The future of learning lies in a click

More and more South Africans are downloading eBooks and steering away from purchasing physical books. Over 3000 eReaders were sold on kalahari.com this festive season and the online retailing giant experienced a 100% increase on the sale of eBooks for the same period.

February 7, 2012

Digitisation of South African schooling system could prove beneficial for learners – kalahari.com

More and more South Africans are downloading eBooks and steering away from purchasing  physical books.  Over 3000 eReaders were sold on kalahari.com this festive season and the online retailing giant experienced a 100% increase on the sale of eBooks for the same period. 

“South Africans appetite and aptitude for eContent is growing. In this information age, there is no reason why this could not extend to the education sector to increase access to content, aid learning in the classroom and also reduce the cost of learning materials over time.” says Gary Novitzkas, CEO of kalahari.com.

“Every year hundreds of thousands of youngsters leave the system to all intents and purposes illiterate and innumerate with little prospect of employment. The impact on South Africa’s capacity to compete globally is undermined at its very foundations.” says Dr Michael Rice, independent educationalist and former special advisor to the Minister of Education.

“While the world around us has been rapidly transforming itself through information and digital technologies we still educate our children using a centuries-old model of educational content delivery and curriculum presentation. However, international experience in implementing digitisation suggests opportunities for circumventing some of the most intractable obstacles that impact on teaching and learning in South African schools.” says Rice.

One of the issues impeding our matriculants from tertiary institutions is the cost of learning material. University textbooks can amount to 10% of a first year student’s already expensive course fees and costing an average of R500 per book.

kalahari.com is the first retailer embarking on introducing eContent widely to learners and university students. Partnering with The PETS Foundation (Programme for Educational Tablets in Schools) kalahari.com is supporting a research project that will introduce the most effective new technology tools into the learning experience.  This project intends to explore the educational, financial, technological and logistical viability of introducing tablets, digitized texts and related technologies into the South African school system over a period of five years (2012-2016).

Gary Novitzkas says: “Imagine a South Africa where learners have direct access to their new digital textbooks at the start of the school year. Dedicated devices will allow textbooks to be revised and updated at the press of a button, plus will allow interactive learning and a choice of content and language preference.”

Working with PRAESA, The PETS Foundation has introduced a pilot program that placed 350 eReaders, donated by kalahari.com, into the hands of learners around the country. One of the recipient groups was the Vulindlela Reading Club at the St Louis Primary School in Langa.  The Vulindelela learners were excited at the introduction of these devices, and project partners look forward to opening up many opportunities to faciliate and improve learning and literacy in these key environments.

Novitzkas says “Our challenge is to make tablet and eReader technology a viable option for education.  Each device must be lightweight, durable enough to stand up to the treatment of young users and affordable in large numbers for schools.”

Already, educationalists in Ghana, Bangladesh, USA, Taiwan, Europe and China are exploring the possibility of switching to digital textbooks.  “Students and teachers in South Africa alike are embracing the role that technology can play in improving and enhancing the learning experience and we are 100% behind this project,” concludes Novitzkas.