Online publishing solutions provider, Pressmart, has launched a mobile learning solution for schools, centred around tablets. Calling it MOCA or Mobile Learning Classroom Application, the company has deployed the solution at a school in Manila, Philippines, and it appears that it might target Indian schools in the future.

The solution is based on cloud storage and would allow schools and students to store and access books, study modules, assessments, and notices via a tablet. It would also offer student, teacher, parent and admin modules to regulate the student’s school activity. The company claims that following the deployment at  La Salle Green Hills (LSGH) a school in Manila, Philippines, nearly 4,000 students from Grade 1 to Grade 12, will use an 8.9-inch tablet from Samsung based Google’s Android 3.2 Honeycomb mobile operating system and Pressmart’s MOCA application. The project is in its initial stage, in which the school will replace text books with tablets.

While Pressmart which primarily digitizes content from media companies – in the form of epapers, magazines, claims to have 600 Publishers in 33 different languages from 61 countries on board its cloud based publishing platform, it would be interesting to see how it deals with book publishers, and how it prices content. If digital books turn out to be more expensive than physical textbooks, it won’t be viable for most schools in India.

Other players focusing on digitization of education

In India, e-learning startup Edutor Technologies, had also introduced an education solution called ‘Augmented Classroom Solution (ACS)’,  offering learning material including digitized textbooks, multimedia material, interactive concept maps and assessments complementing the school syllabus on Android-based Tablets. It also allows teachers to monitor the learning progress of students through a cloud solution, and personalize the learning experience by securely publishing homework, notes or other learning material. Edutor has deployed the project with Meridian School and Delhi Public School (DPS) and had claimed that 800 high school students (Class 8th- 10th) would be using ACS from this academic year. So it’s still at an experimental level.

Players like Educomp have deployed in-class digital teaching systems, and also offer online education tools and connected school management solutions with a number of schools. InfoEdge backed Meritnation also offers digital educational content for the K-12 segment including interactive videos, assessment modules and other course content.

Test Prep (college entrance exams preparation) providers like iProf have also deployed tablets for coaching, and have even integrated school curriculum. A lot of other companies have also launched tablets and apps focusing at K-12 education, but it’s more about complementing the existing system than replacing it altogether.

Time to digitize k-12 education?

While we feel that replacing textbooks with tablets is advantageous for students at the school level, as it will reduce the bulk of their schoolbags, reduce expenses, make learning more fun with an opportunity to integrate vivid graphics, videos and animation, and make assessments real time and more interactive, we’re not sure if all schools will be willing to spend on backend deployments, a change in processes and moreover in the attitude of the faculty members. Plus there would be hurdles on the publisher side – we don’t know if publishers would be willing to embrace digitalisation and the economics of the ecosystem: whether they’d be happy with the price offered by solutions providers like Pressmart.  Plus there would be a need to invest in good quality tablet devices, which are actually useful. The Indian government’s ambitious Aakash tablet project failed miserably on that count, although it tried to position itself as the cheapest tablet in the world.

While Android offers custom-ability options, and scope for low-cost hardware, Apple also offers a publishing platform, iBooks Author to create textbooks, among other books, and sell them through its iBooks platform. Earler this year, Apple introduced iBooks Textbooks for the iPad featuring K-12 books from publishers like McGraw-Hill and Pearson Education. The books offer features like highlighting text, note taking and integrated search. Apple even offers a volume sales program for schools offering discounts for bulk purchases. However, paid titles are still unavailable in the Indian iBooks store. So, there’s an opportunity for the company in the education segment in India.