Are Indian Classrooms Ready For Digital Textbooks?
"We need to bring ‘learning to people’ instead of ‘people to learning." - Elliot Masie.
The publishing industry in India is among the top seven publishing nations in the world. According to FICCI, the industry has an estimated market of Rs. 10,000 crores, ranking India third after the US and UK in English language publishing. Educational publications hold a massive share in this industry as most of the learning materials printed are English.
The pandemic has shaken the education and the publishing industry. Although our education system was highly dependent on government aids, the pandemic has highlighted the behemoth improvement areas. Our education system was never built and thought for remote teaching and learning. The non-availability of printed textbooks, the primary source of knowledge, suddenly suffocated the entire cycle.
When we think of primary and secondary education, the typical picture is a classroom filled with students of different calibre and linguistic barriers and a faculty teaching from the textbook. Faculties and students follow the learning concepts based on the policies stipulated by the NCERT and NEP. Due to distribution challenges in remote areas, some institutions may not get the printed textbook before beginning a course year.
Online learning and digital textbook
The latest reports from Statista states that there are over 6,378 million smartphone users in India alone. Internet accessibility became the key to the continuation of learning during the pandemic. Although connectivity was still a challenge, faculty and students gradually adapted to teaching and learning through online and offline Learning Management Solutions (LMS). Most of the institutions, regardless of their size, started teaching online via live and recorded sessions.
Many higher education systems, to a certain extent, used digital textbooks besides online classes. The digital textbook was a new experience for the administration, faculty, and students. There were clear advantages: college administration had less burden of stocking, storekeeping, and distributing the books to the students, and there was a cost difference from the print textbooks. Students could enjoy anytime and anywhere access to the reading materials right out of their pockets. Post-pandemic, the scenario might change this behaviour; however, the clear advantages on all the fronts could see a better adoption or alternate solutions in the upcoming years.
Digitisation enhancing the interaction rate among students and the faculties
Most of our education follows Auditory and Read & Write methods with little to nil on Visual and kinaesthetic (hands-on) forms of teaching. Our traditional education system does not recognise a student’s learning ability in which state; instead, it follows a predefined format.
Digital textbooks could improve the students' learning ability. The content has visual engagement, auditory engagement, and prompts for the read & write, or guide for the hands-on ways of learning. Digital textbooks can also benefit from adding gamified and contextual content to improve learners' perception and reproducing ability.
The significance of digitising of books
Publishers have challenges in updating their content every other year depending on the change in curriculum policies. It becomes unpredictable for the Publishers to overhaul their print inventory and distribution. Duplicate books are another issue to tackle. Some educational publishers have their content converted into digital books. There are many more exploring the digital journey.
Each educational publisher offers a dedicated platform to access the content. It makes it difficult for the students and teaching staff to use multiple publishing platforms to access the content. Aggregating platforms like Amazon's Kindle may be trying to solve a problem. Until then, the conversion to digital textbooks will be looked at as an advantage but not delivering the intended experience for the teaching staff or the students. On the other hand, for the publishers, with digital textbooks, updating the content becomes more straightforward, managing the distribution, fighting against piracy, and the overall costs would come down.
Digital textbooks have shortcomings too - more screen time, data limitation for offline access, content in vernacular languages, and content non-availability for all the subjects.
The pandemic has skyrocketed the digital adoption rate in the education industry. It is time for educational publishers to create a holistic solution to bridge print and digital textbooks. Such a solution will allow the learner to get the best quality content and interactivity - pushing the competitive bar further.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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