Experts say hybrid learning is here to stay after COVID-19

Experts Say Hybrid Learning Is Here To Stay After Covid 19

The 11th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) Publishers Conference concluded on Tuesday with participants discussing the new era of educational publishing in the age of digitalization. They also discussed the opportunities and challenges brought by the digital age for industry stakeholders.

The session titled ‘Evolving Education Content: The Role of Publishers in the Age of Digital Learning’, moderated by Jose Borghino, IPA Secretary-General, highlighted the ongoing shift to digital learning in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the session, participating members discussed the way forward for stakeholders of the educational value chain.

Nitasha Devasar, Managing Director of Taylor and Francis and President of the Association of Publishers of India, pointed out that the pivot to digital learning showcases a significant shift from "product perception to service perception."

“The focus is now on the value that learning tools provide users. Placing customers at the forefront calls for increased investment in resources to curate a better experience for consumers," she explained.

Furthermore, Dr Neelam Parmar, Director of Digital Learning and Education at Harrow International Schools, UK, underlined that a large number of choices in online resources is changing the education landscape.

She stated that it has become a norm to take various digital resources and integrate them within the curriculum in a hybrid approach.

Bill Kennedy, Founder of UK-based Avicenna Partnership Ltd, said that the pandemic resulted in a discernible shift from academic textbooks in print to e-versions. It also led to increased use and enhanced quality of research content in open access journals, adding that it is here to stay and grow.

Julie Attrill, Manager of International Rights at Wiley in the UK, increased use of digitalized learning is witnessed in universities and the corporate sector during the pandemic.

“People are now looking for hybrid models that also incorporate audio and podcasts, while corporate learning has seen a huge growth as more businesses are looking to upskill their staff," she added.

Another session titled ‘Surfacing African Publishing Innovations: The African Publishing Innovation Fund’ moderated by Wanjiru Koinange, author and Co-Founder of Book Bunk in Kenya, explored financial management to facilitate the provision of important literacy, livelihood, and life skills to poor and rural communities across the continent.

As part of this session, Alison Tweed, Chief Executive, Book Aid International, UK, explained how APIF worked towards transforming three shipping containers into fully equipped libraries in Dunga, a rural community of 76,000 in the Zanzibar region of Tanzania.

“It has been extraordinary to see the changes it is bringing to children and families, many of whom are experiencing a library for the first time," Tweed said.

She added multiple players contributed to different aspects of the project and made it a success.

Catherine Uwimana, Book Development Expert, Save the Children International, stated that APIF provided necessary funding for 8 community libraries in Rwanda with the aim of boosting access to digital learning solutions and strengthening critical literacy skills in children who are unable to attend schools due to various reasons.

APIF libraries are providing safe spaces for learning to children and the funding is also supporting the training of librarians who encourage both girls and boys to employ technology towards strengthening the culture of reading. Uwimana revealed that more than a million children also received educational content via the radio as part of the library project.

Zimbabwean poet Chirikure Chirikure is also building a modern community library in Nemashakwe. According to Chirikure, apart from providing 800 young learners access to books, computers and life skills programmes, the APIF grant has also enabled the remote community in setting up water supply systems and installing a solar energy system to generate greater interest in the centre.

Kumuriwor Alira Bushiratu, a young student and co-founder of Learners Girls Foundation, further highlighted the greater urban-rural digital divide across Ghana. She hailed the APIF for funding the startup non-profit to grow and make a powerful impact in the lives of at-risk young girls in the region.

"By bringing stakeholders together to support education and provide reading material through libraries, access to digital learning and mentorship programmes, young girls are being empowered to grow and give back to society," Alira Bushiratu said.

Will Clurman, CEO of Kenya’s Kitab, concluded that digitizing and shifting local educational materials to international standards is helping relevant entities in improving digital learning accessibility for all learners in the region.

"In the process, the digital journey of publishers across Kenya is being scaled up. The beauty of publishing is the commitment to knowledge and engagement, and this is improving learning outcomes for children across Kenya," Clurman added,

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