ICT for Better Learning Outcomes

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Vivek Govil, President and CEO, Pearson Education talks about teacher being the key person in education delivery system with Dr Ravi Gupta and Yukti Pahwa

What is the main focus of Pearson Education group?

One of our concerns is that a large part of the ICT agenda in education is being driven by the technology companies rather than education companies. Mostly the conversations are about hardware or software without any focus on adequate quality of content or providing support to the teachers. We, on the other hand, believe that it is all about the teachers. Even in a highly technology enabled environment the teacher holds a vital role, though it might get modified according to the former. We work from perspective of enabling the teacher and otherwise.

What were the initiatives taken in 2010?

In higher education, we have been piloting a product called ‘My Labs’. We had the pilot run in 125 colleges across the country, for various subjects, amongst the high end institutions and fairly middle level institutions. We had professors working with ‘My Lab’ and their response to it has been quite remarkable. It is a unique combination of an e-learning tool, a homework management tool and a holistic reservoir of teacher’s resources. It also has an assessment tool, which helps not only to assess but also provide the diagnosis of the given assessment (who all are doing well, what topics are doing better than others), along with shortening the duration of the time spent in administrative aspects of carrying out assessment. In the school education segment we have created an e-book which is the digitised version of the book. This is the first time that someone has tried to integrate the text book and the digital aspect in a meaningful fashion. Although a rudimentary pilot, it did quite well.

What are the unique features of your products?

We focus on teacher’s perspectives. Mostly, the technology story in classrooms is more about marketing . Ou research shows that a lot of teachers and principals mention about their struggle when it comes to the use of technology. In an institution, technology use usually seems to be driven by the quality of the resource person’s training capabilities. But we focus on putting the control back to the teacher. Secondly, we are not trying to invent something from scratch. There are various successful models that exist. The idea is not to have thousands of things on your server but to integrate all of them for the teacher to aid learning.

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Is the Pearson’s e-book cost effective?

The e-books we provide are ridiculously cheap and cost effective. They cost about ` 500 per child for a year. Most of the eLearning material is outrageously priced in the market.

What is your opinion about Indian scenario in terms of ICT as compared to the other countries?

We are at much earlier stages of the curve, if we compare ourselves to UK or US. Technology has not yet reached masses. As compared to UK all government schools have interactive whiteboards. The usage is low but the hardware and the software do exist. There are a million players and we have a lot of issues revolving around pricing, and so on but none about learning. Again if we have whiteboards across all classrooms, it will turn into a wasteful expenditure, if it is not being utilised in a useful manner. Mostly, technology usage by schools is used for their branding. If it was being used to provide better quality education then the existing tools would have trebled over years, which is not evident from what exists. All the growth seems to be coming from growing schools and not growth of the existing classrooms in terms of the tools available. And that is a disturbing factor. Owners love it but teachers and principals talk about lack of access to content and its use. We have a  large dissatisfied market.

What kind of support do you seek from the government?

The government should have a position and we hope that they pilot, learn and then implement, when it comes to applications of technology. Technology when used in a systematic manner May aid learning but not otherwise.

Anish Srikrishna, Chief Marketing Officer, Pearson Education, in conversation with Dr Ravi Gupta and Yukti Pahwa talks about providing for need based technology solutions for better learning outcomes

Please share with us briefly about the assessment component of the product ‘My Lab’.

‘My Lab’ product includes an assessment tools in addition to other components such as homework management tool and a resource pool for teachers. Through the same, professors can identify the part of the lessons students lag behind. It provides them with a whole lot of analytics explaining the specific gaps in understanding of the students and the lessons imparted. There is a great feedback mechanism along which is furthermore action oriented. It gives an impetus to act on the problem areas.

Our product in school is text book and teacher oriented, where technology helps teachers teach the textbook in a better manner. Furthermore, it is a product that can be used with a simple computer and a projector. So we do not go through the hardcore interactive whiteboard route and yet provide a powerful solution. Annotation is possible on screen, if school has provision of certain screen technologies. The product however, is not dependent on whether the special screen is there or not.

How do schools and higher education institutions respond to ICT?

Technology is being adopted at faster rate in schools than in colleges. But otherwise hardly any difference and similar trends are coming out when we look at learning outcomes. There is a subtle push towards integration of technology.

How is your products unique?

In K12 segment we are the only ones with combination of international resource pool, customised with local talent and technology which is based on the textbook. We provide with unrivaled quality content. In higher education, ‘My Labs’ is a very flexible product, which can help you draw required things from virtually any resource pool and is an incredibly advanced tool.

What do you aim for the future?

We aim for a judicious combination of localisation and technology from across the world. We are the largest company in field of education. We have authors coming from best education institutions across the world. Integrating that with technology for better learning outcomes is the focus point forward.

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