Imagine having the choice to buy only one chapter of a book or parts of different books that you consider relevant to your studies.
That is perhaps every learner’s dream considering the high cost of some books and the time-consuming task of poring over huge volumes for bits of information here and there.
Chipmaker Intel Kenya has made this possible with its recent launch of Intel Explore and Learn, a new education application that offers parents and their children a one-stop-shop for quality digital content developed for the Kenyan education system.
The solution designed for learners of all ages provides access to a wide variety of content, including textbooks, set books, revision books, interactive past exam papers for pupils in primary and secondary schools.
One needs to have an Intel-powered personal computer (PC) or tablet running on Android, Windows 7 or Windows 8 devices to access the education content at a fee.
Content is currently available for pupils in upper primary and Form Four.
Users can buy the revision content in modules or selected book chapters available at the platform and pay either through credit cards or mobile money transfer services.
In addition to the digital content, the platform offers an audio and video interactive textbook that allows slow learners to study at their own pace.
Intel general manager East Africa Danie Steyn says the Intel application also offers local education publishers access to their content at a commission.
Mr Steyn says the education content is aligned to the curriculum approved by the Kenyan Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), ensuring that the material is relevant and accurate while providing a user-friendly, interactive and engaging learning experience to students and teachers.
He says the solution is the result of the collaboration between Intel and Rancard — an Africa-based mobile technology company that provides cloud-based software platform for mobile content, delivery and monetisation.
“A number of surveys show that only 17 per cent of people who search online find what they are looking for. This shows that this is not an effective way for learners to get resources and that is why we came up with Explore and Learn,” Mr Steyn says.
Explore and Learn, he says, is a hub where learners can find relevant content to enrich their studies while enabling publishers to share their content easily.
“Our main difference from other online portals is that one is able to download the material and use it at anytime even in areas where there is no Internet connectivity. Also, one can buy a module or pay for a chapter of a book only,” Mr Steyn says.
The platform has attracted educational content generated by local publishers, Makini School, Nation Media Group, and the e-books publishers eKitabu and Msingi Pack.
Will Clurman, the chief executive of eKitabu, says the prices for e-books are lower than those of the printed ones. eKitabu collaborates with publishers such as Jomo Kenyatta Foundation and Longhorn to digitise their books.
“e-books reduce certain costs such as distribution thus making it possible for the publishers to offer the same book at lower price compared to the printed one,” says Mr Clurman.
Internet access is only required when downloading content. Once a book, revision paper or video is downloaded to a device, Internet connection is not required to access it.
“Our partners are working hard on developing content for other grades, and as new content providers and publishers sign up, content for additional grades will be added,” he says.
He says that the company plans to roll out training sessions for teachers interested in digitising their content in conjunction with KICD and the Kenya Private Schools Association.
Intel has said it is not targeting the government’s Free Laptops for Class One project, though the introduction of its Explore and Learn platform coincides with preparations to have the project rolled out in public schools next year.
Although not a new concept in the country, providing educational content through laptops or tablets has been a preserve of privileged pupils in elite private schools and a few public schools.
The initiative is expected to widen the market for digital education materials, initially for lower classes in public schools and upper classes in future when the project is scaled up.
The programme is also expected to offer opportunities to animators given that digital books for children ought to be interactive.
However, publishers have expressed fear over increased intellectual property theft after the introduction of the 16 per cent value added tax (VAT) on books recently made reading materials expensive.