Jerold Chagas Pereira is the Executive Director and CEO of mPowerO, an ed-tech SaaS platform for eLearning. Jerold has 20+ years of sustained high performance in operations and business development across electronics, retail, hospitality and real estate sectors and has held leadership positions at large Indian business groups such as Tata, Piramal, DLF and Videocon. Jerold has a Master in Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame and a Bachelor’s Degree in Financial Accountancy from the HR College of Commerce & Economics – University of Mumbai.
“Tell me and I Forget. Teach me and I Remember. Involve me and I Learn” – these are the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of America, in addition to being an author, scientist and inventor. And from this statement – probably from the 1770s – he was also one of the earliest advocates of experiential learning!
Which brings us to the subject at hand – “Do ebooks aid in the online learning process – and if so, HOW?”
The answer is that any format of blended (or hybrid) learning is good – be it ebooks, digital content, interactive sessions, etc. The Covid pandemic has affirmed this fact making digital aids to traditional learning more widely acceptable and mainstream.
What are some of the advantages of ebooks as part of the learning process?
The most obvious one is that ebooks are perfect for anytime, anywhere – learning. Be it in the classroom or self-paced learning at home. With smart devices – phones and tablets – becoming more affordable and with bigger and better screens, a lot of reading and studying can be done off a smartphone. For example, when commuting to and from school/college or travelling on vacation, instead of having to carry one’s textbooks, access over a smartphone or tablet is much more convenient. Today high quality elearning or LMS platforms allow for digital content (including ebooks) to be downloaded for offline viewing, which makes it even more accessible since there are no challenges of disruption in learning due to patch networks.
Another important benefit with ebooks is that, because they are in a digital format, they are always open to regular updates. It is very unlikely that the core lessons would change – unless there are errors at the outset. But the digital content allows for regular updates with additional learning resources to add to a topic or subject, which, in turn, goes on to strengthen the learning outcomes. This isn’t really possible with printed books, and if additional resources are to be given for a topic or subject, they are typically issued by way of handouts, loose sheets, etc, which could get misplaced.
Ebooks are more ‘engaging’ and ‘interactive’ because they are generally interspersed with interactive activities. So at the end of a topic or concept, ebooks could have an interactive Q&A with autocorrection facilities. In fact, depending on the format of ebooks, students could actually undertake realtime exercises like drag-n-drop, drawing, etc. All these interactive learning activities lead to better comprehension of the subject matter, and thereby, better outcomes. This approach is probably the best pedagogical approach in early childhood education since “watch and learn” or “do and learn” is 8-10 times more powerful than reading and memorising lessons.
Because of their ‘digital’ nature, it is very easy for teachers and parents to keep track of learning progress and learning outcomes. Most ebooks have features where they capture how much reading/learning has happened, where you last left off and scores for any assignments taken. When this is visible to teachers/parents, should there be a lack of progress or comprehension, more real-time intervention is possible.
Last but not the least, with ebooks, they can “evolve” to become even more engaging and interesting as technologies evolve – the could soon be AR and VR ebooks that virtually ‘transports’ one into the subject matter – for example an virtual walk-through the pyramids of Egypt or being a ringside spectator of some historic battle during India’s freedom struggle.
And finally, ebooks are good for the environment – they save paper and trees – and so whilst it isn’t possible to completely do away with traditional books, ebooks are a good start to helping reduce the ‘textbook’ footprint.
In conclusion, whilst traditional textbooks will take a while to completely become irrelevant and disappear, the move towards a blended approach is welcome and a step in the right direction!