Shreyas Kulkarni

Edutech firms pull down their paywall for students under 'house arrest'

To help students, teachers and institutions, edutech firms are letting them access their content for free to ensure that education isn't disrupted.

According to a UNESCO report, 290.50 million students globally will see their education disrupted as 13 countries order closure of schools due to COVID-19.

To prevent the spread of Coronavirus, schools and colleges in India have been shut so that there's no mass gathering of students. This has hampered studies and even the exam preparation of students as they are stuck at home, which, for many, resembles house arrest.

The UNESCO figure could be the reason why Bengaluru-based edutech giant Byju’s announced, on March 10, that it was providing free access to its app content to school students till the end of April.

Students from classes I to III can download the app to learn Math and English, while those from class IV onwards can learn Math and Science. Those students who already have the app simply need to update it to access the entire content for free.

Similarly, Unacademy, another edutech firm from Bengaluru, said, on March 12, that all its educators will take 20,000 free live classes during the month to help students prepare for different exams.

A March 13 Business Today report quoted Gaurav Munjal, co-founder and CEO, Unacademy, as saying, "We are bringing together our entire network of educators to conduct free live classes for learners across the nation to help them crack their goals unobstructed. We want learners to utilise this time to take precautions against the Coronavirus outbreak and learn from the comfort of their homes. We will support the education system in every way possible to weather the storm and provide these classes to each learner who wants to utilise Unacademy to study."

The firm followed this announcement with another one on March 18. It said that Unacademy is opening up its platform to educational institutions across India to conduct classes online, for free, and without any limitations on the number of hours or classes.

Also, Toppr, a learning app for classes V to XII made its Live and Video Classes free till schools resume. On March 17, Zishaan Hayath, its co-founder, wrote a post on the firm’s blog, “We want to ensure that students can continue their studies in a safe environment.”

He added, “Our Video Classes have always been available as a free learning resource and will continue to remain so in the foreseeable future. Students get an in-depth understanding of concepts by watching short video classes created by experts. Available in English and Hinglish, students can access these learning videos on Android, iOS and web whenever they want to.”

To help affected universities in delivering their classes/lessons, online learning platform Coursera has made its content free for students. This includes access to 3,800 courses and 400 specialisations. The access is valid till July 31, while students can complete courses through September 2020.

Adding to that, all eight Ivy League universities in the US - Harvard, Cornell, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown, UPenn, and Columbia - are offering 450 courses online.

But, all work and no play isn’t the best for students. And while they shouldn’t go out to play, they can, instead, read Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) and Tinkle comics for free.

Yes, there's now free access to ACK and Tinkle comic apps for an entire month. That’s 100-plus and over 350 Tinkle and ACK editions, respectively.