Coaching affected by COVID-19, mixed response to online courses

CAT 2021 exam: IIM CAT preparation institutes have been hit hard due to Covid-19. Their switch to online courses has met with mixed reactions.

With the advent of COVID-19, management readiness institutes have changed their business models to embrace online and hybrid programs.

NEW DELHI: Keshav Parashar scored 95 percentile on the Common Admission Test (CAT) in 2020, but believes he could have done better had he been able to attend offline coaching.

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He had enrolled in a school CAT preparation course in December 2019, but in just a few months, its courses went live. During those first months of the pandemic, he and his peers did not get the advice they needed from the institute, he said.

In 2020, around two lakh applicants took the CAT, an admission test to Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) and other top Indian B-Schools. During the first and second waves of the pandemic, state governments imposed restrictions on the movement of people to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Along with other educational institutions, all coaching institutes had closed
also. CAT 2021 is scheduled for November 28.

Parashar said preparing for the CAT online was a struggle due to lack of support from teachers. Many students have found management coaching institutes to be less interactive online. In offline courses, they would instill competitiveness and encourage
peer learning.

For their part, management institutes have also seen their activity severely affected, with some reporting revenue losses of up to 65%. Switching to survival mode, institutes switched to online courses, but students said the change left gaps, especially when it came to answering their questions about the program.

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CAT 2021, MBA, IIM, online course, Career LauncherWith online training in order, coaching institutes are turning to hybrid programs with a major challenge in attracting new students. Image: Shutterstock

Offline to Online

While existing learners were unsure of the switch to online courses, the main challenge for coaching institutes was to attract new students. Covid had put an end to walk-in visits and face-to-face interactions at their centers. “Due to Covid, last year there were fewer dates. Fear of the virus among students has led to declining enrollment, ”said Rakesh Rai, vice president of marketing, Hitbullseye, a Chandigarh-based online and offline test preparation company. “Additionally, students are now looking for courses that add value to their overall knowledge, as most courses are now readily available online. “

Due to the changes imposed by the pandemic, coaching in the Covid era is more about ‘what’ will be offered and ‘how’, Rai added. “In the pre-pandemic era, offline coaching had many aspects – students were in the hands of counselors, teachers and center directors. But during online courses, all of these features are lacking, ”he explained.

The move from offline to online has also resulted in lower costs. According to industry analysts, overall, CAT preparation costs have decreased by 25%. Nikhil Khatter, a former student of Career Launcher, another test preparation company, said: “In 2020, fees online were cheaper than offline. However, most coaching courses, including IMS, Career Launcher, and Hitbullseye, have a hybrid module.

“We predicted that classrooms would go online as schools were also shifting to online education due to the increase in Covid-19 cases. CL has been taking courses online for five years, ”said Raviteja Mahavadi of Career Launcher. “But the majority of our business is offline,” he added.

Likewise, IMS launched its online courses in January 2020 just as the coronavirus emerged in India. “Despite this, our income dropped dramatically as students weren’t sure exactly when classes would resume,” says Vinayak Kudva, National Chief Mentor at IMS.

According to Kudva, the challenge was to reach the students. “In the beginning there were challenges and there was an acceptance that this was going to take a while. However, we have prepared according to the environment, ”he said. Currently, IMS offers a mix of online and offline programs. “We have blended programs with offline courses. But the majority of students take online programs, ”Kudva added.

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CAT 2021, MBA, IIM, IIM-A, IIM-B, online trainingRakesh Rai, VP Marketing, Hitbullseye

No peer learning, interaction

Opinions differ on the effectiveness of online courses.

Chandan Ryan, another IMS student, said online courses help students save travel time, but mock tests and offline interviews are essential because they pull applicants out of their comfort zone. “Attending mock exams and interviews at the center is very important because a student must have experience of the environment,” he said. It would favor a hybrid teaching model with test simulations and offline interviews.

Students like Parashar found that most of the teachers at the institute did not respond to messages or questions. “With the move to the Internet, the group has grown from 30 to 70-80 students and one-on-one interactions have dramatically decreased,” he said.

Coaching institutes should make online courses more interactive through different strategies to ensure students and teachers have a connection, another class of 2020 student told Career Launcher, asking not to be named. “Peer learning is also important in competitions,” he said.

Nikhil Sahay, who was also registered with Career Launcher, took a different view. He prepared online – only the mock interview took place offline – and found it useful. One of the benefits of online courses is that it has become possible to attend multiple courses at once, and online courses provide access to teachers from other cities and states.

Finally, candidates pointed out that the CAT itself is an online exam. “Online courses are better because we write an online exam. Our online reading and writing skills improved during the online classes, ”Sahay said.

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Initiatives to bounce back

Institutes like IMS claim to have been able to recover their pre-Covid activity. “In terms of revenue, we are doing as well as in 2019. This happened because we gave students the advantage and flexibility to learn through recorded videos and live lessons. Additionally, most of our course offerings were offline and some components were online. However, now the proportion of online elements has increased in competition preparation programs, ”said Kudva….

Career Launcher has seen a significant drop in revenue and is taking steps to recover. “Despite a drop in numbers, we saw Covid as an opportunity to improve our technology. We launched an innovative model in which we made sure that the students were conversing with their teachers, ”said Mahavadi. “We are trying to create a bridge between students and teachers. Recording lessons is something that students can complete at its stage. We have started doing it yourself classes and around 20-25% of students said they wanted to take the DIY classes. With Covid-19 cases declining in all states, Career Launcher has opened up offline courses at
some institutes.

Last year, from April to August, Hitbullseye’s revenue fell by 65%, and this year from September to October by 30%. “However, due to online and hybrid courses, we have seen an overall growth of 350% over the past two years,” said Rai. “In addition, recent registrations in classes have been
rather weak.”

CAT 2021, MBA, IIM, online trainingVinayak Kudva, National Chief Mentor at IMS

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Go forward

Kudva believes that old-fashioned classrooms may not even exist anymore, as mixed classrooms will be more prevalent. Additionally, technology has broadened the reach of multiple coaching institutes.

“Lack of resources would have been a problem a few years ago. However, the online model allowed for seamless delivery of sessions while reaching many more students, expanding our reach by 100%, compared to the pre-pandemic period, ”he said. IMS took the opportunity to incorporate technology into their curriculum and said that elements of the curriculum that have moved online may continue to stay there in the future.

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Rai from Hitbullseye observes the situation. “The offline courses for CAT preparation will take around two months to revert to their pre-Covid enrollments. If by Diwali things stay normal, everything will be back to normal. Since last year, registrations in September and October have been better, ”said Rai. In the past two months, Hitbullseye has opened seven new centers across India offering hybrid coaching modules.

Kudva added that the tendency of people to leave metropolitan areas is also reflected in the distribution of enrollments. However, purely online education is temporary. He said program delivery at the centers will change to include more personalization and focus on standard services. Students can now access a quality session at home, but there will be a market both offline and online.

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