New Delhi: Nineteen-year-old Nchumthung Patton from Nagaland's Wokha district, a tiny speck on the map of the country's northeastern region, almost gave up his dream of becoming a doctor when he could not clear the all India medical entrance examination.
The teenager, who hails from a farming family and has seven siblings, had prepared for the ambitious test for one year on his own as his parents could not afford to send him to a city for medical coaching.
Patton is now preparing for the entrance exam again but this time through online classes that have eliminated the need for coaching centres in his village and many other rural parts of the country.
Several major platforms such as NEETprep, BYJU's, ICA Edu skills and Youth4works have started offering online programmes for medical aspirants that prepare students for entrance exams through video streaming.
Patton has enrolled with NEETPrep and was provided with all study material -- a pen drive and course work via email -- at a much lesser price than what enrolling in a coaching centre in a city would cost.
According to online education providers, the concept of online video programmes for medical entrance has replaced brick-and-mortar classrooms with virtual classes and given multiple benefits to students especially in rural areas.
Kapil Gupta, CEO and co-founder of NEETPrep, who started the platform in 2016 along with his co-founders from IIT-Mumbai and IIM-Ahmedabad, said a classroom programme for a year at a well-known coaching institute for NEET preparation would cost approximately Rs 1-1.5 lakh per annum and additional expenses worth around Rs 2 lakh for accommodation and food if the student is not a city dweller.
The amount charged by NEETPrep for its video classes for medical entrance is only Rs 25,000 per year, he said.
Every year approximately 15 lakh students, including around 8 lakh from tier II and III cities, register for the NEET exam to secure admissions in medical colleges including the reputed All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) as per their rankings.
Mrinal Mohit, chief operating officer of BYJU's, told PTI, "The biggest benefit of integrating technology in education is that it makes learning highly personalized. With digital learning, students can learn at their own pace, in their own style and focus on strengthening their conceptual understanding instead of playing 'catch up' with rest of their batch".
He said digital learning also gives students uninterrupted access to the best teachers from around the world, irrespective of their geography.
Rachit Jain, CEO & Founder of Youth4Work, said, "Online classes are less expensive than conventional classes as students only have to pay for course material and not the admission fees that coaching institutes charge for operational costs".
Citing a survey by KPMG and Google, Manoj Kumar Jha, Director of GS Score, said the market for online education is expected to rise magnificently -- up to USD 1.96 billion by 2021 from from USD 247 million in 2016.
Having expanded to almost every zone of India, NEETPrep currently has students in far flung areas such as in Nagaland, Mizoram, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands. So is the case with BYJU's and ICA Edu.
According to Narendra Shyamsukha, founder-chairman, ICA Edu Skills, surveys have found that nearly 5.8 million people enrol in online college courses, with 28 per cent of all college students enrolling in at least one online course every year.
Rana Akoijam from Manipur had come to Delhi in 2018 for medical coaching but had to return soon due to financial crunch. In 2019 he got admission for MBBS thanks to enrolling in online entrance preparation classes.
"With the help of online classes, I could sit in the comfort of my home and get tutored by the country's top faculties. Without wasting my time in commuting to coaching classes, I could spend more time focusing on studying," he said.
Industry experts too believe that online video classes are a game changer for aspirants from rural parts.
Prof M C Misra, Former Director AIIMS, New Delhi, and now president of Mahatma Gandhi University of Medical Sciences and Technology in Rajasthan, has observed the drastic change in medical education and says online education could be highly effective.
"Such tele-video education could be very effective, particularly if there is a two-way communication and students are able to ask and clarify their doubts," he told PTI.
His view was endorsed by Girish Tyagi, president of the Delhi Medical Council who said there was a time when practically every medical aspirant went for conventional coaching, but the constant pressure to study more made students put their physical and mental health at stake.
"But the time has changed and Internet has tremendous reach and speed. Video coaching has come as a blessing for aspirants living in remote areas," he said.