If all goes according to plan, secondary school students across Barbados could be using e-textbooks beginning next year.
However, this will be dependent on at least 90 per cent of the required textbooks being available in digital format, according to Caribbean Shared Educational Resources Service (CSERS), a student e-portal programme.
Project Director Beverly Smith-Hinkson said her organization, DataLore Inc was working with relevant stakeholders to make digital textbooks here a reality. DataLore Inc oversees the CSERS project.
Smith-Hinkson said the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools (BAPPSS) was already involved in the programme to change over to the e-textbook rental system, which she said would eliminate the cost of replacing damaged or lost books.
“As you know the textbooks over the years, we have seen the damaged textbooks, the cost of replacement, the students are using old editions simply because that is what is available in the textbook loan scheme. And we have been working with Vere Parris [President of the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools] and his group of principals to change over to a digital textbook rental system,” Smith-Hinkson stated..
“And if we can get at least 90 per cent of the textbooks that we require digitize then it is a go. At this point, books are available to secondary school students for rental. They will have to rent them outside of the loan scheme this year, but we hope by 2017 that the entire scheme will go to digital. We are working on it and for the academic year 2017/2018 is our expectation that the books will be made available as digital copies.”
The CSERS is an online bookstore that gives students and teachers from nursery to tertiary level, as well as other stakeholders, access to over 2,000 textbooks in a range of subject areas.
The project is being undertaken in conjunction with authors, publishers, bookstores and ministries of education in the region.
Parris described the project as a digital revolution, stating that digital was the way of the world.
“The era of digital books is upon us. Our present generation of students is a digital one, functioning in a digital world, undertaking some new generation digital subjects and shortly to be writing digital exams. Why not digital textbooks, therefore?”
Parris listed several advantages of a digital textbooks scheme, including less administrative time spent collecting and issuing books at the end of a school year; no cost to parents for damaged or lost books; and the schools would not have to replace damaged books.
“To bring all this to fruition there needed to be a system, an entity through which publishers and education institutions could interface. Caribbean Shared Educational Resources Service has done yeoman service in this regard, providing the platform on which such cutting edge educational advancement could be launched,” Parris stated.