The Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation (Dalro) has partnered with local tablet computer maker Wise to create a digital platform called EduPortal that offers school pupils access to digital textbooks by means of subscription.
Although teachers have welcomed the idea, they argue the subscription model is flawed and the prices are too high. Users can opt for access to the content alone, or can also purchase a Wise tablet for R1 500. Content costs R130/book and subscriptions are valid for a year.
Users that opt for the content alone will need an Internet connection to access it, and because the service is Flash-based to prevent users saving hard copies of texts to their devices, it only works on computers or tablets that support the Adobe format. Dalro MD Nothando Migogo says the organisation is working on an application for Apple’s iOS so that those users who have access to an iPad can also make use of the service.
The EduPortal was launched at an event in Johannesburg on Wednesday. At the event, teachers criticised the costs and the fact that subscriptions expire at the end of 12 months. Teachers from government schools say that, in many instances, their schools purchase physical textbooks and issue them to students each year, meaning content only needs to be updated once every few years rather than annually.
In instances where parents are responsible for purchasing textbooks, teachers say that many students keep their books — particularly as matric exams include content from grade 11 — while others recoup the money by reselling the books secondhand, thus further reducing the cost of the book.
The content on EduPortal comes from local publishers like Study & Master, but may be expanded to international content in due course, and caters to primary and secondary school curricula.
The portal allows users to access the content to which they’ve been granted access, and this can be assigned by administrators in the case of schools managing the content on the portal themselves.
Those that opt to purchase a Wise tablet alongside content will get the books loaded on a secure and encrypted leased SD card, meaning content can be accessed offline. However, teachers at Wednesday’s event expressed reservations about both the cost of the tablet and the risk of theft in addition to the content only being valid for a year. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media