During the pandemic, coaching centres were compelled to conduct classes online. However, post pandemic, the trend seems to have reversed. Many students, preparing for competitive and board exams, are opting for offline classes. However, online study material, apps, recorded zoom classes, and YouTube videos, are being used by students either because they cannot attend classes in person or due to easy accessibility.
Lutsuhlu Swuro, who joined Rau’s IAS Study Circle to prepare for the UPSC exam, says there is no alternative to classroom teaching. “The environment at home does not give me enough privacy to focus and study. And, most importantly, I want to study with people who have similar ideas, which will motivate me,” she says.
Pruthvik Gowda, who attempted JEE Mains and CET this year, joined Innovative Study Circle in 11th grade to prepare for his competitive exams. The coaching centre has now moved back to offline classes. Pruthvi says: “The coaching centre helped with 60% of my preparation, while referring to online materials helped me by 40%.”
Sushmitha Reddy, who attempted her JEE in 2019, says offline classes are important. She says established coaching centres retain the same importance like in pre-pandemic times. “The only advantage I’ve seen is easy accessibility to online study material.”
This seems to be a trend, with recorded sessions being a supplementary option.
With Rau’s IAS Study Circle providing recorded zoom classes for both offline and online students, Lutsuhlu finds it easier to access these when it is difficult to attend the sessions in person.
Some students preferred online learning tools. “I used Physics Wallah app to prepare for UPSC and CSE. The app was a bit difficult to figure out, but the content was of high quality. It also saved me travel time,” says Nakshatra, who prepared for her exam in 2022.
Adarsh, another UPSC aspirant, says there is a high demand for online classes and they are effective. “I’ve found YouTube videos to be good enough to help me solve papers.”
What experts say
Counsellors and teachers point out the pros and cons of online classes. “A majority of students do not consider sitting in front of a screen as a learning environment,” says a counsellor from a private education institute, on condition of anonymity. “On the other hand, the convenience which comes with online learning encouraged a few students to opt for courses outside of the curriculum, like cyber security, data analysis, creative writing etc. and build other skills like cooking, playing musical instruments.”
Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, professor of clinical psychology and coordinator at NIMHANS’ SHUT Clinic founded in 2014 to deal with online addiction, says there is need for cyber literacy. “It has been proven that students multitasking during online classes, like scrolling on the phone or playing games or watching videos, learnt less, which affected their education.”
Classes for long hours not only affect focus and retention power, but also physical posture, leading to webinar fatigue. This hampers productivity. “That’s why we advise students to take a ten-minute break in-between classes to do simple exercises to reduce fatigue,” Dr. Sharma adds.
“Around 60% to 70% of students, we have received, find online education underproductive as it does not provide a platform for conducive learning. About 10% of the students use technology in a healthy way for academic purposes,” says Dr. Sharma.
Coaching centres adopt hybrid classes
Shayan Rao, academic coordinator of Innovative Study Circle, which has its main branch in Rajajinagar 1st Block, says the pandemic was a hindrance to providing quality education. “There was a fall in students’ attendance,” says Shayan. They completely shifted to offline classes in 2021.
Shayan, who has been in the industry for about 20 years, adds that established coaching centers can never be replaced as students require mentoring, not teaching. “This method lies at the foundation of coaching centers.”
Himanshu Wadhwa, administration in-charge at Rau’s IAS Study Circle, says: “The pandemic, in a way, turned out to be good for us, as we opened up avenues for online classes, which are in demand right now.” The fee structures for offline classes are comparatively slightly higher than online classes. However, educational content is the same for both.
Ritesh, a teacher at the Malleshwaram IMS coaching centre, says they conduct offline and online classes separately. “The online classes are also recorded for students who cannot attend classes, due to work or travel.”
Shayan believes that students post 12th grade benefit more from online classes since they can choose their mode of learning. Ritesh agrees and adds: “There seems to be an equal rise in attendance for both offline and online classes.”
Online classes boomed during the pandemic
Most students and teachers said that quality education was compromised during the pandemic. Findings from Azim Premji Foundations’ paper, ‘Myths of Online Education,’ reveal that more than 90% teachers responded that no meaningful assessment of children’s learning was possible in online classes.
Not just schools and colleges, but also coaching centers, which held offline classes, were severely hit during the pandemic.
As per a Newslaundry report, the coaching industry makes an estimate of roughly Rs 52,000 crore as overall turnover, which dipped during the pandemic. On the other hand, ed tech companies were one of the few industries that boomed during the pandemic. Byju’s recorded 7.5 million new users during the pandemic, and Toppr saw a 100% growth in paid users.
Coaching centres vs ed tech companies
Ed tech companies have also started physical tuition centres to keep up with the reverse trend from online to offline.
Byjus launched its ‘Tuition Center’ with 80 centers and aspires to push that number to 500 this year. A few other ed tech companies, like Unacademy and Physics Wallah, have established their first centres in Bengaluru. A few startups, like i30 learning centre, started by conducting both offline and online classes.
It remains to be seen, though, how ed tech companies’ offline classes will fare. But ed tech companies’ steeply priced online classes now face stiff competition from established coaching centers.