The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the education sector, accelerating the shift to digital-learning models as educational institutes remain closed in the wake of the virus outbreak.
While other sectors are now going through an 'unlock' and restart of activity, schools, colleges and universities could be amongst the last to return to 'normalcy'. It is likely, they may never return completely.
Globally, while some countries such as Norway, Denmark, Poland and France have reopened schools, it is a significantly altered reality. Closed playgrounds, spacing of desks in classrooms to allow for six-feet distance, temperature checks of students at the entrance and masks during all times are constant reminders to children of the prevailing uncertainty.
Educational institutions by their nature are set up for large gatherings – usually with minimal provisions for social distancing – and, therefore, are particularly vulnerable and unsafe for students at this time. Learning, however, lends itself easily to online formats and this trend had been quietly permeating even before the COVID-19 outbreak. The global pandemic has accelerated the switch to digital learning.
As classroom sessions were no longer feasible during the lockdown, educational institutions had to quickly innovate and augment their digital capabilities to make up for lost teaching hours. Most private schools in urban India started to offer online classes that supported student-teacher interaction on a real-time basis.  Unfortunately, government-aided schools and low-fee category educational institutions have limited resources and could not offer the same quality of digital-learning options. 
The lockdown also brought attention to some of India's leading educational technology start-ups that began providing free access to their learning platforms. Top ed-tech start-ups witnessed steep surges in demand for their content with a leading ed-tech app from India becoming one of the world's top 10 education apps by number of downloads during the lockdown phase. DIKSHA, a digital platform for school education launched by the Government of India, registered over six million views during the first three weeks of lockdown.
Current trends indicate that digital formats will be an integral part of educational institutions in the post COVID-19 world. With some meticulous planning and access to research tools, digital formats can help achieve the three vital aspects of education: reach, equity and quality.
The popularity of tech-enabled learning solutions in the Indian education system is only going to accelerate further as educational institutions, teachers, parents and governments become increasingly willing to adopt technology in this domain. We are likely to see heightened activity in innovation, new ventures, investments and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the ed-tech sector.
In summary, during this global pandemic, schools and universities across countries switched to digital or online models to allow students to continue their learning. This has the potential to disrupt the well-established models in school (K-12) education and university formats permanently. While we embrace this new online model for education, it is crucial to be mindful of the gaps in the digital experience, especially for impressionable young minds that thrive on social learning. The human element in the process of education will, hopefully, continue to play an integral role as we tentatively explore our changed world.
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 Indian education can’t go online – only 8% of homes with young members have computer with net link, Scroll.in, accessed on June 10, 2020
 Byju's among world's top 10 education apps downloaded during lockdown, Livemint, accessed on June 10, 2020
 Govt expands digital literacy project – Diksha, Indian Express, accessed on June 10, 2020
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