'Connected Classroom' – A new business opportunity?

Connected classroom

The concept of ‘Connected classroom’ – is an offshoot of our continuing efforts to computerise education and to utilise internet to add value to existing education standards. In the recent past 3-5 years, there has been a lot of discussion on this subject and several FDI computer hardware manufacturers like Apple, IBM, Dell, Hewlett Packard/Compact etc., have set up and added their shops in India.

“Of the 1.3 million schools in India, only 14% have ICT – Information and communication technologies in education – that means at least one PC per school. However, about 44% of the Internet population in India consists of students” as per magazine, Express Computer.

Definitely, the education system in India is passing through a revolution and it is poised for bigger growth for three reasons – recent enactment of the ‘Right to Education’ Bill; FDI investments in higher education; and foreign University Bill that allows FDI in higher education in India.

There are also ‘on-line education sites’ that are focussing in India, with today’s generation of school going kids, getting aware of what is possible. Internet era has helped every young mind, more so in private schools, to discover the necessity of knowledge as a yardstick for self-development.

In the school, which my son goes to, there are computer labs with servers and a sufficient number of client PCs, to meet the need of 4000 strong student-population. Computer programming languages ( Java, C++) and Microsoft Office Suite are part of school curriculum. Mostly, as it is a private school, every child in the 4th grade onwards has access to computer and internet in the class and at home too. Naturally, the next generation is geared well to meet the technology advancement of the future.

‘Connected classroom’ – it is happening through labs at present – but, in more advanced schools than which my son goes to – it is one PC (with internet) per one student. I am aware that it will take years before every student in the country has his or her own laptop but it is required to introduce mobile computing and thin client PCs with central server (like through Citrix) and digitized content into the education system at school level. During my visit to the United States, I have found school libraries (especially at graduate level) are connected to internet and the students are able to access the latest information in their pursuit of knowledge. So, the business potential in India is huge and untapped; every computer vendor is devising ingenious solutions to bundle and promote their computer brand at all levels – it is a great business opportunity!

To a certain extent, with ‘Computer’ sales increasing in its penetration of markets in India, on-line coaching is also ensuring availability of ‘Connected Classroom’ at home through companies like NIIT, Everonn, Educomp etc. There are websites/ portals like WizIQ.com promoting on-line tutorials with teacher/ student conveniently seated in their homes. And, this ‘on-line’ market segment or style of teaching/ learning is growing!

But, there are concerns pertaining to how tutorial content can be loaded onto the machines, especially in a country like India, having 18 official languages and 28 ‘diverse customers’ culture’ states. ‘Vernacular’ languages are allowed in web search provided by Google search engine in India, but how to load tutorial content in ‘Connected classroom’ unless the hardware vendor is collaborating with educational institutes like ‘Educomp’ (called as content providers) and others.

“Lastly, the kids who go to private schools already shell out for so many value-ads that one more, particularly one that introduces ICT to the mix, would not seem an undue burden” This is a supposition, though the parents who send their kids to private schools do not have much choice. The cost of development?


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