Bridging gaps in the e-learning segment

According to Rohit Bammi, the Global Head of Institutional Business, Nium, the emergence of the global pandemic has further boosted the growth of the e-learning industry. Education institutions around the world have responded to school closures by taking their classes to virtual platforms to ensure that students will still be able to study at home, sit in lectures and attend online courses.  

“Malaysia is experiencing a similar trend, with the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) earlier this year, more than 4.9 million school-goers have been confined to their homes,” Bammi tells BusinessToday. “As we know, e-learning is heavily dependent on digital resources. In the short-term, educators have been able to adapt to the new normal with minimal disruptions.”  

However, the question now is whether the country is ready and prepared to offer e-learning at a large scale, for students based in different geographies in the long run.  

Bammi says there is a clear technological and infrastructural gap here, including the difference of Internet speeds in different regions and challenges with payment processes. The complexity and costs associated with payments, especially cross-border fund transfer, he says can prove to be a deterrent for e-learning marketplaces or platforms looking to expand beyond Malaysian end-users.  

Challenges Present

“The dynamics of e-learning have fundamentally changed and this further exacerbated due to the pandemic,” he says, further highlighting that the space has grown from traditional distance learning programmes at universities in Malaysia, rise of education technology (EdTech) companies and e-learning marketplaces where freelance educators can reach individuals across the globe who are keen on reskilling and upskilling.  

He further says that a common challenge across all in today’s climate is that such a system calls for a robust digital payments infrastructure on the backend. Currently payments issues in the e-learning space include accessing new markets in underbanked regions and slow and delayed payouts.  

While Malaysia has been successful in increasing banking account penetration, with 10 percent or lower of the population without banking access, other countries are falling behind. This results in international bank transfers, one of the more popular payment methods a limited option if e-learning marketplaces wish to cater beyond Malaysia.  

“By creating flexible and inclusive payment methods, e-learning marketplaces can bring online education to underserved regions, and access new markets and opportunities,” Bammi says.  

He further highlights that due the number of intermediaries involved, payments are often delayed, incur high costs and lack transparency, making the process laborious for businesses to navigate. Furthermore, the absence of a standard system for global payments makes it inconvenient for banks and enterprises to exchange data seamlessly.  

Tackling the challenges  

“Nium’s extensive payment network across 100 markets, 65 in real-time, provides a convenient and more cost-effective way of helping e-learning companies disburse payments globally. E-learning companies can disburse payroll to employees based overseas and make payments to international vendors at a lower FX rate and within a shorter period as Nium cuts out the middlemen,” Bammi says.  

To present these solutions to the underbanked communities, fintechs like Nium would need to work directly with schools and education institutions to solve these payment gaps and penetrate even the underbanked communities to enable a truly inclusive ecosystem.  

“As we move towards a cashless society, the number of payment options in the country has also grown over the decade, helping us to push our agenda forward,” he says. “With such an abundance of payment options, they are no longer constricted by bank transfers and traditional methods of transactions. The government has also helped in this space.”  

Putrajaya had launched a programme to give out RM450 million to nearly half of its citizens to boost local digital transactions.  

What does the future hold? 

“From a payment’s perspectives, we expect e-learning payments to be an invisible process for all. Transactions can be approved in real time, students can pay on the go, and e-learning platforms can pay salaries to educators in a timely, seamless, and secure manner.  

For schools and universities working with freelancer educators or lecturers across the world, this also presents the perfect situation for ross-border payments,” Bammi tells BusinessToday.  

“Nium is continually looking to enhance our delivery capabilities to newer and underpenetrated markets, and is also looking to deliver payments to individuals who may have access to alternate channels but not necessarily have bank accounts, for example, e-wallets,” he adds.  

The team behind Nium has recently launched wallet services and is during rolling out delivery to other e-wallets in the months to come.  

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