Creating an Integrated Learning Solution: Combining print content with digital Digital resources and the text can be woven into a much more effective learning experience across subjects

By Sivaramakrishnan V

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India's K-12 school system is one of the largest in the world with over 250 million students enrolled in nearly 1.44 million schools. Barring a small fraction of these schools, all others follow a fairly uniform pedagogy with print books at the center of the learning system. This is true for even the private schools that account for about 25% share of schools in total. (Data sources: DISE 2015-16 report and EY-FICCI Education 2017 report).

Technology and Learning

In the last decade or so, given the proliferation of technology in nearly every sphere of life, a growing segment of schools have adopted "digital' in some form or the other – from encouraging usage of tablets in classrooms, to setting up of electronic boards, to creating full-scale ICT infrastructure - schools have done it all. Online service providers have been engaged by schools to provide audio-visual content, assessment solutions and to create online content repositories. While these measures were initiated with the right intention, not all of them have necessarily done enough to improve educational outcomes and we need to understand why.

The Data

As per the 11th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2016, which checks students' competency, only 14.8 percent of students can read simple English sentences. India's performance at PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), that tests the learning levels of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science, was dismal in 2009 when we last participated - of course, this is an indicator of the general state of education and not necessarily a reflection of the impact of digitization in education.

The Concerns

Print content, being largely non-interactive, has its own limitations. It comes alive in the hands of a teacher. Digital classroom solutions, on the other hand, are more engaging but are mostly not aligned to any specific book. Given that the book is the base for any classroom learning experience, any attempt to supplement it with unrelated or even loosely related digital resources may not produce very effective outcomes. Disparate content delivered to learners via multiple mediums is the single biggest convoluting factor – it is not uncommon for print and digital service providers to have varying approaches to problem solving across the two mediums. The easy availability of free content and its usage without guidance is another concern area for educators today.

The intention here is not to run down technology or digital as a medium of instruction, rather it is to suggest that content should be tailored to suit the medium, and solutions (print and digital), as far as possible, should be integrated to ensure that the learner gets a consistent imprint or experience. Educational solutions respond best if they are bespoke and not when mass-produced with a "one size fits all' approach.

Innovation for the Benefit of Students

An integrated learning solution, that seamlessly combine print and digital content, is hence a very plausible solution for the school education system. These solutions not only create a pedagogically consistent environment for the learner but also for the teacher and the parent. A print text book aligned to audio-visual content for a digital board and mapped to an online assessment framework is an intelligent solution that is better placed to deliver improved learning outcomes. Online teacher resources, test generators, class performance analysis, automated reports for parents accessible through mobile apps are easy inventions of technology that an integrated learning solution bundles with print books.

An integrated approach also makes it possible to do justice to the concept of inter-disciplinary teaching. Digital resources and the text can be woven into a much more effective learning experience across subjects, giving children an opportunity for more holistic learning and development. India's education landscape is today at an interesting inflection point, where usage of print alone will be looked at with some disdain and a "completely digital' approach will be very incipient, and hence integrated learning solutions do seem like the "future' of school education in India.

Sivaramakrishnan V

Managing Director, Oxford University Press India (OUP)

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