Hybrid learning: Close the learning gap


The number of PG colleges offering degrees in management and technology has gone down in the last six years, in the country.

Shubham has been juggling with his work and studies, he is a student in the morning, and a businessman for the rest of the day. “I joined my family business after completing my schooling. We are jewellery manufacturers and exporters, and in order to gain a wider view on business, online learning came to my rescue.” Hence, he opted for a distance MBA in international trade.

Online learning requires a certain type of infrastructure, for which the country’s education system is not ready. “Therefore, I think the hybrid form of learning is also good,” Shubham added.

Many students with similar views are welcoming the concept of online learning. This preference of online learning is one of the reasons for falling number of PG colleges in the country, Jayaprakash Gandhi, educationist said. 

Status of PG colleges

Data from All Indian Council for Technical Education (AICTE) shows that the total number of institutes offering Post Graduation (PG) in technology (MTech/MSc) have dropped from 2338 in 2014-15 to 1819 in 2021-22, a 22 percent fall. And as for PG in management, the number of colleges reduced from 3586 in 2014-15 to 3107 in 2021,a 13 percent fall.

There are several reasons behind the decline in the number of PG colleges in the country. “Now-a-days, students immediately look for jobs right after their graduations. So, only those who want to enhance their career or are into research are opting for PG courses,” said Gandhi. Another reason could be that more than degrees, big corporate houses are looking for skills, which can be attained through certification courses today, Gandhi added.

Bobby, management admission coordinator, Central University of Chhattisgarh, compared the reasons between the private and government colleges. She said, “In both scenarios, the pre-covid and during covid times, number of private institutions have gone down.” There could be two reasons for this, firstly, the private institutions don’t strictly follow the rules and regulations related to professional courses which eventually leads to them shutting down. Secondly, they fail to maintain the standards required for professional courses like Masters in Business Administration (MBA). Instead, they are just offering a professional degree as any regular Masters in Arts (MA). The focus is on admissions – how many students are admitted in their institutions, she said.

But the spokesperson from AICTE, does not take the decline in the numbers as a big concern. “The reasons for the decline could be many. But the fall in numbers is not big enough for any serious impact on MBA aspirants.” He said that one of the reasons could be the increase in number of Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) as students prefer IIMs over any other colleges. Presently there are 20 IIMs in India, with the latest one inaugurated in 2016.

Now, as far as the public institutions are concerned, “the government institutions haven’t advertised their courses properly, and also if I talk about Chhattisgarh, most students come from rural areas and they have many problems such as fees, medium of instruction.” Also, unlike private institutions, the government colleges are unable to bring good companies for placements to the campus, Bobby continued.

According to a paper by AIMS Institute, admission criteria for business schools slacked as they registered a fall in demand for seats. This results in virtually any graduate getting into these institutions, negatively affecting the MBA standard in the country. Apart from this, it also took a toll on the employability rate. Bobby said that the Central University has seen a decline in the number of students for the last years.

Conventional vs Online learning

People are divided on the concept of online and conventional learning. While some believe learning online is more suited for the present times, others are of the view that offline learning cannot be replaced. 

According to Gandhi, covid has been a blessing in disguise, online education has drastically brought down the expenses; one doesn’t have to pay hostel fees. In fact, degree courses itself are converting into skill-based courses such as artificial intelligence (AI) and data science, commerce with fintech.

Shubham, had opted for distance learning because he wanted to work while studying. He said that the curriculum is designed in a way that is easy to grasp and is well suited for a person who wants to learn while working. The classes are flexible you can either choose to study daily or you can study at the weekend. He continued, “there’s no difference between online and offline when it comes to interactivity, you can solve your doubts in the class itself.”

However, an online MBA is a no brainer for Allen, who is in his second year of MBA. “I was focused on getting a placement, an online MBA did not look like an option for me. If you ask a potential MBA aspirant about the MBA preference, it might be a little different than what it was about two years ago.” 

He also said that online learning is more equipped for hard skills. Certificate courses, are more functional with quantifiable skills, such as data analytics, coding, etc, but when you talk about MBA, it is all about peer learning and learning from the professors. “It is basically about generating a network, there is no fixed curriculum here. It keeps on changing every year. The idea is not stay up to date but to stay in contact with the people who know what is going on.”

Regardless of the growth of distance learning, it has its own cons, such as it lacks regular physical interactions with students, which affects its efficiency, said Bobby.

In India, the EdTech market is expected to reach $4 billion by 2025, from $750 million in 2020. According to the KPMG report, in India, the online education market for higher education is $33 million, with around 55,000 paid users for the educational platforms.

Functionality of hybrid learning

Something that people have mutually agreed on is hybrid learning. “I think the hybrid form of learning is good for someone who is also doing business with their studies. Some colleges offer seven days teaching in a month and then give you projects to apply in your business. It is very helpful and teaches you in a practical as well as a theoretical way,” added Shubham.

In this year’s budget, the government announced its plan of setting up India’s first digital university. This shows that the future is moving towards the hybrid mode – not completely online, but a mix of both offline and online said Gandhi. “However, this conversion is really fast for the Indian atmosphere, we are moving much faster than needed, India’s digital infrastructure needs massive improvements before education can move online. Government intuitions are not well equipped for hybrid teaching. Rural areas in the country lack even basic technological infrastructure,” he added.

Hybrid system of learning can be a good solution, said Bobby. But then there is the problem of lack of technological devices and the other infrastructure in government institutions. “If we are able to improve all this, then there is a possibility of the success of hybrid mode in India,” she added.

“What’s hybrid? There is no set definition of hybrid. However, if you are online then why run offline?” questioned Allen.