Shipments for the Indian tablet PC market are estimated to have closed at three million units in 2012. New launches were seen, many in the INR 5,000 to 10,000 (US$184) price range, with the Android OS being the most favored (87.9 percent). The market, according to a CyberMedia Research report, is expected to increase by at least 100 percent in 2013.
And if large deals are announced by vendors for the government to distribute in universities, colleges, and high schools, this forecast would easily exceed the 6 million mark.
Why not? The tablet has already become the tech-aid mantra for new-age schools, government–run academic institutions, and other educational agencies in the country. At present there are over 90 models of Android tablets available in the market today, priced in the USD $50 to USD $500 price range. Consider this:
- HCL Learning has launched My EduWorld Tab, an interactive tablet bundled with curriculum-mapped digital content in 2D and 3D, educational applications and games, educational videos, and e-books.
- Delhi-based Aakash Educational Services has launched Aakash iTutor to help students attend video lectures, take tests, and obtain assessments, thus preparing them for medical and engineering college entrance exams.
- Mumbai-based Wishtel has designed the Ira series of educational and multimedia-driven tablets that are powered by a proprietary content delivery network and Indian language capability.
- Little Millennium, a chain of pre-schools run by Educomp Solutions has introduced the LM Tab for 3- to 6-year-olds with bright and colorful graphics, interactive touchscreen features, audio narration of stories, and a child-friendly design with easy grip.
- Micromax, the leading Indian tablet maker, offers a slew of educational content -- through an e-learning app in its Funbook Pro -- comprising of material from Pearson, Everonn, GK Publishers, Scholarshub, Vidyalankar, Universal Tutorials, CAPS, Zion, McGraw Hill, and so on.
So while the Indian government-sponsored, low-cost Aakash tablet may have been the first to eye the education space, a lot more seems to be happening in the private sector as well. Many education content providers and e-learning companies have entered the fray.
If you are an education CIO, there are some things you need to take care of before blindly bundling content onto the cheapest Android, or offering dime-a-dozen content bought off the shelf, through a tablet.
Do not give into the temptation to upload PDF textbooks onto a device to make it an education tablet. As many schools have realized already, just as content needs to be customized to suit the syllabus prescribed, even digitized curriculum should be hand-picked and customized for use on tablets.
Any content -- graphics, animation, streaming audio, and video -- can be optimized. However, there should be some reason why a student is accessing a particular lesson, attempting a specific test, or seeking information on a handheld device. Mobility is one of them. M-content or M-education should deliver learning material to a student on the move.
Ability to connect to other media to execute the task at hand is another factor that should determine the kind of content uploaded for educational purposes. Technology should be harnessed to help a student learn through an interactive process. For instance, being able to connect to peers and see how they are faring will catalyze the process of education. In that sense, content is also media.
While the cost of content is an important criterion, the benefits of tablet education can also mitigate problems like shortage of teachers and lack of school infrastructure. However, make sure the content is device-neutral and made available in common formats.
The media tablet may be handy, lightweight, and economical on power, but do not assume that it would be the sole device on the campus. So do plan for device integration, bandwidth, and security infrastructure, not to mention seamless access to the Internet.
While young students may be able to easily take to technology and tablets, spare a thought for teachers who may need training as well. The size of the screen, the effect on the eyes, and ease of use for all stakeholders need to be addressed.
The single-most important challenge for quality educational content in the coming days will, however, arise out of copyright issues. Make sure you are not infringing on someone else's intellectual property. Happy tablet training!