What is the future for publishing? – The advantages for schools of online publishing

What is the future for publishing? – The advantages for schools of online publishing



Jennie Martin

Publication Date: 2011 



What is the future for publishing?

The advantages for schools of online publishing

My new role in Nelson Thornes requires me to look at the ways in which publishers can evolve to develop new materials that schools will find useful.

The company is beginning to move from books towards a blended learning approach – traditional and digital publishing. Working with the AQA exam board, we have published not only the supporting books for GCSE and A Level but a range of interactive online resources as well. These include reinforcement materials and ‘test-and-assess’ activities for all of the GCSE and A Level subjects.

Now we are developing publishing learning and assessment resources online, and in such a dynamic manner, that they can constantly evolve and respond quickly to curriculum change and learning needs. ThIs is a major departure and requires significant investment in our new online software, Kerboodle. This solution is evolving because regular user feedback enables the company to continually improve not only the learning content, but also the teacher interface, admin and tools as well.

A new online service

At Nelson Thornes we have stuck our collective neck out where other publishers fear to tread by developing Kerboodle. This an online service already has 500,000 active users in the UK as well as a growing number overseas.

Kerboodle offers everything that we think can be delivered through an online service to support its courses. Obviously some subjects lend themselves better to this approach than others, particularly those that require knowledge and experience that cannot be adequately presented two dimensionally in a textbook. Science is a prime example and one where Kerboodle can be seen at its best, providing simulations like splitting the atom and looking inside a cell. MFL is clearly another subject that online lends itself so well to delivering.

None of this sounds very new, but Nelson Thornes is determined to develop and grow a more integrated approach to learning over multiple channels, print and electronic, via the ‘Kerboodle Learning Suite’, www.kerboodle.com.

This includes a range of interactive supporting resources – even apps for the Apple, Microsoft and Android mobile devices – as well as publishing all of the books online as well as off.

An ‘e-textbook’ can be ‘hot spotted’ to other web and online resources as well as enabling video, audio and teacher and/or pupil annotations to be added. This allows for the delivery of a greater range and depth of resources for a subject than if the materials were solely paper-based.

There is the question, of course, over whether a publisher should make the leap and offer its textbooks ‘online’, is there a risk of established print content being ‘cannibalised’? But Publishers must move with the times. Most will have read of the growing dominance of e readers and online books. Whilst ‘Kerboodle Books’ go further (allowing for interactive learning) than content currently offered through e-readers (‘static’, consumption only), there will come a time when all mobile and reading devices will be able to offer a richer learning environment and Publishers ignore this at their peril.

E books also overcome the issues many schools now have with pupils taking books home – losing them, damaging them. With budgets tight, and curriculum changes potentially off the agenda for a while, textbooks are precious commodities that have to be protected. There is no reason why, in the future, we should not see books as offering the ‘general, exam board agnostic’ learning content whilst the ‘assessment’ element is delivered through online services thus removing the expensive element schools dread around curriculum and exam board changes – having to find precious budget for new books.

The fact of the matter is that while many teachers are happy with the traditional textbook, when students are asked to go home and ‘find out about…’ they will research online. With Kerboodle, Nelson Thornes has taken the approach of asking how it can help teachers and students make the best use of very good content, be it on the printed page, online or on a mobile device.

To do this the company has had to undergo a fairly radical cultural change. It has jumped from the mind-set that only delivers content on paper (a very linear process) and extrapolates from this to other ‘delivery systems’ to one where the body of content takes a centre stage, leaving the platform/delivery and media to be used until further down the line. Content therefore ceases to be discrete and static in nature and is subject to an integrated and modular approach to delivery across multiple platforms, print and online.

Some aspects of the content will be better suited to paper-based texts while others may suit an interactive online approach or the use of an app on a mobile device. The flexibility in this approach allows teachers to build their own lessons, and allows students to go away and to engage in a whole gamut of activities around every learning object related to the future exam.

There are lots of ‘Kerboodles’!

Currently there is a Kerboodle for 36 subjects studied at GCSE and A Level as well as some Vocational courses. Indeed, some schools have over 30 ‘Kerboodles’, most have at least 3, and whilst much of the learning content held within is driven by the teacher, wrapped by management and information tools, plans are in place to re-author so that complimentary learner centric materials can also be offered to the student – particularly for use in the home and over mobile devices as well as the web. The ‘Kerboodle Maths App’ is already out there and proving increasingly popular.

This moves the Kerboodle resource beyond the classroom and into the home with planned help for parents, alongside student support, who want to support their child and advice and help with pastoral aspects such as what to do in the case of cyber bullying.

Taking advantage of better integrated platforms, the long term objective is to enable teachers and learners to be using learning resources on one platform and seamlessly move to another though single sign on and integrated assessment functionality.

The resources in Kerboodle broadly fit into four categories; presentation, quick practice, extended practice (task-based activities) and assessment and exam practice.

Presentation: for example, with the Science resources, presentations are used to demonstrate scientific concepts, and develop knowledge and understanding through:

  • Animations and simulations demonstrating complex scientific concepts in an engaging context and
  • Video case studies showing the relevance of science in the work place and in students’ lives

‘Quick Practice’ comprises interactive activities and worksheets. The interactive activities allow the student three attempts to complete the activity successfully, with feedback covering common misconceptions. This allows a student to learn while completing the activity.

‘Extended Practice’ activities are used to develop skills and further understanding. These task-based activities include:

  • Maths skills interactive activities that include a combination of worked solutions, practice questions and constructive feedback.
  • Data handling skills to develop students’ practical skills in presenting and analysing data, making predictions and drawing conclusions.
  • ‘WebQuests’ that give research support and guidance, making them great group activities for the classroom or for home.
  • ‘Viewpoints’ to develop students’ skills in forming scientific opinions and making judgements. Students look at ethical issues, view others opinions and then form their own.

Assessment and exam practice resources assess progress and prepare students for exams through:

  • ‘Test Yourself’ interactive tests, with reporting and diagnostic feedback that allow the teacher to see where there are gaps in a student’s knowledge. These tests are assigned to the student, or a group of students, and are automatically marked by Kerboodle.
  • ‘On Your Marks’ activities that show sample answers to questions from the student book, alongside examiner’s commentary to help perfect exam technique.

Examination style questions and a complete ISA support package are also included. The results of the task-based activities and Test Yourself interactive tests can then be exported from the report section of Kerboodle as a spread sheet.

Kerboodle is now fully integrated with other learning platforms such as Frog and it’s learning thus ensuring that student’s results from such activities can be fed back into the general tracking & monitoring system commonly used across the school.

What do students think of Kerboodle?

Here are some recent tweets:

  • “Kerboodle is my savour…internet revision makes life so much easier.”
  • “Kerboodle was pretty good for a bit of easier listening practise. I’ve also read through and rewritten all my old essays”
  • “Sitting in Gretna Gateway car park listening to physics Kerboodle revision mp3s”
  • “The stuff on Kerboodle is good”
  • “Try Kerboodle E****, it’s so much better than learning the vocab out of the book”
  • “Mrs R****** lied to me! Just looked on Kerboodle and it’s the complete opposite of what she said! You were right”.
  • “I just love Kerboodle”

And perhaps the most interesting of all …

  • ” Who needs school when you’ve got Kerboodle?”

And the teachers?

Here are a few typical quotes.

Sally Jones, Alderley Edge School for Girls, Cheshire: “We use Kerboodle for AS and A2 French and Spanish at Alderley Edge School for Girls as the girls love the listening exercises and the video links. At the end of each unit studied, I set the girls the ‘test yourself’ exercise and log the results. In the run up to the examinations, they have particularly appreciated the fact that they can use it at home and have benefited from the examiners commentary and sample question practice. It has been an invaluable resource this year.”

Anna Pethybridge, King James I community Arts College, Bishop Auckland: “Kerboodle has given me unprecedented power to differentiate my lessons to suit the needs and abilities of all learners. Since languages became optional it has become accepted that you can have a class of 25 pupils whose target GCSE grades can range from A* – G. That makes traditional teaching extremely difficult”.

Miss C Freeman, Stephen Perse Sixth Form College, Cambridge: “We have been using Kerboodle online with our sixth formers studying A level and IB German for a year so far and have found it to be an invaluable resource. We have found it to be very user friendly, for teachers and students alike, which means we can get on with the lessons.”

The Future

Next steps are to ensure that the learning content can be used by teachers/tutors or students and stored in a way that it is easily updatable when courses or curriculums change. Content needs to be deliverable over any device and platform but if it is stored correctly, this becomes an easy matter and costs of delivery and indeed authoring are brought down.

While the challenge for publishers continues, with technology still racing ahead unchecked, the overall success of e-publishing is probably best summed up by teacher David Paterson when he says:

“Kerboodle was introduced to our students last term and it has had an immediate impact on their enjoyment and engagement with their studies. The interactive activities hook them in, and the availability of the text books online is a real boon for teachers and students. They love the ability to annotate their own copy of the book, safe in the knowledge that it will remain there until they return for revision later in the course.

Setting and marking homework has become a breeze through Kerboodle, making use of the already excellent everyday abilities with computing and the internet. Kerboodle has been a fantastic addition to our department and school.”

So we think at Nelson Thornes that we are beginning to serve schools in new ways beyond the supply of set of books. But is this the right approach for everyone? I need to start talking to MirandaNet members to find out if we are going in the right direction.

References & Contacts

None available