THIS WAS OUR 2018 TREND FORECAST: The process of integrating VR-ED and Interactive-U learning into aspects of traditional education is a megatrend of 2018 that a growing number of community, political and business leaders will advocate.
Trends are born, they grow, mature, reach old age and die. The Industrial Age education model is dying; an Interactive-U has been born.
While still in its infancy, online courses have been emerging in higher education for several years. The India Model provides a vision of future education on all levels — from kindergarten through doctoral studies — that is virtual.
MID-YEAR UPDATE: India is indeed leading the way in integrating online learning at primary education levels, with a wave of start-up tech firms that are, as we forecast, increasing investment, growing a track record of successes and attracting the interest of e-learning tech innovators worldwide.
While online learning is a growing global trend, especially prevalent in higher education and specific skills training environments, India is accelerating efforts to bring interactive learning to early school years, especially to poor communities where traditional education is not accessible and where students often lag far behind.
Because India’s current educational infrastructure cannot meet the needs of its population, of whom half are under the age of 25, its government has turned to start-up tech companies from within India and across the globe, to develop and aggressively test new online learning models.
In making our forecast for 2018, we identified India as the epicenter of where government and small but highly innovative tech companies could together prove that e-learning has its place in primary education.
If medical students can learn complex surgical procedures from Virtual Reality instructors, third graders can learn what a verb is from an online instructor.
CELENTE CALLED IT DECADES AGO
In his book Trends 2000, published over 20 years ago, Trends Research Institute founder Gerald Celente laid the foundation for this powerful trend line — Interactive-U, he called it — that would fortify over a period of decades.
“Interactive, online learning will revolutionize education… distance learning will provide rich opportunities for small entrepreneurs, scholars, artists, educators and inventors, as well as for established communications giants.”
But in making that bold forecast, Celente also recognized that lifting the “academic Iron Curtain” that restricted innovation in public education in much of the world would be a daunting process, moving at glacial speed.
The technology, however, is not moving slowly.
In fact, its use and effectiveness are exploding across a wide range of educational and skills training settings, from medical schools to law enforcement academies.
But online, interactive learning, making full use of current basic technologies and advancements in VR and Artificial Intelligence technology is a slow grind at the primary and secondary levels.
Public school systems are massive, outdated institutionalized industries, where significant changes and innovations across generations are scarce at best, despite deplorable results in educating the young.
For example, in the U.S., which hosts the most entrenched and grossly expensive taxpayer-burdened Industrial Age school systems, test results prove its failure. In fact, high school test scores for math and science consistently lag behind many other top industrialized nations in the world.
India has more than 260 million children attending K-12 schools, making it among the largest primary education population in the world. By comparison, the U.S. has 200 million fewer, with just 51 million students attending public elementary and secondary schools.
But unlike other countries, where government support of cheaper, innovative online learning programs that are developed and implemented by the private sector have been resisted to preserve the status quo, India’s government has emerged as a strong supporter of e-learning.
In fact, India formed its Ministry of Department of Electronics and Information Technology to support private sector start-up companies, developing programs to help meet the challenges in educating India’s huge low-income populations.
And the call for help is being answered by an explosion of small but innovative tech companies, customizing online learning models for different levels of education and learning ability.
The relatively low cost of these programs, combined with the simple technology needed to support them – a tablet, PC or mobile device – is generating the move to teaching lower income children via e-learning, and is among the many reasons why the “India Model” is drawing the attention of investors worldwide.
Already, these smaller start-up tech companies that are developing and launching distance learning apps are exceeding revenue expectations in 2018.
In fact, India’s government projects that this sector, already estimated at $2 billion, will grow by 20 percent, more than doubling the global rate of prior e-learning investment growth.
We forecast that investment in these start-ups will expand even further, as the effectiveness of e-learning programs targeting under-educated, lower-income population sectors worldwide increases.
For example, Ebix, an international software developer in Atlanta, GA, servicing the insurance, financial and healthcare industries is acquiring a majority stake in India-based Smartclass Educational Services Private Limited, one of the dozens of start-ups creating tech-educational products for K-12 schools.
Ebix Chairman, President and CEO Robin Raina said, “We have been eyeing India’s fast-growing e-learning sector for many years now, fueled by education, which is traditionally one of the highest spending areas for an Indian median household.”
The fast-evolving VR-ED trend we identified two years ago was bolstered by a growing record of success in health care, security, science, technical skills and other training achieved by that sector. That technology, applied in learning environments such as medical and engineering schools, is increasingly proving effective, cost-efficient, accessible and customizable.
On-line learning has proven adaptable to different learning needs and environments, and is far more accommodating of new teaching techniques and curricula changes. And it can connect students with the most effective teachers, teaching methods and innovative content from across the globe.
What is needed to break through the barriers of traditional educational systems gripping K-12 levels, as well as colleges, are a series of model tech advancements that prove on-line/VR/AI is a far more effective system than the old, failed industrial-age models still being pushed by entrenched institutions.