Sarika Shlke comes home from college at 3:30pm, switches on her PC, plugs in her headphones. The teacher is on screen at 4pm, very far away from her house in Dhule. This gives her a virtual classroom and she is fully prepared to get started with her scheduled class.
For Sarika, preparing for her Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) exam to get into the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) is a better move than traveling to a bigger city and spending on the travel, food, and a junior college.
Distance Learning on the rise
Entrance Exam preparations through distance learning is catching the attention of students from small towns including Dhule, Jalgaon, Rajgarh, Aurangabad, Nashik, Kolhapur and many others.
These towns have seen at least a 10-12% rise in enrolments since 2014 for distance learning courses, mainly online.
Course providers say that they have had an increase of 10,000 enrolments from Tier III and IV cities in Maharashtra in the last four years. The trend shows that students from rural sectors of India are taking to online education to prepare for competitive examinations, including GATE, IIT-JEE, Common Admission Test (CAT) and others.
“Online lectures are extremely beneficial as they allow me to view them at my convenience, I can record them, and I don’t have to travel. Concentrating on my junior college studies is easy as the online lectures are held just four times a week and I save up a lot of time on travelling,” says Sarika.
There are over 70,000 enrolments at GATE under free subscription, and officials said that most number of enrolments were from Tier III and IV cities.
Facilities provided to enhance rural sector enrolments
The director of the academy said that they have witnessed 100% enrolment from Tier III cities for the distance and online learning programs. Academies now-a-days offer online lectures on the PC, or lectures on phones or tablets, or a cell phone which has all the prerecorded lectures. Thus we realize how Indians today strive to educate the unfortunate. The participation of students from smaller towns is growing rapidly.
When these academies commenced their endeavor to teach India, most of them would target the city-audience as they seem to be the only ones interested. But it is the other way round; Students from the rural areas enrolled the most for these distance programs. Apart from online learning, applications for cell phones are their motive now, as these are available to all, while PCs may not be.
It is definitely a cost saver, as a normal course would cost over a lac per year. An online course would cost just one-third of the normal fee structure.
Aditi Avasthi, chief executive officer and founder, embibe.com, said, “A sharp change has been noted in the enrolment structure from the rural sections of the country. We have been studying the performance structures of students and the toppers are mostly from the rural sectors. Hence, it is not only about the enrolment but about the percentage of engagement in the course. It is safe to conclude that the students from these sectors are more enthusiastic than their counterparts, but the facilities keep them lagging behind.”