our platform, aim to bridge the gap of such socio-economic differences by offering high-quality programmes to cater to the needs of learners from every kind of background and help them move ahead in their careers. Last year, we launched Great Learning Academy and Great Learning Corporate Academy to provide free programmes in the emerging fields of data science and analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, digital marketing, cloud computing, and cybersecurity to help our learners attain fluency in these career-critical concepts.

Students who then wished to take a deeper dive into such skills and chart a career path in a particular domain, opted for our paid programmes starting from Rs one lakh. The programme curriculum enables learners to gain an in-depth understanding of the fundamentals of the technology, and various tools and techniques that help them develop the required skill set for desired roles. As a part of our offering, we also provide career support to our learners and connect them to the right job opportunities through our placement assistance platform, GL Excelerate. We also present them with easy EMI options that help them continue their education without the pressure of financing.

The integration of technology at the school/district level may compromise the integrity of student data and pose serious concerns. What are your thoughts?

Technology has become imperative in every aspect of life. Therefore, it becomes essential for educational institutions to introduce their learners to different applications of the new-age skills to make them future-ready and employable professionals. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, 133 million new jobs will be created in the information technology domain by 2025.

Early exposure to technology will help kids think and process information differently. That said, it is equally important to safeguard the integrity of sensitive data of learners without compromising on the quality of education being imparted to them. The institutions need to manage these risks, be transparent and make the parents more comfortable with the collection and analysis of personal information for specific purposes so that the risks of using data don’t stand in the way of realising the tremendous benefits it can bring.

Without understanding the way in which a student learns, it is unrealistic to expect good returns. Does an ed-tech startup need to hire educators? What are your thoughts?

While the importance of learning career-critical competencies is known to everyone, the biggest challenge we face in our current education system is the shortage of high-quality faculty to teach such skill sets. It is hardly possible for majority of the Indian institutions to deliver world-class education in fields such as AI, analytics, machine learning, and cloud computing in the absence of high-quality teaching resources in these domains. This is the gap that organisations like ours are trying to bridge.

We are trying to solve this problem in multiple ways by enabling learners to learn from the best global and Indian faculty in addition to industry practitioners. We work with the best of the educational institutions, faculty, and industry experts and offer access to robust career support and placement opportunities through Great Learning’s extensive career services and corporate network. It is this high-quality education that helps students and professionals to power ahead in their careers.

DQ: Poor user engagement is often a major hurdle in the way of success for startups? How does your organisation address such an issue?

Arjun Nair: When it comes to online learning today, the central challenge among learners is not joining the programme, but finishing it. Great Learning has been able to leverage a mix of technology and community to solve this challenge. We use a mix of predictive analytics and community participation to improve our completion rates. Our programmes are conducted in batches and the content involves community tasks, as well as group mentoring from industry experts. We have also developed an algorithm to identify students who are likely to face difficulty in completing a programme.

The system allows for a timely intervention from the Great Learning team, which then mentors and motivates students to finish the tasks and improve their grades. This has ensured a completion rate of almost 91% for the platform which is unheard of in the e-learning space, globally.

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