‘Pandemic has pushed digital learning ahead by years’

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The pandemic has resent equations everywhere, moving digital learning ahead by years and has seen Oxford University Press, one of the prime players in the educational publishing space, strengthening a key learning solution that today caters to more than 150,000 students and over 7,000 satisfied teachers through its comprehensive suite of aids.

“The Covid-19 pandemic reset all equations everywhere, including in educational publishing. It has moved digital learning in education ahead by years. As a direct result, there has been a sharp increase in the adoption of our digital resources, which has helped us to continue supporting the teaching and learning needs of teachers and learners, as well as improving access to knowledge for researchers,” OUP-India Managing Director Sumanta Datta told IANS in an interview.

The company has focused its efforts on strengthening its “blended learning products and in trying to help as many teachers, educators, parents, and students as possible to adapt to the ‘new normal’. Our steadfast effort has been to ensure that teaching and learning are not hampered, even though we may have sold fewer books”, he said.

“We invested in strengthening Oxford Advantage, which is our integrated learning solution that provides schools with a comprehensive suite of educational materials and services. It today caters to more than 150,000 students and has over 7,000 satisfied teachers,” Datta added.

The company has also trained teachers extensively to help them cope with the newer tools and modes of teaching.

“In the last one year alone, OUP in India has conducted over 1,100 such trainings and workshops and helped more than 100,000 teachers to navigate the transition to online teaching with a sharp focus on pedagogy and methodology. We conducted several pan-India surveys with teachers across the country to understand how they felt about this transformational phase. The insights we gathered will now inform all our product designs moving forward,” Datta explained.

With a fresh surge of Covid cases and the resumption of full in-class academics seemingly in doubt for the next few weeks, if not months, how does he see the year 2022 panning out?

“Over the last two years, there have been many learnings for us all in the publishing world. We are now better prepared to steer through tough times. Teaching and learning will always be fundamental needs of the world, and no matter what form or shape they take, OUP will always deliver to that,” Datta maintained.

The publishing industry started significant recovery in 2021 from the immediate effects of the pandemic, “and we believe that recovery will continue in a graded manner into 2022 as well. India’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has emphasised the need to review the existing curriculums and focus on new-age blended learning tools and solutions, which we believe is the future of education”, he said.

To this end, the company has reviewed and aligned most of its existing titles to the NEP framework and now has 142 new titles that align with NEP 2020.

“We are also preparing to make further amendments to our titles once the revised National Curriculum Framework is released. At OUP India, we will continue to channel our efforts in strengthening our blended learning products and introduce new ones,” Datta asserted.

This year, the company is also preparing to relaunch its holistic, standardised assessment, Oxford STAR, that empowers educators and students by diagnosing scholastic and behavioural learning needs of the students “as they deal with the transition of returning to the schools. In our higher education vertical, we expect our titles for emerging technologies and professional skills to be in the spotlight”, he added.

Speaking of some of the titles that OUP has planned to publish in 2022, Datta said: “Continuing to refresh most of our titles in alignment with the NEP 2020, we have already revised some of our flagship titles, and are now preparing to publish many more in 2022. Some of them include those for exam preparations, such as Civil and State Services Examinations, UGC-NET, NRA-CET, etc., the fourth edition of the Oxford Student Atlas for India, revised editions of bestseller titles for Python Programming and Technical Communication”.

The company, he said, regularly updates its lexical content (Oxford Dictionaries) based on evidence from one of the world’s largest language research programmes, “which helps us to create and curate quality content for non-native speakers of the English language or learners with English as their second language”.

“Several world-leading academic institutions, enterprising start-ups, and technology giants such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft, have embedded our lexical content at the cutting-edge of language research and global communications to power programmes and products that are equipping communities around the world with authoritative, evidence-based content of the highest quality,” Datta added.

OUP India publishes dictionaries in 12 India languages – Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Odia, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and Hindi.

“Over the last few years, these dictionaries have helped millions of language learners to hone their English language skills, and in the process improved their employability. OUP is at the forefront of supporting initiatives taken by various state governments to introduce English-medium education in government schools, under learning initiatives and schemes run by the Education and Social welfare departments,” Datta pointed out.

“Since 2019, OUP has collaborated with the Telangana government for the Compact English-English Telugu Dictionary customised to suit the modern-day needs of the learners. Our most recent collaboration is with the Government of Andhra Pradesh where OUP once again customised the Compact English-English Telugu Dictionary for students of Classes VI-X, enrolled in government schools across the state,” Datta concluded.

(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at vishnu.makhijani@ians.in)

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