Bharti Airtel joins the m-learning bandwagon

by Sohini Bagchi    Jan 03, 2013

mlearning

With devices such as smartphones and tablets becoming prevalent, mobile learning has also begun to spread its wings. Many prestigious academic and professional institutions are already leveraging mobile phones, laptops, tablets and PDAs for accessing and disseminating course content. A number of telecom firms are also cashing on to this opportunity bringing m-learning solutions and services to the education sector. The latest to join the bandwagon is Bharti Airtel.

The telecom service provider recently announced a new initiative called the mEducation that allows Airtel subscribers to access courses such as English learning, preparation for competitive exams and career counseling on their mobile phones.

To offer the new initiative, Airtel has already partnered with some of the leading education institutes in the country. “The mobile platform uses technology-enabled platforms to address the challenging issues of education with an endeavor to enrich the lives of people,” says K Srinivas, Bharti Airtel president for consumer business in a recent statement.

Srinivas says that the company will offer the service on voice (IVR) and text messages (SMS) formats that will have options of learning in regional languages. The service will further offer regular assessment tests and details of campuses and scholarships.

Enabling m-learning
With mobile technologies transforming the education sector in India, Bharti Airtel’s initiatives are undoubtedly noteworthy. However, there have been several m-learning initiatives in India over the past few years. The Biju Patnaik University of Technology started a service in collaboration with SMSGupShup called the BPUTALERT, which distributes information, academic notices and calendars through SMS to students. Another initiative, mGurujee, allows users to download questions and take tests for evaluation. It evolved as a learning mobile app store partnering with several leading mobile service operators, app stores and handset manufacturers.

Last year, Vodafone Solutions team also launched ‘Learning with Vodafone Solution’ a mobile technology that enabled teachers to improve the classroom experience with rich graphical and multimedia content coupled with innovative methods of teaching. The aim was to help students learn through the Internet and mobile in an interactive and engaging manner.

“Mobile Technologies such as mobile computing, laptop and hand-held PDAs have already transformed the education sector. The evolution of HTML will further boost the power of mobile devices,” says Chandan Sonowal, Interim MD, India and South Asia, Smart Technologies, adding that it will change the way people consume content and leverage smartphones and tablets both as a marketing platform and a productivity tool.

The shift to HTML5 will allow programs to run through a common browser platform rather than a specific operating system or plug-in. This indicates that consumers will be able to access the same cloud-based content from any device such as a PC, laptops, smartphones, or tablets.

Overcoming barriers
However, the use of mobile applications, devices in the consumerisation era is posing newer challenges for telecom providers and education institutions. According to, Debasis Nayak, CIO, Asian School Of Cyber Laws, even though the potential for m-learning in India is tremendous, it is drastically changing the role of the CIOs. Increased competition in the industry is compelling CIOs like other C-suites to constantly innovate in order to be a part of the mobile and web revolution. Nayak believes that there has to be a constant check on mobile security and policies, especially with cloud based learning gaining ground.

Standardization of mobile devices is also an area that needs to be looked into, as a significant challenge of m-learning is partly due to this diversity, besides adequate training and awareness that would inevitably lead to a successful deployment of mobile solution in an academic institution.

However, experts believe that m-learning will continue to evolve in India for the development of the quality and low cost education and newer initiatives such as Bharti Airtel’s m-education effort will also be an encouragement for other telcos to come up with exciting mobile solutions and services for the education sector, bringing new dimension in the way teachers and students access information.