An Interview with Emily Leask
Emily has worked for several online schools, heading up digital and making good use of our digital textbooks.
She is currently studying for her Masters in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh, as well as Services Consultant for the Instructure Learning Platform.
Read on to find out about implementation and some of the “unexpected benefits” of using digital textbooks.
Why did these online schools first make the switch to digital textbooks?
As an online school textbooks were really the only thing that we had that was not digital. It was almost the only outdated part of our very futuristic school. We were still having our parents buy physical textbooks.
My Online Schooling, where I worked for just shy of four years, as Head of Secondary and then Head of Innovation, is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, but we had families in over 90 countries.
So, depending on where you were in the world, it was either really easy for you to get the textbooks, albeit a bit expensive – you could just order them online – or we were asking families to accomplish a really impossible task of trying to get textbooks shipped to the middle of nowhere, places in Malaysia and Nigeria.
There was often quite a disparity because of shipping and, depending on what country you’re in, which publishers were available.
So for us, switching to digital textbooks was an equity thing, a matter of levelling the playing field.
We made the switch to make it easier for our families, and far cheaper for most of them.
How did you find implementing it?
All we needed to do was let Classoos know which classes students were going into, students’ e-mail addresses, their first name and last name. It ended up just being an export from our MIS system. We were able to put that data together, export it out, and securely transfer it to Hannah [Simpson] who was our Account Manager at Classoos.
On our side, we simply set up the spreadsheet and that was it – done!
My Online Schooling had a rolling admissions process, which meant we were having to add new students to our spreadsheet every single week.
Well, until Hannah suggested we switch to GroupCall Xporter and then it was just done automatically.
That ended up becoming a no brainer process.
It sounds complicated until you automate it. Automation is your friend.
For more on this, read:
MIS – Classoos integration | Classoos
“It sounds complicated until you automate it. Automation is your friend.”
How did teachers, pupils, and parents react to the introduction to digital textbooks and has this changed over time?
For teachers it simplified everything.
From then on everyone had the right textbooks. If they had their computer, laptop or phone, students had their books, rather than a certain number not having the book in front of them and so then all the teacher’s best-laid plans just go haywire. They would have to have alternative activities up their sleeve.
A lot of time went into devising alternatives for students who didn’t have the textbook available to them. A lot of time was devoted to “Plan B”.
So for teachers it was easy.
It reduced workload massively.
They were able to use the online textbooks and they ended up becoming a resource that they were able to lean on a lot more.
And the students welcomed it because they were becoming more and more entrenched in using digital tools. They preferred using digital; it was increasingly a part of their way of working. And they really enjoyed having everything in one place.
Classoos textbooks were embedded into our LMS. Students could find where their homework was and, with just one more click, their textbook would pop up. So this became ingrained in their way of working.
Students found they had a convenient, one-stop shop for revision, where, for example, they could find all of the information they needed to know to succeed on a particular assessment.
“Online textbooks ended up becoming a resource that they were able to lean on a lot more.”
We also found, as we gradually moved away from physical textbooks, that teachers wanted to use physical textbooks less and less. They’re horrible for accessibility. The writing can be so small.
And it was so much easier to find things; Since digital textbooks are searchable. And teachers were able to annotate the digital books easily as well. They were able to suddenly use them in an efficient, targeted way.
And instead of just walls of text, teachers could tailor them to fit students with visual impairments or dyslexia. It was an easy and immediate way of meeting the needs of students who normally would not be able to access these resources.
And one unexpected benefit emerged.
In an online environment where everybody was spread out across the globe, having channels of communication is really key, really important.
And we found out, much to our surprise, the textbook became a channel of communication, or platform where you could answer frequently asked questions or shared concerns, push out videos or notes, post homework assignments, model answers or revision resources.
In fact, as students were working through their revision, a time when young people disappear for study leave, their teacher was able to maintain links to support them. They could still carry on communicating, answering those last-minute questions or concerns at a time when everyone gets a little bit nervous. This was a real boon.
“It was an easy and immediate way of meeting the needs of students who normally would not be able to access these resources.”
How did you find the set-up process with Classoos? How long did it take? What did it entail?
It was straightforward. Easy.
Once we had all the data on our side, it’s just the issue of timetabling, but once you get that done, it’s just an export. It took maybe an hour.
Did you need any training to start using Classoos?
We knew that Classoos offered training, but we didn’t take them up on the offer because I did a presentation on using the digital textbooks and then set it up and offered training to teachers for a later date. But no one took me up on it. Everyone was able to figure it all out.
It’s very intuitive.
For more on this…
Classoos – Digital Textbook Experience at LEH UK – YouTube