The nation was taken by surprise when Sahara India Pariwar announced its comeback last year, with special focus on digital education. However, the Subrata Roy-led conglomerate is not the only digital media player that has eyed the education sector. Leading digital media companies have been gradually expanding their horizons by stepping into education technology.
Back in 2007, the New York Times Co. launched the New York Times Knowledge Network, which used the company’s electronic and human resources to offer a wide range of online courses for high school, college, and continuing education students.
Other names who took the giant leap include NBC Learn, the educational wing of the television network, which started delivering digital K-12 and higher education content in free and for-pay formats in 2009, and Discovery Communications, that launched Discovery Education, which has been offering extensive free and paid online content since 2003.
“I think it could be these companies have a certain DNA—a certain internal skill set—[and] that they’re looking to new markets to apply that core expertise. Teaching and learning is a huge enterprise that is federally, state, and locally funded,” says Steve Pines, the executive director of Washington-based Education Industry Association.
Educationists suggest that broader forces are also at work behind digital media players like Sahara India Pariwar, NBC and Discovery venturing into education. According to Felice Nudelman, the executive director of education for the New York Times Co., the missions of journalism and digital education have converged. “This is in part because news-gathering and educating, both are becoming increasingly collaborative and reliant on digital media,” she says.
Sources close to Sahara India Pariwar, on the other hand, claim the conglomerate’s foray into education to be a mere extension of founder Subrata Roy’s vision and mission behind the company. “Saharasri (Subrata Roy) has always envisioned Sahara India Pariwar to be contributing to the nation’s progress. Making a difference in the education sector is just a small step in that direction,” a source stated.
Education is an umbrella that encompasses a wide range of opportunities, and digital media companies are identifying ways that either align with their corporate mission or that they think are opportunities for their companies. To most educationists and industry experts, combining digital media with educational content is a natural alignment of interests that brings the best of both worlds together.