Guest blog by student, Radhika Morjaria
Although accessing digital learning resources may seem like familiar territory for the modern, 21st century student, for some the sudden shift to digital learning has been a challenging experience. The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for change in many ways, but particularly for students who had to adapt to online study almost overnight.
I’m currently studying Law at Middlesex University London, UK – a course infamous for its heavy reading and research needs. Personally, having preferred traditional methods of studying before now – notably physical books and handwritten notes – shifting to digital learning was a daunting concept for me. My first year of university had been disrupted by the pandemic in 2020, making eTextbooks and online study tools fundamental to my learning. Now in my final year, my view of the new digital learning revolution has changed; I’ve come to appreciate the flexibility and freedoms it offers and the opportunity to develop vital independent learning skills.
Flexible study options
It is inevitable students will have busy schedules (especially around exam season) and are burdened to balance their academia with their social and work lives. Prior to the increase in availability of digital learning resources driven by the pandemic, I found it particularly difficult to engage in other extra-curricular and work-based opportunities as I was worried about the impact it would have on my studies. The shift towards eTextbooks now allows me to study anywhere on devices like my phone or laptop; this means I now have more freedom to study at my leisure and more time for social and work activities. As a commuting student, much of my time is spent travelling to and from university or to the library to access the resources I need. Knowing I can access my study materials from a digital content platform like Kortext, on any of my devices, reduces my need for travel and allows me to study on the go, so I can be more efficient with my time.
Personalising my study experience
With eTextbooks at my fingertips, I feel like I have more control over my own education. 24/7 digital access to my essential reading means I can revisit my study materials any time, review my notes, and test my knowledge independently. I can refer to multiple eTextbooks quickly and easily search my digital bookshelf for relevant content to enhance my understanding as I study, all at the point of need – and in the luxury of my own home!
While I completely support typical classroom study to build a sense of unity and friendships with my fellow classmates, remote access to my study materials allows me to work through the elements of my course at my own pace and in a comfortable space. This means I can prioritise my study needs and focus on a topic until I have a solid understanding of it, which I think is particularly beneficial for students who prefer to work autonomously as well as those who need extra time to build their knowledge.
Quality of content
Since adjusting to digital learning I have found that quality of eTextbooks compared to physical books is not compromised. I view digital learning resources as supplementary to traditional classroom learning as they provide an interactive and engaging way to consolidate what I learn in class. As a Law student, I am required to read and digest multiple pages of long and complex information which can be incredibly overwhelming to deconstruct. With study platforms like Kortext available at my university, I can read my eTextbooks and use their interactive study tools to make notes and annotate pages as a way to develop my understanding of complicated law. Not all students learn in the same way and digital solutions do help to address this by providing multiple ways to support learning and make it a more engaging experience for everyone.
The importance of digital competence
The pandemic has undoubtedly made digital competence an essential skill, with many still studying or working remotely. Distanced from a traditional classroom environment, I have found that online independent study elevates a sense of responsibility within me to facilitate my own learning. I now believe that developing autonomous online learning habits is critical for life beyond academia as it magnifies the importance of self-motivation and discipline to achieve your own goals.
Overall, I have found going digital with learning content a positive experience. With the range of online tools available, I was able to make a swift transition to digital study from a conventional in-person learning environment. Although this new way of learning has given me a different university experience to the one I was expecting, the emergence of accessible technology to aid learning has made studying far more engaging and, I believe, has prepared me well for life after university in a post-COVID-19 world.
What’s next for eTextbooks and the student experience?
Combining both core course materials and interactive learning options, I can enjoy the best of both worlds and make studying a more interactive and pleasant experience with eTextbooks. As eTextbooks are highly valued for their flexibility and customisable features, software and resource development in this area is dynamic and rapidly progressing.
I expect a major focus on accessibility of eTextbooks – for instance, they could seek to embed video summaries of chapters to help consolidate knowledge and use vibrant graphics to make learning exciting. While it is difficult to predict the direction of eTextbooks in the future, platforms like Kortext aim to make reading less of a burden and make it increasingly easier for me to research and digest new information through alternative audio-visual methods such as gamification, audiobooks and videos.
Radhika is a final year student at Middlesex University London studying LLB Law. After graduating, Radhika intends to continue her studies in the legal domain to ultimately qualify and practice as a solicitor.
Radhika currently gives her time as a Kortext Student Ambassador, supporting her peers with how to access and engage with eTextbooks and digital learning resources on the Kortext Arcturus platform to enhance their study experience.