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When Technology Meets Education

Edutech companies are filling the industry-academia gap by helping individuals and graduates from B-schools through their specialisations in emerging areas

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Every year, tens of thousands of students graduate from Indian B-schools, but most struggle to find jobs commensurate with their education. The industry-academia gap is increasing by the day. According to a recent Assocham study, a whopping 93 per cent of B-school graduates are unemployable. The global demand for new-age skill sets in digital and big data analytics are largely unmet by traditional B-schools which leaves students in a perennial fix. That said, these unmet skill sets offer a huge opportunity to edutech companies to bridge the widening industry-academia gap.

Many edutech companies have been quick to realise this opportunity and have, in fact, partnered with B-schools to fill the gap. For instance, online education platform Coursera has partnered with Indian School of business (ISB), Hyderabad to offer specialised courses on emerging markets, business technology, and investment management. Interestingly, last year Coursera also launched a six-week online course on happiness in partnership with ISB — based on the premise that money can’t buy happiness.

For Coursera, India is its second-largest market as well as one of the fastest-growing, with over 1.7 million users from India out of a total of 22 million users. “Our Indian learner reach has grown by a whopping 75 per cent over the past year. Technology skills are in huge demand and one-fourth of Indian enrolments are in computer related courses,” says Nikhil Sinha, chief business officer, Coursera.

Coursera, in fact, believes that it is in the early stages of disrupting the traditional MBA education by providing it online which offers students the flexibility of time, and that too at a fraction of the cost. Under its two innovative online degree offerings — the iMBA and the masters in data science launched in 2015 and 2016 respectively — in collaboration with the University of Illinois, students are taking classes at their own convenience, without having to quit their jobs, and at a much lower cost. “We believe that online, scalable, flexible degrees will soon dominate the world of graduate professional education,” says Sinha.

Online certification training provider Simplilearn offers structured training programmes in some of the key domains relevant for management professionals. “With our master’s program, our aim is to serve working executives who face skill gap, but do not have the time or accessibility to opt for a full-fledged MBA course,” says Kashyap Dalal, chief business officer at Simplilearn. “We offer a variety of master’s programmes taught by global industry experts that cater to the needs of management professionals in areas such as digital marketing, data science, project management, agile-scrum master and quality management,” he adds.

To reach out to more, Simplilearn is talking with a few leading B-schools to offer its curriculum as part of their program, especially in areas such as digital marketing and big data. “I believe, the main problem faced by educational institutions in areas such as digital marketing and big data is that the industry changes so fast that every three to six months the curriculum has to change too. Simplilearn has experts from the industry who are building and updating the curriculum very frequently. We can therefore help B-schools and other higher education institutions offer learning that is up to date and in areas where maximum job growth is happening,” says Dalal.
Singapore-based online education company Emeritus Institute of Management offers management education programmes in collaboration with three top-ranked business schools — MIT Sloan, Columbia Business School and Tuck at Dartmouth. “The management courses cover topics across business acumen, leadership, strategy and innovation, design thinking, negotiation, digital marketing, etc.,” says Ashwin Damera, executive director, Emeritus Institute of Management.

While currently Emeritus does not have any tie-ups with Indian B-schools, it sees a huge opportunity in the country. “In India, the quality of education at higher levels has not been aligned to the requirements of a global economy. The country does not have adequate professional education bandwidth to cater to demands for managerial talent who are capable of handling the challenges of an economy undergoing major economic transformation,” says Damera.

B-school Initiatives
Most B-schools are aware of the prevailing industry-academia gap and are working to address the issue. Bengaluru-based IFIM Business School has tied up with more than 60 companies and about 100 corporate mentors so its students can experience real business issues during their coursework. “This has helped us reduce the gap between industry and academia. We have also entered into agreements with companies such as IBM, Jigsaw Academy and FLIP to help us strengthen our academic content and make it relevant for the industry,” says Sanjay Padode, secretary of Centre for Developmental Education Society, IFIM Bengaluru.

The college has also partnered with edutech companies such as Desire2Learn for its learning management system; Campus Labs for its students information system; and Impartus for its live classroom-recording solutions. In addition, it has partnered with Harvard Business Publishing for its e-learning and simulation content; Microsoft for its Office 365 solution; and [email protected] Work (Workplace) to help students and faculty maintain social communities for learning. “The edutech support provided by these companies has helped in enriching the learning experience of our students and has helped us enhance our efficacy of academic delivery,” says Padode.

A few months ago, Manipal Global Education Services partnered with Coursera, which would offer “curated educational content” to Manipal Global’s over 1.5 million active learners and alumni community. This will allow Manipal learners initial access to more than 60 high-demand specialisations and certificate programmes from Coursera’s leading university partners.

More recently, in October this year, Manipal Global Academy of Data Science was launched in Bengaluru which offers programs in data science and will culminate into a PG diploma from the university. Simultaneously, the academy would also offer short-term certification programmes for corporate learners.

The relationship between management schools and the industry is symbiotic. As the economy grows, the need for industry-ready management graduates will increase. But skills in emerging areas such as digital, big data, and analytics seem to be missing from the traditional curriculum of most B-schools, which calls for more partnerships with the industry — both edutech companies and corporates — to fill the gap. It is the best way to fulfil the growing need for supplementary training and assessment programmes among both students and faculty.

Industry-oriented management education delivered on-demand is a sunrise industry, which is set to become much bigger. There is a plethora of opportunities for anyone who wants to get into this space.

[email protected]; @ayushmanb