We’re introducing three new exciting updates to the Pearson English Portal: integrated video conferencing, new Interactive eBooks, and the Test Generator.
As Covid-19 forced the world into insolation, it also pushed teachers and students everywhere out of their comfort zones. In turn, they have proved just how resilient and adaptable they are, working tirelessly to teach and learn under difficult conditions. The pandemic also spurred on the technologists, dreamers and innovators across the industry; they strived to solve the challenges students and educators were facing. They doubled down on their efforts to create great, inclusive education technology that could be used both inside and outside the classroom.
As a result of the pandemic and international school closures, it became clear our duty at Pearson is to support teachers in their work, while ensuring that students around the world have frictionless access to education, even during these exceptional circumstances.
Our product and digital innovation team have been working to improve the Pearson English Portal – and now, we’d like to introduce you to three new and exciting updates.
1. Integrated video conferencing
Now everything you need to teach remotely is in one place. Schedule and run Zoom video conferencing meetings within the Portal, create a calendar and send automatic notifications and reminders to your students.
2. eBooks and Interactive eBooks
Make it easier, more fun and interactive for students to study remotely and learn at a distance. More of our courses now feature eBooks with access to audio and video. Also discover our Interactive eBooks, which are full of engaging activities students can use in class or to study independently.
3. The Test Generator
The Test Generator gives you the flexibility to create your own randomized tests online, based on the assessment requirements of each course. Vary your tests and ensure the results are a true reflection of your students’ progress.
We spoke to our Vice President of Digital Product Innovation Ujjwal Singh, who explained more.
How has Covid-19 had an impact on product development at Pearson?
Covid-19 has quickened the pace of product development at Pearson. As schools have been shutting down around the world, we’ve seen at least ten times the demand for distance learning products and models.
This huge surge has also made us think more deeply about the learner and teacher, and their new circumstances, and how we can best serve them with our digital learning products.
As for post-covid, when we get there, I think the ripple effect of these changes and developments will be long term. This change has shown the world that there is a new way of self-guided learning. I understand the schools may open tomorrow and things will look normal, but the learner now realises they can study autonomously too. The same goes for teachers, who are now considering how much they should (and need) to guide their students.
How responsible are we for helping teachers and students during these challenging times?
We own that responsibility. The vast majority of teachers pre-Covid-19 depended on a bricks-and-mortar environment for teaching
Today, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Educators have had to adapt their teaching styles. While young learners are very well versed in technology – using mobile phones and laptops – the biggest challenge has been how to support the teaching community at this time.
Were the portal updates a direct result of recent changes in teaching and learning (due to Covid-19)?
We started our digital transformation almost four years back. We’ve been working in various parts of the world and have seen that learner behaviors are changing. The trend shows that students want to come online and learn autonomously. The industry is also moving quickly towards digital independent learning.
I wouldn’t say our digital transformation is because of Covid-19, but the pandemic has increased demand. It has therefore quickened the pace we need to develop our digital learning products.
How will the video conference integration make life easier for teachers and students?
On the whole, video conferencing is seen as a tool that is completely outside the learning management system (LMS).
When you’re teaching, everything needs to be accessible, easy to use and synchronized. We see that managing two systems as a big hindrance to the teaching/learning experience. The integration of video conferencing in the Pearson English Portal is a big help from a teaching practice point of view.
We plan on being platform agnostic, integrating the big three – Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Zoom. So whatever the school is using, it should be integrated seamlessly.
How will you ensure safety for teachers and students when using video conferencing in the Portal?
There are two levels of identification that we check to ensure that only the right people are using the platform. First, we identify the customer using an access code. Then the users are required to authenticate themselves.
Secondly, the calls have end-to-end encryption, which helps a lot in the education space to keep things both private and safe.
How are the new eBooks and Interactive eBooks different from the digital student books you currently offer?
We have expanded the number of courses that have eBooks, where audio and video is available for students to access at the point of use on the page. We have also added interactive activities to the eBooks of some of our courses to engage learners more fully: read the text, watch a video and complete an activity all in the same place.
The learner can use the eBooks and Interactive eBooks in self-guided study, or they can be used as part of a class, though we foresee the biggest use case will be for learners at home. It’s certainly more fun than using a PDF – and we’ve seen the engagement is much higher too.
What are the benefits of the new Test Generator?
The Test Generator is an interesting tool for teachers. If I want to test my students’ progress, I can launch a test within the Portal LMS and it will be visible to all my students. The questions will be randomized, however, so no two students will take exactly the same test – minimizing the risk of cheating.
The Test Generator can be used in a physical environment too. If a teacher wants to generate a randomized test, they can simply print it out.
What other exciting things can teachers and students look forward to in the future?
At Pearson, we’re continuously innovating and creating new things. One of the most exciting developments for us is the idea of introducing competitive elements to the Portal. In phase two, our platform will offer teachers many more features to make classes more interactive and interesting for their learners.