The 11th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) Publishers Conference wrapped up on Tuesday with debates and discussions about a new era of educational publishing ushered in by the digital age, as well as the potential and difficulties that this presents for industry stakeholders.
Digital learning is being pushed to new heights
The session, titled ‘Evolving Education Content: The Role of Publishers in the Age of Digital Learning,‘ was moderated by Jose Borghino, Secretary-General of the IPA, and focused on the shift to digital learning and lessons learned during the pandemic, as well as the way forward for various members of the educational value chain.
The shift to digital indicates “a shift from product perception to service perception,” according to Nitasha Devasar, Managing Director of Taylor & Francis and President of the Association of Publishers of India.
“The focus is now on the value that learning tools bring consumers. Putting customers first necessitates a greater commitment of resources to create a better experience for them.” she explained.
The overwhelming choices in online resources, according to Dr. Neelam Parmar, Director of Digital Learning and Education at Harrow International Schools in the United Kingdom, have revolutionized the landscape of learning.
“Taking the vast digital resources and integrating it within the curriculum in a blended approach has become the norm moving forward. However, younger children are still encouraged to hold, touch and feel a book. Younger children, on the other hand, are encouraged to grasp, touch, and feel a book.”
The pandemic, according to Bill Kennedy, founder of the UK-based Avicenna Partnership Ltd, resulted in a “noticeable migration from print academic textbooks to e-versions of those books, as well as an increase in the use and quality of research content in open access journals, which are here to stay and grow.”
During the epidemic, Julie Attrill, Manager of International Rights at Wiley, UK, discovered a substantially higher adoption in digitalized learning in both universities and the corporate sector.
“People are now searching for hybrid models that include audio and podcasts,” she said, “while corporate learning has experienced a big surge as more firms try to upskill their employees.”
The session, titled ‘Surfacing African Publishing Innovations: The African Publishing Innovation Fund,‘ was moderated by Wanjiru Koinange, author and Co–Founder of Book Bunk in Kenya, and looked at how the fund is helping to provide critical literacy, livelihood, and life skills to poor and rural communities across the continent.
Alison Tweed, CEO of Book Aid International in the United Kingdom, recounted how APIF assisted in the conversion of three shipping containers into fully equipped libraries in Dunga, a rural village of 76,000 people in Tanzania’s Zanzibar region. “Seeing the changes it is bringing to children and families, many of whom are experiencing a library for the first time, has been incredible.”
“It’s having a bigger impact on library development since diverse people are contributing to different areas of the project.”
APIF has increased access to digital learning solutions and reinforced crucial reading skills in children who are unable to attend school in Rwanda by sponsoring eight community libraries, according to Catherine Uwimana, Save the Children International’s Book Development Expert. “Our libraries have evolved into safe learning environments, and the fund has supported librarian training to encourage both girls and boys to use technology to build the culture of reading. Radio also provides instructional content to over a million students.“
“Apart from providing 800 young learners access to books, computers, and life skills programs, the APIF grant has also enabled us to set up water supply systems and install a solar energy system, which has generated greater interest in the center in this remote community with very limited resources,” said Zimbabwean poet Chirikure Chirikure, who is building a modern community library in Nemashakwe.
Kumuriwor Alira Bushiratu, a young student and co-founder of Learners Girls Foundation, described the significant urban-rural digital divide in Ghana, saying, “APIF gave wings for our startup non-profit to grow and make a powerful impact in the lives of at-risk young girls whose conditions have been exacerbated by the pandemic.” Young girls are empowered to thrive and give back to society by bringing stakeholders together to encourage education and supply reading material through libraries, access to digital learning, and mentorship programs.”
“By digitalizing and adapting local educational materials to international standards, we are boosting digital learning accessibility for all learners,” said Will Clurman, CEO of Kenya’s Kitab. “Publishers’ digital journeys in Kenya are being accelerated as a result of this process. The beauty of publishing is its dedication to information and participation, which is enhancing learning results for Kenyan children.”