Digital learning

Vikas Singh, managing director, Pearson India shares the gaps in India’s education infrastructure and why it is important to develop more practical, experience-based learning techniques and embrace technology as that will soon be the key enabler in education delivery. “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”

Over a century ago, the famed educator John Dewey cited the above quote in his book ‘Schools of Tomorrow’ – and the message still remains highly relevant.

India is one of the youngest nations, with a median age of 1.3 billion strong population being mere 30. This positions India’s student population to be a force to reckon with. Amongst them are potential thought leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers and executives of the future, who will be at the helm of driving further the ever-growing US$13 trillion economy of the country.

Vikas Singh, MD, Pearson IndiaThe Indian economy is fast emerging as a knowledge-based economy with human capital being its core strength. It is estimated that over the next 20 years, India will have nearly 10-12 million people added to its workforce on an annual basis. With a demographic dividend of having such a huge workforce to its advantage, the challenge for Indian higher education is to groom a workforce that can be inducted into the industries with minimal hand-holding.

However, currently, the companies are struggling to find talent that is industry-ready, and therefore have to invest time and money to train the hired resources to bridge the required skill gaps. This highlights the inadequacies of India’s education infrastructure for higher education. To bridge the gaps, the need of the hour is to develop more practical, experience-based learning techniques and embrace technology as that will soon be the key enabler in education delivery.

The need of the day…

Gone are the days when rote learning in the classrooms and heavy subject-matter books were enough to give students a platform that would enable a bright future for them. In today’s hyper-connected world, the education resources have gone beyond the textbooks. The current technology-driven world encompasses digital books, interactive applications, instructional videos and social media that are changing the face of education. The pervasive Internet and widespread availability of mobile devices with incredible computing powers have brought the world-class learning resources to the fingertips of our students.

Technology at the centre of learning…

Technology and its ever-growing capabilities offer unparalleled opportunities, which not only help in expanding access to quality educational resources but can also complement the course material for the learners who seek to upskill or specialize themselves in any given subject area after completing K-12 or 12th standard. Together, they have the potential to meet the knowledge needs of the country, while bringing interactive educational experiences to learners.

Though the traditional educational model of lecture halls continue to form the foundation of higher education systems, it is subtly being transformed from one that is instructor-focused to one that is student-centred. The current generation of learners are keen to adopt learning solutions that are tailor-made to their requirements, are interactive in nature, convenient to consume and provide continuous feedback. This integration of new tools and traditional pedagogies have opened up a variety of opportunities for the providers in the higher education landscape.

The Pearson way…

Being futuristic about education, Pearson had the vision to think differently, while keeping learners at the centre of everything from the very beginning. With our personalized and superior content, almost century-old global lineage and 20 years of rich experience in the Indian education space, we ensure that we develop products that are thoroughly researched, expertly developed, and continually improved. We have set out to transform the face of the Indian education system, with the aim to improve access and outcomes in education.

Today Pearson is developing products and solutions across the higher education spectrum in both print and digital format with the near-term aim of establishing ourselves as a digital learning solutions company, by making learning more accessible, fun and new-age to everyone. The advent of digital learning has changed so much that today our competitive landscape includes not only the local publishers but also the edtech start-ups and technology companies who are working in the digital learning space. Going forward, we will expand our product portfolio in the areas of Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering, Management and Test-preparation with holistic and student-driven products and solutions.

Tools for learning…

The student-driven phenomenon has necessitated that higher education institutions and education providers respond by creating tools and programs that deliver personalized learning experience to the learners. Here are some of the approaches to supplement the classroom learnings of students of higher education and give them a personalized learning experience:

  • Mobile Application: Mobile phone penetration in India is set to rise to 85% - 90% by 2020. The youth today is bound to their smartphones almost 24X7. Also, considering shorter attention spans, what was taught earlier in long classroom sessions has now transformed into bite-sized information, giving way to what is called micro-learning through mobile based applications and websites. These are short training capsules that offer interactive learning experience and focus on a specific learning objective. Such modules are typically designed as a 3-5 minutes duration game to provide additional learning in a fun and competitive way.

  • Video: The fact that human brain processes visual cues 60,000 times faster than text, reinforces the use of videos for learning. According to a study on customer training completion rates, courses with videos have 51% completion rate as against 36% for courses that are without videos. Institutions can offer the recordings of the lecture sessions to the students for reference after the college timings.

  • Content Curation: Another concept that is changing the way institutions are bridging the skills gap is through content curation. As delivering learning through online platform is becoming important for academicians, the content repository is evolving to be more than a content dump. Just like in a library, content curation prevents wastage of learners’ time by providing them access to valuable information that is relevant to them.

Digital technology is an ally for the higher education. With solutions developed around the ‘personalized learning’ concept, the institutions and universities can help deliver education that is not just a classroom learning, but incorporates vocational and experiential learnings as well. Thus, helping in bridging the growing skill gap in the Indian workforce of the future and making them more industry-ready. Education needs to be more futuristic, so that children of today are ready for the challenges of tomorrow.

Technology is everywhere and it only makes sense that our schools are also effectively deploying mobile technology in the classroom. However, for many schools, implementing the latest technology is a difficult strategy to navigate. To bridge the gap between teachers, students and parents, Pearson India along with its group of academicians and technology experts launched - Mypedia, one of its kind integrated learning tools for the first time in India for Grade I – V. MyPedia is the country's only fully-integrated learning programme that promises measurable improvement in cognitive skills of the learner. MyPedia integrates all learning and teaching tools in a well-designed manner. It comprises of teaching plans which bring together the course book, workbook, videos and assessments along with teachers' professional development and school support visits by specialists.

What’s unique about MyPedia is its specially crafted set of course books that use an interdisciplinary learning approach and a robust pedagogy designed to build life-long skills. These are supported by worksheets designed for multiple difficulty levels to nurture critical and creative thinking skills. Each of these workbooks comes with a rating scale that helps to record overall performance of the learner. In addition, MyPedia also comes with process-based teaching plans for the teacher that helps in academic planning.

Here, Ujjwal Singh, vice president, product & innovation, Emerging Markets, Pearson Education shares more about this innovative product:

AABP: What are the USPs of Mypedia?

Ujjwal: MyPedia’s digital learning solution caters to teachers and students alike in the classroom and at home. The easy to access videos are mapped to chapters taught in class, thereby making it easy for teachers to use. The HomeApp on the other hand can be installed on the parent’s phone for them to be able to access class videos and practice questions. The Teacher’s portal caters to teacher’s need of assigning practice questions.

Besides, assessment is mapped to the school’s exam plan, including both formative and summative assessment. Assessment can be both pen-and-paper and activity-based. Pen-and-paper questions may include MCQs, Fill in the blanks, Match the following, and Long & Short answer type questions. All the questions are analysed on difficulty and cognitive levels. MCQs are specially used to provide detailed distracters and misconception analysis. The report generated thereof cater to all levels of learning – student, teacher and school.

AABP: Can you tell us how it meets Indian-specific needs?

Ujjwal: Mypedia is a made in India product. It is fully developed for Indian children with Indian curriculum in mind. Now Mypedia has moved to 3 countries and next year we will go to 5 more countries. Apart from India we have Middle East and South Africa where mypedia is getting implemented. Hongkong, China, Brazil and Mexico will also have mypedia soon. Children and teaching around the world have similar set of issues, what we are trying to do is change the way of teaching and learning as this is required in every part of the world.

AABP: What are your targets and how will these be achieved?

Ujjwal Singh, VP - Product & Innovation, Emerging Markets, Pearson IndiaUjjwal: We are on course at this point of time. The product is being already marketed and promoted to schools in India. We are hoping by the end of 2018, we will have half million students on mypedia platform in India. Pearson has invested a lot of money in building this product in India and we see a big success for this.

We have looked at a 360-degree marketing campaign for MyPedia including ATL & BTL campaigns, Future of Learning events, workshops for teachers, branding, PR, digital marketing, etc. We have focused on improving the product understanding through education and product experience. Future of Learning has proven to be a great platform for us to be able to discuss the learning needs of children of tomorrow with various stakeholders such as teachers, students, educators, etc. The sessions have focused on discussion and debates to make classrooms child-friendly.

AABP: What is the response to your earlier digital offerings in the school space?

Ujjwal: We had a product called digi class, which was the smart board with digital solutions, but slowly and gradually we see that Mypedia will be taking over that solution.

AABP: Have classrooms become universally smart or are there challenges, for teachers that impact the spread?

Ujjwal: The classrooms have become smart but that has given teachers too much to choose andthat’s one of the things which we are trying is to simplify through mypedia.

AABP: What do you think the future is for publishers in this space, especially for Pearson in India?

Ujjwal: From publishing point of view, three years back we started our digital transformation journey and I think we are in the path of this journey to say that in times to come, publishing will be under pressure and we would like to be market ready. If the children like to consume content in digital format we should be able to give the content in the same format they need and want. But at the same time, we still think there is a mass who will continue to read books and we should not say no to books in this journey, we should have a blended solution available.

AABP: Do tell us about Worldreader,Read to Kids pilot in action with the help of Katha.

Ujjwal: Katha is one of three local implementing partners for the Read to Kids project, which is being led overall by Worldreader, Read to Kids is a 2-year pilot project in Delhi State that seeks to promote a culture of reading with young children, build skills to read to children and contribute to improved language development of children by encouraging parents or caregivers to read to and with their young children (ages 0-6). Specifically, we are empowering parents by providing access to a free digital library of high quality, locally relevant books and educational materials via their mobile phones. In addition to providing rich local content for the Mobile App, Katha is also supporting implementation by helping us reach parents and caregivers. We specifically selected Katha as a partner to leverage their proven and innovative I LOVE READING program which is based on over two decades of experience in bringing children into reading for fun and at grade level. The main strategies Katha will use to reach parents and caregivers will be through:

While, Delhi One Young Team (DOYTS) (pronounced “do its”) teenagers and young adults, who act as “reading ambassadors” in communities. DOYTS is a cadre of young volunteers who commit themselves to various reading based interventions in their communities. Youth often have phones, a willingness to explore how to use technology for new behaviors and this group is already aware of and invested in reading to children.

Ma Mandals (Mother’s clubs) work to build the skills of mothers and supports them to be active decision makers, stronger parents. These clubs focus on supporting parents to understand their children’s developmental needs as well as reinforces certain behaviors.

Children are a powerhouse of talent.Imagination and creativity is a crucial educational objective to adequately equip the next generation for their future.